The Recovery of the Exhibitions Industry

4th May 2011

We recently reported that live marketing in the form of trade events is showing positive signs of recovery, with the average number of exhibiting companies at trade shows increasing by 2.0% since 2009. In 2010 the net hall space booked by trade show organisers increased by 7.1% compared with 2009, indicating a more economical use of hall space. This correlates with the consumer show figures, with the net hall space booked also increasing by 4.9% in the same period (data sourced from The Facts 2011, published by FaceTime and produced by Vivid Interface – view article).

Global Exhibition Association UFI’s Sixth Global Barometer Survey also indicated a strong improvement in the industry globally, with the majority of those surveyed in three regions (Americas, Asia/Pacific and Middle East/Africa) registering an increase in profits of more than 10 percent in 2010, compared with 2009, as reported by TSNN.com.

With these positive findings emerging we decided to talk to a couple of our advertising suppliers to see whether their experiences tally with the survey results.

Joe Plosky, POD Exhibition Systems, has felt the effects of the recession: ‘We have seen a downturn in website orders for portable exhibition displays due to budget cuts and spending patterns. [In order to combat this] we have had to restructure our business to work under tighter conditions whilst still keeping our core values and customer satisfaction a priority.’

When asked about the different spending patterns he has seen from exhibitors, Joe commented, ‘Some exhibitors cancelled or reused an existing stand and rejuvenated it with new graphics. Others have downsized their space and stand.’

Despite this, Joe is cautiously optimistic about the recovery of the exhibitions industry saying that ‘the industry is very slowly getting back on track’ and that ‘the industry is changing and POD has successfully changed with it’.

In contrast, Layth Karagholi from Total Displays Ltd has experienced some real positives to their exhibition stand business during the recession: ‘In all honesty it has been quite good for us for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as budgets get cut we have found that people start to look for new suppliers where they may be able to save costs. This gives us the opportunity where we may never have got it previously. Once we get the opportunity to prove what we can do then we generally do well so in that way the recession has been somewhat beneficial. Secondly, although we do supply the larger modular and custom build stands, we specialise and have a high range of the smaller portable displays. Again with the cuts in marketing budgets, companies who may previously have had large budgets for custom exhibition stands are having to shop around and find lower cost solutions such as banner stands and pop up stands which they can also use multiple times. So again this has suited us as this is our speciality.’

Far from sitting back and simply enjoying the increased sales, Total Displays Ltd has taken steps to ensure the business continues to grow, ‘We have invested heavily in our CRM systems and also software for managing our workflow and orders through the business. This is helping us maintain the new clients we get through a good contact strategy and ensure an extremely low incidence of errors on our part in the manufacturing process.’

When asked about the changes to exhibitor spending the recession brought about, Layth responded: ‘Exhibitors certainly cut back on spend although exact space would be hard to quantify from our position. Although many of the larger budgets were cut, we found that the smaller budgets remained largely in tact, however people wanted to get more value from the same spend.’

Layth is optimistic about the recovery of the exhibitions industry, feeling that the industry provides an essential platform for marketing a business: ‘There will always be the need to sell face to face.  As great as the internet is and [Total Displays Ltd] work a lot with the internet, you can’t beat face to face contact with people [in developing] business relationships.’

Two quite different accounts of the effect of the recession but both companies are hopeful about the recovery of the industry. If any positives can be taken from the impact of the recession on the exhibitions industry, it is that it may have helped to increase productivity and competition. This in turn can make exhibiting a much more attractive option and facilitate the regeneration of the industry.