Some thoughts on the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s decision to move the 2012 and 2015 NPE shows to Orlando, Fla.:
Orlando's attitude — There's a tendency to focus on the high cost of Chicago and problems companies claim to have dealing with union work rules. But don't discount the importance of customer service. The
sense is that the Orange County Convention Center has a reputation for friendly service, and that Orlando really wants the show. The inference is that Chicago took NPE for granted.
Many exhibitors feel that McCormick Place unions treated them like patsies, and that even McCormick management acted like exhibitors were there to serve them, not the other way around. I'm sure many complaints about McCormick are exaggerated. But whether it's perception or reality, the reputation didn't help Chicago's bid. The bottom line is, the money Orlando promises to save exhibitors is critical. SPI claims the move will save $20 million. That's the number we'll see quoted in the future. Having a successful NPE is essential to the health of SPI.
With a reputation for poor service and high prices, Chicago's future as a trade show center has some pretty big problems.
Change is necessary — Machinery and materials companies, and their customers, have been through major upheaval. They've seen downsizing, departures of key executives and fierce competition from around the world. Their business models have changed.
They feel the business model at McCormick needs to change, too. But change wasn't going to happen if NPE kept booking the show at McCormick every three years.
More than a few exhibitors I've talked to really like Chicago as a location for NPE. It's a great city, centrally located and near a lot of their customers. They'd like to go back. Maybe if McCormick undergoes some radical changes, we'll see NPE back in Chicago — or alternating between Chicago and Orlando — by 2018.
Check your calendar — A lot of people are commenting on the dates for the 2012 show, April 1-5. Yes, that is the week before Easter.
The show floor won't actually be open April 1, Palm Sunday — that will be a day for educational programs and special events. The show will end on a Thursday — SPI says it will eliminate the “sparsely attended final half-day of previous shows.” It also avoids having the show on Good Friday. Reactions to those dates will vary based on religious beliefs. It will be interesting to see if Latin American attendees, who might be interested in the Orlando location, will be turned off by the conflict with Holy Week.
On the other hand, all the dads who attend NPE might appreciate that NPE2012 won't be too close to Father's Day.
Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”