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NACE Registration Up 75 Percent—and Counting

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DETROIT, Aug. 1, 2014—What started as a week of unknowns for the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and its flagship NACE/CARS Expo & Conference, wrapped up Friday with a resounding conclusion.

As ASA President and Executive Director Dan Risley summed it up, “In our mind, it’s been a very successful show,” he said.

“We had no idea what to expect when we came here. We hoped for the best,” he added. “We weren’t sure what the registration numbers were going to be. I will tell you, early on, it was a little scary.”

Risley, ASA Chairman Darrell Amberson and Brian Nessen of the Stone Fort Group addressed a crowd at a wrap-up news conference an hour-and-a-half before the show floor closed Friday at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

In all, the 2014 show encompassed 148,000 square feet of hall space, over 50,000 square feet of strictly booth space, and had more than 180 exhibiting companies.

In 2013, NACE/CARS had roughly 28,000 square feet of exhibitor space at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

And Amberson said registration numbers were roughly 75 percent higher than the nearly 5,000 that attended the 2013 show.

“And we just had someone register 45 minutes ago,” Nessen added, explaining that final registration results will be released in the coming days.
Risley told FenderBender on Wednesday that preregistration numbers were up 40 percent compared to last year, and he and his team were hoping for between 7,000 and 10,000 “unique visitors” for the show.

Going off the numbers the ASA released Friday, show attendance should top 8,500.

“The word from the [show] leadership was not to focus on the number of attendance and body count, but on the quality of attendance,” said Nessen, who co-founded Stone Fort, which managed the show for the first time this year. “It was key to get shop owners and decision makers, people who come on this floor and look at equipment and look at ways to repair the most modern automobiles that are coming up and the changes that are coming. … The people that are here are the most progressive shop owners.”

Risley echoed that sentiment saying that he wanted a show that was “truly for the industry, about the industry.” It’s the reason the ASA was so keen on coming to the Motor City for the first time, he said. The uniqueness of the Cobo Center allowed the show to have a number of on-floor demonstrations that we done on running vehicles.

The change in scenery and switch to July helped in boosting this year’s attendance, Risley said. And many show attendees and exhibitors agreed.

“A lot of us always felt that it was good to dovetail with SEMA just because of the volume of people, but I think we’re starting to rethink that a little bit,” said Dan Benton, color marketing manager for North American at Axalta Coating Systems. “SEMA tended to dilute the populous. They’d come through and they’d leave fairly quickly. I saw people both days here come back, so I think Detroit is a great location.”

Risley did not commit to a return to Detroit in 2015, but said he was confident the show would be back to the city. It would be up to the response of the exhibitors and attendees, Risley said, not his team’s personal views.

A number of exhibitors polled by FenderBender on the show floor on Friday considered this year’s site choice to be a success—bringing in larger crowds compared to 2013 and giving many shops and companies within the upper Midwest the opportunity to attend that otherwise may have stayed home had NACE gone back out West.

But many expressed a concern that the Detroit location led to a more regionalized crowd, and felt the show could benefit from moving to different regions each year.

“I think it was a good idea to try someplace else, but I don’t know,” said Bob Olszak of U.S. Chemical & Plastics, a division of Quest. “Would there be another city that would get more of a national pull than what we’ve seen here being more regional? I don’t know. [Detroit] is fine, for us it’s great because it’s a short drive away, but if I was from California or the state of Washington, would I come? I don’t know.”

“Everybody seemed to be from Michigan, Canada, Indiana, Illinois, which I have no problem with as long as it keeps going from one area to another,” added Jan Ruzak of Bond Corp. in Chicago. “I like when we used to move around all the time and hit different parts of the country, because when it was in Las Vegas for so many years, I would see the same people over and over, so I would rather it be a traveling [show].”

But Ruzak added that roughly 50 percent of the attendees she interacted with were “new faces” to her booth.

Risley said organizers want to have a significant local and regional showing wherever the show is held—and they are open to moving, under two stipulations: first, if they are able to maintain its demonstration area, and, second, if the exhibitor response calls for it.

The show’s major exhibitors are its “anchors,” Risley said, and “if you want to have an industry show, you need to have the participants there, the vendors there that the attendees want to see.”

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