Registration for NPE 2003 is expected to be off 20-25 percent from the high of 91,000 at NPE 2000, even as show organizers tout a steady exhibitor turnout and a growing international face for the event.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., which manages the show, has said for months that it expected fewer registrants this year, as the economy struggles and other issues deter travel. But SPI President Don Duncan, at NPE's Monday morning kickoff news conference, delivered the group's first concrete estimate of exactly how much it might drop, and it was lower than what some had suggested previously.
Duncan said he did not think the lower registration will hurt the show significantly, because key decision makers and purchasers still are attending. SPI officials said many exhibiting companies are sending fewer people this year, for example, because travel budgets are down and going to NPE may not be an affordable ``perk'' to reward staff.
Another complicating factor in comparing registration figures from prior years is that in previous shows, many people signed up for free passes and never showed up. This year, there essentially are no free passes, which will reduce registration but perhaps not actual attendance.
``It is ... our expectation that those who lead and drive our industry will be here,'' said Duncan.
Despite the lower expected registration, the amount of exhibit space occupied by the show is expected to drop less. SPI said the show opened with 1,930 exhibitors - 4 percent fewer than NPE 2000's record number - occupying more than 1 million square feet of space.
``2000 was a boom year, the final full year of what was in fact a 10-year economic extravaganza,'' Duncan said. ``NPE 2000 was pre-dot-com implosion, pre-stock market bust, pre-Sept. 11, pre-war on terrorism, pre-Iraqi war, pre-SARS and most important of all, pre-economic stagnation.''
NPE 2003 exhibitor space is 12 percent above the 1997 show, SPI said.
SPI officials said they are seeing growth in the number of international exhibitors, making this the most international NPE yet.
There are 584 exhibitors from outside the United States, about 30 percent of the show, compared with 24.5 percent of the show in 2000, said H. Gunther Hoyt, chairman of NPE 2003 and executive vice president of Xaloy Inc. That figure does not include U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-based firms.
This year's show also has 15 country pavilions, compared with six in 2000.
Hoyt said he thinks NPE could begin to rival the much larger K show as the largest plastic show in the world within six years. That's because NPE is getting more international, McCormick Place is adding another hall, Chicago's airport capacity is expanding and hotel rooms in the city are cheaper than in Dusseldorf, Germany, where K is held.
``This show is getting to be a real copy of the Dusseldorf show,'' said Hoyt, adding that 20 years ago, NPE was much more focused on the U.S. market.
Total registration as of 5 p.m. June 23 was 58,260, including on-site and pre-registration. Of those, 9,864 were international registrants, which equals 17 percent of the total.
In 2000, the show had more than 91,000 registrants, including 18,000 international registrants.
This year, not surprisingly, Canada is the largest single country of origin for international exhibitors, with 114. Western Europe is drawing 244, led by Italy with 52 and Germany with 51. Taiwan is sending 64 companies, and China 27, of the 156 from Asia.
Twenty-five companies from Mexico are exhibiting this year, and 23 from Central and South America.