By Ryan C. McKay
It’s no surprise to most of us “in the business” that people are getting angry.
Nearly three years after a sobering recession took out what little wind we had left in our sales after the 2001 market pull-back, and on the tentative precipice of what many are calling “The Double Dip,” marketing managers, accountants, and execs are increasingly edgy over what many see to be a thinly veiled act of profiteering by some of the larger companies who set the rules — and the prices — for the nations biggest business events.
Recently, BizBash magazine covered a story more than a decade in the making, as frustrated exhibitors, exhibit builders, managers, and vendors met in Orlando to discuss just how practices had gotten so out of whack, and how to put an end to the one-sided price-gouging that has put a squeeze on so many companies in and out of the industry.
This anger is nothing new, of course. It’s a storm that has been brewing for the last 15 years, as more and more choices have been taken away from exhibitors and placed into the hands of the show managers themselves. Of course, consolidation has played it’s own role in the issue, with the vast majority of the smaller show managers who kept competitive pricing alive have either been acquired by or forced out of business by one of the small handful of mega-managers. Of course, with less players, there is less reason for the remaining groups to “play fair,” or at least that’s how it looks to the thousands of companies who are struggling to make sense of show invoices.
In our own case (here at ODI), we have definitely felt the sting. Our clients are feeling the pain at the shows, and as a result, we too are hurting from it. Thanks to excessive costs in handling items at the show halls, exhibitors are trading the look and the effectiveness of their booths for lightweight solutions that might be less costly but often at the expense of their effectiveness and life expectancy.
Don’t get me wrong, I think going lightweight can be a great idea, but doing it simply in response to the high costs of material handling, shipping, and set-up costs does nothing to bring costs back down to reasonable levels. It just makes the perpetrators charge more and more for less and less to make up for the profits that they “lose” by not charging for as many pounds of product being moved. In the end, it’s a vicious cycle.
Still, relief is in sight, true believers! Across the country, groups like the one in the BizBash article are joining together to take a stand against the tactics that have forced such a heavy burden on so many companies. While the practice is still running rampant, the eye of the media has fallen heavily on the worst culprits, and the elected officials of towns like Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York are already beginning to take corrective steps to cut off the mass exodus of exhibitors leaving for friendlier economic climates.
The problem is far from solved, but corrective action seems to finally be gaining some measure of traction.