Dow Chemical Co. and Bayer Corp. have decided not to exhibit at NPE 2003, making it the first time in at least 15 years that some major resin manufacturers are bowing out of North America's biggest plastics trade fair.
The companies said they are evaluating their attendance at trade shows, at least in the United States. Both, however, exhibited at last year's K 2001 show in Dusseldorf, Germany, the world's largest plastics fair.
While it's not entirely unprecedented for large resin companies to skip NPE - particularly in a down economy - it is unusual. It is the first time since at least 1988 that all of the largest U.S. resin companies will not be at NPE, according to Jordan Morgenstern, chief trade show and global affairs officer for the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., which operates the show. The 1988 NPE was Morgenstern's first with SPI.
NPE 2003 is scheduled for June 23-27 in Chicago's McCormick Place convention center.
Officials at Midland, Mich.-based Dow declined to offer details on their decision.
``As we looked at the upcoming events and our resources commitment to trade shows, we made a decision that at this time we would not attend NPE,'' said Dow Plastics spokeswoman Tina Ludington.
She declined further comment about the NPE decision, but said Dow was happy with the results at K.
Bayer spokesman Brian Iams said the Pittsburgh company is re-examining major trade shows, and did not exhibit at the Medical Design and Manufacturing West show, held in February in Anaheim, Calif.
``We think there are other ways to reach our customers,'' Iams said. ``We are going to explore those ways and see what those results are for us.''
Asked what those methods might be, he declined to elaborate: ``I wish I could, but I'm not comfortable talking about that layer of detail for competitive reasons.''
Iams said the company is not ruling out trade shows and will evaluate each trade show, advertising platform and Web site on a case-by-case basis. He also said Bayer still may exhibit at smaller industry conferences and regional trade shows.
``Clearly, the ways that we can communicate to our customers have increased with things like Web sites and other electronic means,'' Iams said.
He said the company is not trying to replace face-to-face meetings with customers, which it considers crucial: ``There are just other ways to do that than a general trade show format.''
Iams declined to talk about budget issues or how much Bayer spent at NPE 2000, but he said the company was happy with results there. He said the decision to exhibit at K was made by counterparts in Europe, independent of the NPE review.
One factor that would have made next year's NPE more expensive for both firms is their recent decisions to withdraw from SPI. That doubled the cost of booth space, from $17 a square foot to $34, and could have given the companies less-desirable space because they would lose some seniority in booth location decisions.
Iams said that was not a major factor in Bayer's decision.
SPI's Morgenstern said booth space costs generally are only a small part of the overall costs of attending.
``I would say, based on my knowledge of trade shows, the space cost is the least expensive thing for most exhibitors,'' trailing things like staff, equipment and entertaining, he said.
It remains to be seen whether Bayer and Dow represent the leading edge of a move away from traditional trade shows, or simply a retrenchment in a tight economy.
But they are not alone. Processor Rubbermaid Home Products, for example, did not exhibit at two major housewares shows recently, saying it wanted to focus on marketing directly to consumers.
Morgenstern said that while there has been much talk in trade show circles about whether the Internet and electronic communications will supplant the traditional trade show, he said he has heard ``absolutely zero'' about that from potential NPE exhibitors.
NPE exhibit space is down slightly from the 2000 show, however, which SPI officials attribute to the slow economy. The 2003 show was 84 percent sold out after SPI's space drawing in March, compared with 90 percent after the space drawing before NPE 2000. Still, Morgenstern said SPI officials are pleased with the figure.
One industry marketing consultant, Greg Hannoosh, said his clients are not lessening their interest in shows, particularly NPE. Hannoosh, who operates Next Step Communications in West Newbury, Mass., said his client base of equipment suppliers and machinery companies needs to be at shows.
``Others may disagree - I still think shows are the No. 1 vehicle to meet with and network with customers and prospects,'' he said.