Industry Trade Shows Wary of What Happens Next
Trade Shows canceled Coronavirus - The Robin Report

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The Covid-19 coronavirus claimed another victim last week: The Inspired Home Show, the largest U.S. trade show for the housewares and related industries. Show organizers announced its cancellation last week.

While many major trade shows for consumer products and fashion apparel have been canceled, first in Asia and more recently in Europe, the Inspired Home Show marks one of the largest such cancellations in the U.S. It comes as another big gathering for retailers, Shoptalk, also has just announced it is postponing its March event in Las Vegas to the fall.

The Show Must Not Go On

The housewares show, originally scheduled for March 14 to 17 at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago was projected to attract 60,000 attendees and more than 2,000 exhibitors, representing countries from around the world. \”The global nature of our event, combined with the worldwide concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak and ongoing travel restrictions make it impossible for us to hold The Inspired Home Show next week,\” Derek Miller, president of the sponsoring organization, the International Housewares Association said in a statement. The show is an annual event and Miller said there are no plans to do an interim show before the next scheduled one in March of 2021.

[callout]Without industry shows, retailers and the suppliers who sell them will have to arrange for other ways to do business. These include one-on-one visits, video conference calls or all manner of digital communication.[/callout]

Miller said in a subsequent letter to the industry, \”At IHA, hard work remains in front of us as we deal with the ramification of this decision. Our immediate focus is on determining the financial impact on the industry and association.\”

The cancellation has been greeted with general support from the industry and individual companies who had planned to exhibit. Many were reporting significant numbers of retailers canceling their trips to the show and in industry press reports said they would work to develop alternative ways to meet with their customers.

Collateral Damage

It is impossible to estimate the cost and lost revenue resulting from these cancellations. Besides the lost business to the host cities in hotels, restaurants and local transportation, there are also airfares and associated spending. While several smaller business-to-business shows and events have been canceled or have reported cancellations of attendees, the news of this big show\’s undoing is sending shivers throughout American companies, particularly in the home furnishings space.

Spring Awakenings

Spring is when most sectors in the industry hold markets and shows previewing products for the fall and fourth quarter of the year. So far, no other show has followed the housewares lead. The home textiles industry, which holds an event later this month in New York for bedding, bath products, curtains and other soft home products, is so far maintaining its show will go on. Unlike the housewares business, this industry exhibits in its own showrooms rather than in an open-plan convention center format show. It\’s the same for tabletop – china, glass, flatware and similar products – which has its B2B event the first week of April, also in New York. It has not announced any changes to its schedule so far.

The biggest show on the home furnishings trade calendar is the High Point Market in North Carolina in mid-April where thousands of companies show furniture, home décor, rugs and decorative accessories, Attendance at the show, which has a significant international component, is in the 60,000 to 70,000 range. So far organizers of that event are saying its business as usual though like others, it hedges its bets slightly by saying it continues to monitor the situation.

Alt Business

Without these shows, retailers and the suppliers who sell them will have to arrange for other ways to do business. These include one-on-one visits, video conference calls or all manner of digital communication. While several companies are starting to offer digital marketplaces in efforts to supplant physical trade shows none of them are truly up to scale to be able to be realistic options for wholesale activity. Nearly everyone involved in all these decisions will use one word to describe the current situation: fluid. It\’s why whatever is announced today could be reversed tomorrow.

Event Interruptions

The human tragedy surrounding Covid-19 is of course of utmost importance but its impact on the business world looks like it will only get worse in the weeks ahead. Here is an abbreviated list of some of the high-profile shows, conferences and events that have been canceled or postponed, covering the gamut of major industries that financially depend on these activities.

  • Shoptalk, Las Vegas postponed to September
  • Shopify Unite, Toronto annual developer conference canceled
  • Shanghai fashion week will be live-streamed online
  • Beautycounter Leadership Conference, San Francisco canceled
  • Salon del Mobile, Milan postponed until June
  • Watches and Wonders in Geneva, Switzerland canceled
  • Gucci Cruise 2021, San Francisco canceled
  • Adobe\’s annual live summit will take place online
  • F8, San Francisco Facebook\’s annual conference for developers canceled
  • Facebook\’s Global Marketing Summit, San Francisco canceled
  • Mobile World Congress, Barcelona canceled
  • Game Developers Conference (GDC), San Francisco canceled
  • EmTech Asia, Singapore postponed to August
  • Google I/O News Initiative Global Summit canceled
  • ASEAN Summit, Las Vegas postponed
  • Formula One\’s Chinese Grand Prix, postponed
  • The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), Asia canceled
  • The Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour Series-China, canceled
  • The World Athletics Indoor Championships postponed until 2021
  • Geneva International Motor Show, canceled
  • Natural Products Expo West, postponed, new date as yet unannounced
  • Art Basel Hong Kong, canceled
  • Canton Fair, suspended until further notice
  • Intertextile Shanghai, postponed, new date as yet unannounced
  • China International Furniture Fair (Guangzhou) canceled
  • South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin, Texas canceled

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