#aftermarket – After returning to Detroit for a second year, the 2015 NACE/CARS Expo & Conference experienced slow growth, amid what Automotive Service Association (ASA) president and executive director Dan Risley called unforeseen challenges.
Risley, along with show organizer Brian Nessen of Stone Fort Group, ASA chairman Donny Seyfer and chairman elect Roy Schnepper, addressed the week’s successes and challenges during a post-show press conference on Saturday at the Cobo Center.
In all, the 2015 show encompassed 54,500 square feet of booth space and hosted 6,496 attendees. In 2014, the show had roughly 46,500 square feet of exhibitor space and 6,253 attendees.
“It’s modest growth. We expected growth, we have it, but we expected a little more,” said Risley. “From a forecasting perspective, I would tell you that we missed the mark for what we hoped for.”
Risley acknowledged that after an invigorating first year in Detroit in 2014—when ASA hired new show management, switched to a summer format and moved the show to a new city—organizers expected to capitalize on that growth and possibly exceed the 8,000-attendee mark in 2015. However, he said that in analyzing registration data, there was low overlap on the number of attendees returning for a second year.
“When you put a lot of time and effort into something, you expect grandiose results. Last year, I felt like we had grandiose results,” Risley said. “We had growth this year and I should be really happy after five years of decline, but you can see from the face and the poor posture, I’m not overly enamored with 20 percent growth (in square footage) and I’m not overly enamored with a couple hundred new people on the show floor.”
Nessen said the slow growth could be due to the show returning to the same city, and said organizers expect that moving the show to Anaheim in 2016 will drive up attendance.
The move would allow the show to capitalize on the 34,000 shops in California, as well as a strong and supportive OEM presence, said Risley. Nessen said that not only will next year’s show include new OEM presence, but also that current OEM exhibitors have also verbally committed to return.
“The OEs are part of the backbone,” he said.
Risley also said he expects that moving to the West Coast will provide more incentive for international attendees from the Asia-Pacific rim to attend.
“For the success of the show, you have to move it around. When you go to a different city, it brings a level of excitement,” he said.
Although show organizers expect a strong turnout for the 2016 show in Anaheim, Risley offered a number of reasons for the slow growth this year. While the number of co-located events and groups continued to be a strong asset for the show, Risley acknowledged that more attention needed to be paid to the scheduling of those events to allow time for participants to walk the show floor.
“There were three or four events going on on Thursday with 300 to 400 people who never saw the show floor on that day,” he said. “We need to work hard on making sure we’re not overlapping things so much and giving them ample time to check out the show floor. Some of the things we did schedule-wise didn’t hit the mark.”
New to the show this year was the addition of Saturday to account for the local traffic driving in for the weekend. However, foot traffic was slow on Saturday and Risley said that driving local traffic to the show floor on Friday and Saturday next year would be a priority.
“We thought there was a demand there,” he said. “The challenging part of that is that last year’s show floor was busy. Thursday and Friday were busy. We have more attendees registered this year, but less foot traffic. We’re going to look at the scheduling piece. That’s a big thing for us. We had the same number of people but we just didn’t see the foot traffic.”
Risley said that the show is going to create an exhibitor council to get feedback from exhibitors as to what worked and what didn’t, as well as any ideas to improve the show.
Overall, though, both Risley and Nessen said ASA is committed to growing and improving the show in future years.
“As long as we continue to grow the event, it’s going to be a great program for the industry,” Nessen said.