More than 130,000 people streamed through the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) trade shows in Las Vegas recently, but there was a little less to see of some of those thousands.
After getting some negative feedback about booth models' outfits following last year's show, SEMA decided to adjust its dress code guidelines to promote a more professional setting while not hampering the show experience. Peter MacGillivray, SEMA's vice president of marketing and communications, said guidelines included in its Exhibitor Services Manual were more specific about appropriate outfits.
In the past, he said, the guidelines had been somewhat vague, calling only for outfits in ``good taste.'' After all, a photo from the first SEMA Show in 1967 shows attendees in suit jackets.
The new guidelines in the manual, however, included specifically prohibited items: ``bathing suits, thongs, lingerie, excessively short skirts, painted bodies and transparent apparel.''
Show management also reserved the right to make its own determination of whether outfits or ``entertainment activities'' were appropriate.
Mr. MacGillivray said show officials encountered only a couple instances of crossing the line with outfits, but they weren't major problems. ``When a model showed up in lingerie, she was asked to change,'' he said.
Andrew Kimnerle, who works for a window tint company, got his photo taken with two of Toyo Tire (U.S.A.) Corp.'s popular ``Toyo Girls.'' He said all of the show's model outfits this year were noticeably tamer, especially considering a model he saw last year who was wearing only a floor mat over her chest. Asked if he was disappointed by the toned-down clothes, he shrugged.
``It's fine,'' he told Tire Business. ``I just like seeing beautiful girls and beautiful cars.''
Dana Zamalloa, senior marketing communications manager for Toyo, agreed the outfits overall were less offensive. Earlier this year she said Toyo tries to select outfits for its models that are ``sexy yet tasteful.''
``I didn't see some of the stuff I saw last year, which is a good thing,'' she said.
Mr. MacGillivray said SEMA has received positive feedback about its effort with the outfits. Only one man who sold photo CDs of SEMA models was upset by the change, he added.
Beyond the outfits, SEMA also is looking into other ways to improve the annual show, which takes 18 months to plan. ``This year we really emphasized delivering quality buyers and attendees to the show over quantity,'' Mr. MacGillivray said.
That included trying to keep the show open to trade-only professionals. More consumers are interested in attending the show, he added, and SEMA is investigating some instances of forged badges.
The show also welcomed 560 first-time exhibitors this year.
``The challenge for us is to find new and creative places where we can fit in next year's batch,'' he said.
Asked if the show is getting too large to be effective for attendees, Mr. MacGillivray said the association has made some adjustments to help attendees navigate the floor. For example, SEMA sectionalized the show about five years ago to help visitors focus on specific areas. The Diamond Bar, Calif.-based trade group also set up a new product showcase in the grand lobby plus offered an online program to help buyers match up with the exhibitors they wanted to visit.
``Having that kind of critical mass is pretty exciting,'' he said. ``And it is overwhelming at times, but it's all part of the SEMA Show experience.''
Jim Melvin Sr., owner of five Tire Pros outlets in the Northeast, said he has been coming to the show for years. The massive show gives him a chance to get away from his daily business routine, he said, and brainstorm new ideas or products. ``It gets better all the time,'' he said.