It could take months to sort out the financial implications of the canceled NPE2021 show and resolve questions about exhibitor deposits, prompting the organizer to ask for patience as it unwinds logistics of North America's largest plastics trade show.
Tad McGwire, head of the NPE Committee at the Plastics Industry Association, which owns the show, said the group is committed to resolving financial questions fairly, while acknowledging that the cancellation has prompted sharp questions from some companies.
The association announced Jan. 5 that it was canceling the show, which had been scheduled for May 17-21 in Orlando, Fla., because of rising concerns about safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It followed that up with a Jan. 8 email to exhibitors that it would not be refunding deposits until it is able to resolve financial commitments. It said those included obligations to the convention center and hotels, as well as "securing the future" of the association, which depends heavily on show revenue to fund itself.
Exhibitors contacted by Plastics News expressed a range of opinions, from frustration over deposits to understanding of the show's position.
"It's not surprising that people are asking about refunds and even after explaining the circumstances, some people are still fairly aggressive about wanting a refund," McGwire said. "While we may be getting some pushback, after I've either had a personal phone conversation with somebody or we explained it maybe a second time, they tend to back off and understand what we're going through."
McGwire, who is also vice chairman of the Washington-based plastics association, said much remains unclear as the group negotiates its contracts under the show, including with more than 40 area hotels.
The event is held every three years and draws more than 50,000 registered attendees and 2,100 exhibiting companies spread over 1 million square feet of the Orlando center.
The Jan. 8 email from CEO Tony Radoszewski said contracts with exhibitors require payment even in case of force majeure events. But it also said that given the unique conditions it is "understandable for you to question payment of any balance that may be open."
"We have a lot of just enormous unknowns out there," McGwire said. "If things go well for us, we're hoping to be able to make our exhibitors whole, that's the goal, to make the exhibitors whole from a deposit standpoint, but there certainly is the possibility that they won't get any of that initial deposit back."
"We're obviously hoping and expecting some patience, because it will be months, it's not going to be days, it's going to be months before we completely settle all the affairs of NPE2021," he said.
Radoszewski said in a statement that the group values relationships with exhibitors and partners like the convention center and wants to manage the cancellation with the next edition, NPE2024, in mind. It's looking at several options around deposits.
"Until the pandemic forced a cancellation this year, we had been working hard to make the 2021 show the best one ever," he said. "We'll work just as hard to develop a solution to exhibitor deposits and are reviewing a number of options."