In a few weeks, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers will gather for DMIA's annual show and conference. This year, DMIA is gambling that the show's Las Vegas location will prove more of a draw.
Although the number of exhibitors has remained fairly steady at approximately 250, the number of distributor attendees has been dropping year by year. The show has gone from 2,500 attendees in 1995 to 2,000 attendees in 1999 to the 1,400 attendees reported last year in Chicago.
There are a few reasons for the decline. First, smaller distributors are finding it harder to justify the travel expenses and hotel costs associated with the national show—not to mention the lost selling time. Second, for the past few years, larger distributor companies have been incorporating supplier exhibits into their annual meetings. Besides providing access to the products and people that sales associates need, this strategy also brings in exhibit money to help fund corporate operations.
The result puts DMIA in a difficult position. While exhibitors are generally happy with the attendees that DMIA delivers, the overall number of shows continues to grow, making the decision of where to allocate marketing dollars more difficult each year. If this year's attendance does not at least match last year's, DMIA may begin to see some attrition in future exhibit numbers.
So far, DMIA has been able to maintain its number of exhibitors by attracting promotional products suppliers that are interested in forms distributors. However, turnabout is fair play. PPAI, Las Vegas—the largest of the promotional products shows, with an attendance of more than 14,000 distributors—has already begun attracting labels and plastic cards suppliers. It may be only a matter of time before forms manufacturers follow suit.