Ultimately, that’s the question everyone in this industry must answer for him- or herself. What attendees and exhibitors get out of a trade show largely depends on what they put into it and what they expect to take away from it.
This year’s International Window Coverings Expo, held April
14 to 17 at the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, MD, was
noticeably different from recent past shows. The “anchor stores”
of the Expo Mall weren’t there.
It certainly makes you wonder when the industry’s biggest names
choose not to exhibit. Yet, if you’ve ever returned from a
window coverings trade show to realize that there were several companies
and products you never got around to seeing because you got caught
up in the displays of the bigger booths, then this was the show
for you. This was the show for many of the smaller exhibitors to
And most of them reaped the benefits. Exhibitors reported a steady
stream of customers—serious prospects and buyers. Officially,
attendance was “nearly 7,500,” according to the show producers,
or about a thousand more than last year’s reported 6,500 (see
D&WC, June 2003, page 64). But there were just as many exhibitors
who were disappointed in this year’s attendance—both in
numbers and quality. Mostly, these companies were looking to meet
with fabricators, distributors and large-volume buyers.
This dichotomy may indicate an important change, which could be
either a passing trend or a more lasting reflection of what trade
shows are becoming: the educational opportunities provided by guest
speakers and the seminar program are what’s driving attendance,
resulting in more designer/decorator attendees.
If there was a theme to this year’s show it might have been
“With a little help.” Some of the busiest booths at this
year’s trade show were those providing these attendees with
products and line extensions to add to their existing businesses.
Most notably, the many computer-assisted drawing, design and marketing
programs exhibited (see Workroom Operations, page 56). Certainly,
everyone can use a little help in presenting ideas and design plans,
communicating with workrooms and running a more efficient business.
Motorization was another dominate category as advances in home automation
products were displayed by BTX, Lutron, Somfy and MechoShade. Workroom
aids from Rowley Co. and döfix were well received, as usual.
There was new line of “personally ready-made” draperies
and top treatments offered by Trule Custom Inc., a WCMA Award winner.
And a number of product updates were evident in every category form
shades to blinds to shutters—including a nearly indestructible
shutter system from Australia’s Shutter Motion.
Many other new products quietly debuted. Satellite Metal introduced
Axcentua Décor combination wood and metal cornices. Koetter
Woodworking exhibited extensive additions to its line of cornices
as well. This year, full-line manufacturers such as Royal Window
Coverings, ITA, Inc. and Vertilux stood out as the largest exhibitors.
And that brings up another question this industry must answer: Does
size really matter? The number of attendees and exhibitors at a
trade show tells you something about the industry. For example,
is it growing or ebbing? But what kind of businesses it is attracting
also is important.
The facts of the matter are that trade shows are expensive—to
attend and to exhibit at—and many manufacturers just don’t
have new, attention–grabbing products to showcase every year.
These companies have to make tough choices, often involving how
best to spend their resources. Certainly, from an exhibitor’s
viewpoint it has not done the show much good to be held in Baltimore
so frequently—the last three years in a row and five out of
the last seven years.
That’s over—at least, for now. The 2005 IWCE is scheduled
for April 6 to 9 at the Georgia International Convention Center,
Atlanta (actually, College Park), GA.