CHICAGO (July 3, 3:55 p.m. EDT) — NPE 2003 closed its week-long run in Chicago to a chorus of mostly pleased exhibitors, despite posting a 30 percent drop in registrants compared with the last NPE show.
Registration for the June 23-27 event at McCormick Place plunged 29.8 percent to 63,238 vs. the record 90,142 reported at NPE in the boom year of 2000. Based on a sampling of feedback from exhibitors, this year's attendees represented serious customers, with few so-called tire-kickers in the aisles.
The 10,930 non-U.S. registrants represented about 17 percent of the total, down slightly from the 19 percent represented by the 17,117 foreign registrants at the last show. But a couple of factors are likely to have accounted for that decline.
First, virtually all attendees worldwide had to pay to preregister for NPE 2003, which was not the case in 2000. The previously free preregistration for overseas guests probably encouraged many to sign up who never actually came to the show last time. As there is no turnstile system at McCormick Place, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. show organizers must rely on registration numbers rather than an actual head count.
Second, problems related to the economy and to infectious diseases, especially Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, served to deter much international travel, particularly from Asia. Registration from the Asian countries most affected by the SARS — China and Taiwan — showed a drop of 45.5 percent at NPE 2003, from 1,164 to 634.
Still, NPE continues to display a growing international profile. The number of non-U.S. exhibitors climbed nearly 19 percent, to 584 organizations (or 30 percent of all exhibitors) from 492 at NPE 2000, and the number of foreign exhibitor pavilions jumped to 15 from just six.
This year's 1,932 exhibitors occupied nearly 1.02 million square feet of net space, compared with the 2,014 exhibitors who booked 1.14 million square feet three years ago.
The sharp drop in overall attendees also affected the accompanying NPE conference that was organized by the Society of Plastics Engineers. Tom Conklin, SPE's senior manager of training and e-learning, said SPE drew about 350 total to its paid NPE seminars. That was down about 30 percent from NPE 2000, but still more than the 300 for which Conklin said SPE budgeted. The group canceled a half-dozen or so of its 33 scheduled paid events, but that is not unusual at an event of this scale, he said.
Attendance at SPE's slate of free conferences plummeted by more than half, from 4,300 to almost 2,000, he said, noting that firms that brought fewer people to the event were busy covering the show and had less time to devote to conference sessions. Still, Conklin said SPE was happy with the final results at NPE, given the extenuating circumstances.
SPI announced that the next NPE will be held June 26-30, 2006.