AKRON-Call it deja vu. The debate over consolidating tire industry trade shows looks very familiar to organizers of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW).
The AAIW is in its fourth year of record-breaking attendance, but it took about 15 years of prodding by exhibitors and more than a year of intense negotiation and compromise among participating trade associations before the concept of a week-long auto industry event became reality.
This year's AAIW, Oct. 21-27, expects to draw 70,000 people to its two large trade shows and other association events and seminars held at two convention centers in Las Vegas.
The 1994 event drew 9.2 percent more attendees and added more exhibitors than the previous year, even luring some exhibitors away from the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association's trade show.
The record-breaking success of the AAIW has been a model for supporters of a rubber/tire industry show week.
And now the tire industry, at the urging of suppliers and other show exhibitors, is seriously discussing the possibility of a similar consolidated week of shows, meetings and seminars. James Faught, the NTDRA's 1994-95 president, has invited other tire industry associations and suppliers to discuss the issue Nov. 7-8 in Cleveland.
``I don't feel it's illogical for the NTDRA to look at Industry Week,'' said Jim Conner, executive vice president of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA).
Like the tire industry, the automotive aftermarket was besieged with complaints from industry suppliers and show exhibitors who found three annual shows-the Specialty Equipment Market Association/Automotive International Association (SEMA/AI) show, the MEMA/Automotive Service Industry Association (ASIA) show and the Auto Parts & Accessories Association (APAA) show-time-consuming and expensive.
The industry pressure heightened during 1989 and 1990, a time of weak sales, declining profits and shrinking markets for the automo-tive aftermarket, recalled Chuck Blum, president of SEMA and one of the key organizers of AAIW.
``The exhibitors were complaining of too many trade shows that were spaced far enough (throughout the year) that they felt they had an obligation to go to at least two of the three shows,'' Mr. Blum said.
``All the associations had spent a lot of their resources to promote that one show was better than the other,'' added Mr. Conner. ``Attendance was going down. Exhibitors were bailing out or reducing their space. Manufacturers wanted more bang for the buck.''
Waning participation and high costs were thus the driving forces for serious talks on combining the shows, they said.
``The idea (for Industry Week) had been kicking around for at least 15 years,'' noted Mr. Conner.
But both Mr. Conner and Mr. Blum admitted that egos were the key obstacle to negotiations among the trade groups.
``Culmination of the idea occurred only after the four key associations had a change in leadership. That's an example of the change in traditional thinking that needs to come to pass,'' Mr. Conner said.
``All the associations are proud of their organization and name,'' Mr. Blum said. ``It's toughest to put pride in your own association aside for the benefit (of exhibitors).''
He also noted that there was even skepticism among the membership. ``Everybody concerns themselves with the fact that they'll be the loser, that they'll not be the `big fish' anymore,'' Mr. Blum said.
Mr. Conner credited MEMA President Bob Miller for acting as a negotiator among the associations, encouraging all the parties to talk through him initially, rather than meeting all at once in one room.
The key to organizing such an event, he said, ``is having somebody in the group as a catalyst and who's willing to make some compromises and keep the principle of equity.''
Since trade shows are often associations' main revenue source, ``equity'' was the operative word for solving the financial dispute.
``Some folks thought they should get more money than another association,'' Mr. Conner recalled. ``There was compromise on who should run the show, how to promote the show, how the JOC (Joint Operating Committee) should be operated. There were lots of mechanical details to work out.''
Formal discussions initially involved the MEMA/ASIA and SEMA/AI shows, with the APAA deciding to join in the talks several months later, Mr. Conner said.
The groups agreed to share in the total costs of hall rentals and other expenses, and increased the price of booths to defray the loss in individual show revenues. The price hike was justified by the potential for higher attendance at the consolidated show week, according to organizers.
As it turned out, AAIW drew a larger crowd in its first year than the total attendance of the shows held separately in the past, according to Mr. Conner.
Combining the shows also has led to higher attendance from foreign countries. ``As one big combined show, we are able to do more exposure activities in the foreign market than we did individually,'' MEMA's Mr. Conner noted.
Gene Ezzell of Crane Technologies Group, a manufacturer of internal engine components that had exhibited at all three trade shows prior to AAIW, praised the one-stop shopping the combined shows provide for buyers. Crane has exhibit booths in both convention centers during AAIW.
Mr. Ezzell is a member of the AAIW Joint Operating Committee, which includes representatives of the participating groups, who meet twice a year to plan the format of the show. ``Our objective is to make the show the largest'' in the industry, he said.
He strongly encouraged a similar consolidation of shows in the tire industry. ``There will be some bruising of egos initially. But if you look at the long term,*.*.*.*nothing but positive can happen.''