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Choosing Between NACE and SEMA

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Bob Skrip, owner of Skrip’s Auto Body Inc. in Prospect, Conn., has attended the International Autobody Congress and Exposition (NACE) for the past 10 years. He has also attended the Specialty Equipment Market Association show (SEMA) for the past two years, as the events conveniently coincided with one another in Las Vegas.

So Skrip faced a decision when the Automotive Service Association (ASA) announced in December 2009 that NACE 2010 would be held Oct. 10–13, rather than Nov. 2–5 in conjunction with SEMA.

Skrip ultimately chose SEMA because it showcases products that originally turned him on to the automotive industry more than 30 years ago—aftermarket, customization products and custom paint jobs.

But many collision professionals are choosing not to attend SEMA for that same reason. They don’t care about SEMA’s aftermarket offerings; they prefer an event solely for collision repairers.

The criteria industry professionals use to make their decision vary. But the bottom line is that it’s not convenient to attend both events anymore.There’s a decision to be made.

A Wise Move?

Nobody knows quite yet whether it was a good move or a bad one to separate NACE and SEMA. Attendance and exhibitor numbers will be the most straightforward indicator.

Peter MacGillivray, vice president of events and communication for SEMA, says attendance is on pace to exceed the 120,000 people who attended in 2009.

Exhibitor booth space at SEMA is nearly sold out, MacGillivray says, noting that booth sales through July already outpaced 2009 total sales. “SEMA has 1,541 exhibitors on board, taking up nearly 800,000 square feet [at press time], compared to 1,750 exhibitors and 735,000 square feet in 2009,” he says. MacGillivray estimates that SEMA will have nearly 2,000 exhibitors.

Lindsay Roberts, show management director for Hanley Wood Exhibitions, which organizes NACE, says NACE exhibitor numbers are tracking lower than 2009, when the show had 326 exhibitors. She says 200 exhibitors are currently on board, and she predicts a final count around 275. And the show is on pace to match its 2009 attendance. That’s a victory of sorts for NACE, given that the show’s attendance had slipped during the past three years.

The Split

Denise Caspersen, collision division manager for ASA, says NACE’s pairing with SEMA during AAIW in 2004 was meant for the two events to complement each other, not to compete. “We thought we were going to be working as a team. There was a competitive nature from SEMA, which we didn’t think would happen,” Caspersen says.

Yet competition dominated 2009. Organizers took note of limited cooperation early on, when ASA arranged for buses to transport people from NACE to SEMA. “SEMA did not reciprocate that,” Caspersen explains. “There were several pieces we thought would create a compatible co-existence that weren’t reciprocated.”

The lack of cooperation escalated when SEMA introduced the paint, body, and equipment (PB&E) segment, in direct competition to NACE. MacGillivray says exhibitors for the PB&E section have increased to more than 100 companies this year, up from 17 in 2009.
Russell Thrall, Collision Industry Conference chairman, alludes that this could be a critical year for NACE and SEMA.

“We’ll see how attendance holds up at both shows,” says Thrall, who will participate in both NACE and SEMA this year. “People will decide what they’re going to do in the future based on what they see from the shows this year.”

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