Three years is a good litmus test for any new trade show. We thought that back in 1997 when the then National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association sold its annual exhibition to the Specialty Market Equipment Association and joined the huge Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week shows in Las Vegas.
Today, the verdict is in and with little doubt the International Tire Expo section of SEMA and AAIW is a success.
Total buyer turnout at the recently concluded show reached a respectable 5,099, with total attendance at the ITE portion, topping an estimated 10,000, according to the Tire Association of North America.
But maybe even more significant was the lack of complaints. For the first time in years, few if any exhibitors and attendees found reason to grouse.
The show was exciting, the trade show aisles filled, companies were holding press conferences and exhibiting their newest products and programs and many company executives were present, all making the ITE/SEMA show the place to be for anyone interested in the North American tire market.
To be sure, the International Tire Expo is different from the old NTDRA conventions.
As part of a multi-association event, the ITE/ SEMA show lacks the intimacy and focus of a tire-dealer only show.
And with nearly 80,000 people attending the annual AAIW extravaganza, it's easy for 5,000 dealers to be swallowed up in the crowd.
TANA's leaders should consider creating special badges beyond the generic "buyer" designation to help dealer attendees identify one another, both on the trade show floor and at their hotels.
The immensity of the show also detracts from TANA's educational program, which the association appropriately beefed up this year.
While the three early-morning breakfast events drew well, the afternoon seminars, in general, did not.
On average, TANA's educational seminars drew an attendance of 46, an improvement over the previous year and greater than that of similar SEMA-sponsored sessions.
But with more than 5,000 potential tire seminar attendees, the educational sessions should have attracted more people than they did.
The TANA braintrust may want to consider running its seminars earlier in the day—possibly right after the breakfast meetings.
Providing lunch as part of the educational program might be another way to boost attendance.
These suggestions should not minimize the great strides TANA and SEMA have made in reviving ITE.
Three years ago, there was real doubt about the show's future.
Today, the only question is, "How can a successful show be made better?"