Underlying these ever-pertinent questions of style, sales, and marketing, however, was the bigger question of the state of JCK itself. After a significantly downsized Baselworld in March left the industry feeling less than optimistic, many are beginning to question the relevance—and future—of trade shows.
“Compared to 20 years ago, trade shows seem to be losing some of their attractiveness,” says Unninayar. “They are expensive for exhibitors, and some I routinely saw in past years have opted out in order to concentrate on other methods of selling.”
Although final numbers were not available at press time, the show floor consensus seemed to be attendance was lower than usual. Like Unninayar, a number of exhibitors pointed to the high cost associated with JCK as a likely culprit.
“The show has become more expensive,” says Rodney Roberts, director of global sales for ARMS USA. “So far, it’s still worth it to attend, but some of the refinements have gone; it feels a little like corners have been cut.”
“Many people discussed with us their disappointment that large companies seemed to be dropping out at an alarming rate,” says Kyle Thomson, North American sales manager for Tense Watch. “I did hear a lot of vendors mention they would not be attending next year and that the cost did not justify the end results. Many seem to believe not enough is being done to really attract or interest the retailer.”
Reports of slow at-booth business surfaced as well, with some attributing this to marketing strategies and product offerings.
“There’s still been a good turnout,” says Pesavento’s Polan. “Business depends on the product you’re selling. Retailers come here to see what’s new.”
“Retailers are very busy and not too many, in my experience, will spend the time looking for new items unless they are made aware of them ahead of time,” adds Unninayar. “I noticed the exhibitors who had little marketing to or communication with retailers had few people visit their booths.”