Rock to Road

Commentary: Trade shows reflect industry uncertainty

May 1, 2009  By  Andy Bateman

If you are feeling uncertain about the construction industry’s prospects, you are in good company.

If you are feeling uncertain about the construction industry’s prospects, you are in good company. Trade shows are normally reliable indicators of industry activity but the mixed fortunes of this year’s shows reflect anything but a consistent marketing approach by major equipment manufacturers and distributors.

Two recent trade shows can now safely be chalked up on the successful side. World of Asphalt was held in Orlando FL from Mar 9-12, 2009 and co-located for the first time with the AGG1 aggregate show. Show promoters somewhat optimistically described this event as an unqualified success, with strong registered attendance of 5,800 “despite a down economy and travel restrictions by many companies”. 

Here in Canada and a week earlier, the National Heavy Equipment Show held in Toronto on March 5-6 was another success, albeit with some sighs of relief from those involved, with reported attendance of over 10,000 and good exhibitor feedback.


At both shows however, there were striking variations in the level of participation by traditional exhibitors. Some equipment manufacturers adopted a business as usual approach with whole product lines on display. For many, cost cutting measures meant slimmed down exhibits with less equipment while a few familiar names, particularly at World of Asphalt, were absent altogether.

Hillhead, the U.K. show billed as the world’s biggest working exhibition of quarrying and recycling equipment is one of this year’s show casualties, with its organisers stating that, “Discussions took place with leading exhibitors at the end of January following which it was concluded that it would be in the best interests of the event if it were put back a full year to allow market conditions time to stabilise.” Closer to home, a similar fate has befallen the 2009 Heavy Construction Show, originally slated for June 5-6 in Abbotsford B.C.

It will be interesting to see which manufacturers made the best call on their trade show investment. Let’s hope the bold ones were right. 

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