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Are we seeing the end of trucking trade shows?

March 4, 2009
As with any industry, things change. That is true in the trucking industry as well. In fact, the trucking industry probably faces more challenges because its job is to move freight. Companies rely on manufacturers and businesses of all types to supply it ...

As with any industry, things change. That is true in the trucking industry as well. In fact, the trucking industry probably faces more challenges because its job is to move freight. Companies rely on manufacturers and businesses of all types to supply it with freight. If any segment suffers, then trucking suffers, through no fault of its own.

But, when trucking suffers, so do other industries. And as we're seeing now, it's the trade show industry. And not just trucking. Trade shows across the board are seeing major companies pull out. In December, Apple announced it would not be attending Macworld. “Like so many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers," the company said in a statement announcing its decision. Auto manufacturers have either pulled out or dramatically scaled back investments in shows.

"The traditional trade show is looking quite old school," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, an I.T. research firm in a Dec. 18 Wall Street Journal story. "The Internet has become an effective medium for spreading information instantaneously, virally, and for very little money."

According to that same article, net square footage of exhibition space sold was flat in 2007 vs. 2006, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. In Las Vegas, the trade show capital of the world, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority saw a 3.7% decline in attendance year over year through October 2008 and a 6.8% decline in revenue.

And the trucking show industry is not immune. Major trucking industry players are scaling back their budgets, whether that's advertising, production, personnel, or even appearances at key industry shows. Companies are doing anything to save a dime right now, because if they don't, they might not survive.

As the cutbacks occur, the question may become, are we seeing the end of the big trucking trade shows? What if the OEMs, manufacturers and others find new ways to reach their customers? Will this current cutback result in a new model for doing business? When the economy improves, will they come back?

The answer, like everything else in today's world, is not black and white. Some might come back, realizing they can't live without the exposure. Some will not, having found more cost-effective ways to reach their customers.

Only time will tell.

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