When we do get through the virus and at least some of the economic disruption, I’m wondering what the trade show environment might look like. It had already been changing and it seems pretty clear those changes are going to accelerate.
Emerald Expositions, owner of Outdoor Retailer, Surf Expo and other trade shows, put out a press release April 6 similar in content to those by other industry and non-industry companies. The company said, as previously disclosed, that it was:
“• Carefully managing its expense structure across all key areas of discretionary spending.
- Drawing down $50 million from the Company’s revolving credit facility to bolster cash balances.
- Temporarily suspending the regular quarterly cash dividend; and
- Halting any incremental share repurchases.”
It went on to describe the impact on its business so far:
“To date, Emerald has postponed 14 events, equating to approximately $12 million of 2019 revenue. To date, Emerald has cancelled 23 events, including, most recently, Couture, Retail X, and Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, which accounted for approximately $116 million of 2019 revenue.”
Wonder how many of the postponed events will ultimately be cancelled. Even if they ultimately happen, certainly the schedule of these events in the future will be disturbed.
Trade shows happen tend to happen at a certain time of year because it works for brands and retailers. Would you hold them at another time of year or just postpone to the next scheduled date?
Emeralds total reported revenue for 2019 was $361 million. The postponed and cancelled number of $128 million of revenue is 35.5% of 2019 total revenue. They have event cancellation insurance and are pursuing recovery as allowed by their policies. Apparently communicable diseases are covered. Love to see how it goes when it’s time for those policies to be renewed.
But I guess in the longer term I’m wondering how many of us are going to rush back to trade shows just because we get given the all clear. That won’t just be a personal safety issue. We are all in the process of learning and getting comfortable with new ways to work with each other, and I’ve got a hunch some of those new ways are going to stick, possibly to the detriment of trade shows but arguably to the benefit of the industry.
It was years (many, many years I’m afraid) ago when I first suggested that perhaps a solid company who knew its market and customers might forgo some shows, announcing right after they had attended for the last time and that the money they were putting towards a given show would be reallocated to customer support. Serendipitously, the company I used as a possible candidate for this strategy was Mervin Manufacturing, which for the first time wasn’t at Outdoor Retailer last January.
To some extent, we go to trade shows because our competitors go. As there get to be fewer competitors, social dynamics change, and we get more comfortable with distance working tools, I wonder if we will feel as compelled to go. Even before we got virused, there were fewer, shorter shows, some companies didn’t feel the need to attend and there was a growing consumer orientation.
I thought, and I guess I still think, that actually being across the table from somebody you do business with from time to time is important. But I wonder- if I were 20 or 30 years younger, would I still feel that way? Perhaps this recession (and let’s hope that’s all it is) will accelerate the trends we’re already seeing in trade shows as the millennials assume the management positions.
The other night, I had a Zoom meeting “attended” by, I think 8 people. This was a group of baby boomers and only one person had to be reminded to unmute their mic when they wanted to talk. Okay, it was me, and it’s not my first Zoom meeting.
It’s interesting to watch as people become aware of the dynamics and etiquette of online meetings. Pretty soon, it becomes more normal. Like having somebody else pick out your produce in the market. Which I still think is weird.
The point is, we resist change until we can’t then we get used to it. I wonder what changes in trade shows we’ll adjust to. I wonder when I’ll let somebody else pick out my produce.