This might be painful, but let's think back to the distant past — let's pretend we're in late 2009.
We just finished a pretty slow NPE show in Chicago. A lot of exhibitors tried to put a positive spin on things — you know, “attendance is down, but the right people came.” But no one really swallowed that. And when the statistics came out we saw that things were just as bleak as we'd expected: U.S. shipments of injection molding presses in 2009 crashed to 1,285 units, a 47 percent drop from 2,444 units in 2008.
Pretty poor results, especially for an NPE year.
The Great Recession was taking a toll, and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. took a truly drastic measure. Officials decided to move the next two NPE shows out of Chicago.
I know it's painful to recall. But NPE2012 is going to open for business in a couple of weeks, and the business climate is so drastically different now that it's important to remember the context of what we're all going to experience.
Instead of the friendly confines of Chicago's McCormick Place, we're going to be roaming the halls of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
You may remember that the move had something to do with union rules and the cost of Pepsi. So when SPI announced the move to Orlando, it cited an expected $20 million in cost savings — $10 million for exhibitors and another $10 million for attendees. The idea was that if exhibitors could count on lower costs, they'd invest more in their exhibits.
And with more to see — especially more equipment — more attendees would follow.
Will exhibitors and attendees really save $20 million this year? It's an important question, and we'll find out soon enough.
But remember this: Cost savings take a back seat to cost effectiveness. For exhibitors, that means seeing customers, selling product and doing business. And by any measure, it looks like this year's show will be a winner.
According to the most up-to-date figures from SPI:
* Exhibit space is even with NPE2006, and over NPE2009 by 150,000 square feet,
* The total number of exhibiting companies is at 1,870, over both the 2006 and 2009 shows.
* Attendee registration is up 7 percent over NPE2006, and 12 percent over NPE2009.
But for SPI's bottom line, the good news is already hitting the books.
Remember this — at NPE2009, SPI offered a “stimulus package” to lower exhibitor costs. But some machinery companies pulled out anyway, and the stimulus ended up costing SPI $3.2 million. A few weeks after the show, SPI laid off 11 people.
Now the stimulus is a distant memory, and the machinery companies — and many materials suppliers — are back in force.
So here we are, less than a month from NPE2012, and we already know one thing — for SPI, this is going to be a better, more profitable show than 2009.