NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 13, 2012—Participation in all of the key events during Automotive Service & Repair Week (ASRW), which included educational sessions, forums and receptions, was up over last year, show director Lindsay Roberts said today during a press conference.
But Roberts said she expected total attendance and traffic on the show floor to be down, though final attendance numbers were not yet available. Those figures should be release_notesd within the next week, she said. Roberts said what the event needs is more exhibitors—namely auto manufacturers and other large companies.
“What we need, is we need more product on the show floor. We need more exhibitors on the show floor,” Roberts said. “We need to give attendees three days worth of product, and people to network with. We need the executives from these major companies who are walking the isles to have booth space on the show floor and to support the show the way the other 225 exhibitors are supporting the show.”
Event organizers are exploring a variety of avenues to attract more exhibitors to the event in coming years. But Roberts said it would take a major, industry-wide effort that involves working with event participants to push the event’s importance to manufacturers and other companies.
Other factors, such as the location, might have affected attendance, Roberts said. The show was in Orlando, Fla., last year, and benefitted from heavy drive-in traffic—40 percent of attendees were from the region. New Orleans is not as accessible.
“We had really hoped New Orleans was close enough for them to follow us over,” Roberts said. “We do have a decent East Coast contingency, but it’s not like what it was when we were in Orlando.”
Event organizers will look at the geographic information when they evaluate the final demographics of this year’s attendees.
Despite the lower attendance, Roberts said vendors reported that they were making sales. The people who were on the floor were “the right people,” she said.
And the number of vendors already committed to next year’s NACE—scheduled for Oct. 17–19 in Las Vegas—is up compared with how many were contracted at this time last year. One year ago, 35 booths were contracted for 30 companies. This year, 50 booths are contracted for more than 40 companies.
Some of the session highlights of NACE this year included The Assembly, which was a new repairer-only meeting to voice industry concerns, and the MSO symposium, an all-day event for multi-shop operators that launched last year and doubled in size this year, with 250 attendees. The conference also offered Twenty 2.0, a new peer-benchmarking program for shops, that proved popular.
“We think that can be a real big homerun for the show moving forward,” Roberts said.
And I-CAR, in addition to educational sessions hosted throughout the event, debuted its blueprinting sessions on the show floor.
More than 85 sessions were offered throughout ASRW and more than 1,000 people moved through the event’s educational program. “We had people who were engaged…who really value the education,” Roberts said.