Will it be a bad year for the big shows?

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12/04/2008
Any major manufacturer knows how expensive it is to have a large presence at a big show like ISC West, ASIS, or IFSEC. Not only is there the outlay for the space, but there's the expense of the booth, the set up of the booth, and the travel for all the people to man the booth. It's huge money, and in a bum economy, where people are increasingly getting their information from the web and not attending shows in the first place, that might be an expense people are looking to cut back on. We've already reported, for example, that Honeywell's presence at ISC East was much smaller, in terms of booth, than it normally is, but that they, being local, sent a large number of people to do the meet and greet. Sounds like a smart move to me. It's the people that matter, anyway, in my opinion. Now comes some interesting developments on the IFSEC front. For those who don't know, IFSEC is a huge show (30,000+) held in the relatively crap (to use a British term) city of Birmingham, England. From what I've been told (I've only been twice), it's traditionally been a very international show, but has lately turned very British and has lost a little luster in comparison with ISC West, for example. That's anecdotal - but it's pretty consistently the story I'm told. Anyway, yesterday Pelco put out the following release: Clovis, CA (December 3, 2008) — Pelco management announced today that it will not be participating in the IFSEC 2009 Exhibition but will still be hosting its annual customer party, to be held at a venue near but not at IFSEC. The company feels it prudent – given the current worldwide economic atmosphere – to withdraw from participation at the show for the upcoming year. Yeah. Pelco's not going to have a booth at IFSEC. You won't see the dancing cameras. That's huge. And the fact that they won't have the party at the show isn't surprising - the facility is in the middle of nowhere, near the airport, and there's no decent place to throw a party anyway. “Pelco did not come to this difficult decision lightly, but we feel that we can better serve and support our customers worldwide by realigning certain expenditures elsewhere,” says Pelco President and CEO, Dean Meyer. “Although we are spending less in some places – at IFSEC, for example – we are putting that investment to work in other areas that make more sense for our customers.” For example, Pelco is reinvesting into many areas throughout the company, including providing resources to broaden its HD product offerings during 2009. “This move will allow us to help redirect resources to launch our broad HD end-to-end product offering over the course of 2009, ranging from megapixel cameras of all shapes and sizes to recording and viewing solutions encapsulating H.264 compression, and third-party interconnectivity to storage,” Meyer says. “As it remains important that we support our customers from around the world who travel to IFSEC,” says Kevin Smith, Regional Manager UK and Ireland, "the Pelco party will still provide a great opportunity to connect with customers, even without having a stand at IFSEC 2009.” Great press release, if you ask me. Not hiding behind the decision, but rather explaining it in a way that makes sense. Couple this announcement with the reports that are circulating about Norbain not attending IFSEC, and you've got to think IFSEC is reeling. Not surprisingly, today I got a press release from IFSEC (damage control - I'm shocked!): London, 4 December 2008.  Honeywell, Panasonic, Dedicated Micros, HID, Samsung Techwin, JVC, IBM, Cisco, Paxton Access, Siemens, Risco, NICE, Axis, Milestone, Sony and BAE Systems have all announced their commitment to IFSEC 2009. Already, over 500 security companies and the industry’s leading brands have confirmed their attendance at the world’s leading annual security event when it takes place from 11-14 May 2009 at the NEC in Birmingham, UK. First, if any of the above companies hadn't already bought a booth for IFSEC 09, that would be devastating. But the fact that Norbain and ADI-Gardiner aren't mentioned is pretty interesting. No distributor mentioned at all, actually. IFSEC is the focal point of the industry and as such it has the support of all the major associations and media including the Security Institute and the BSIA. Norbain and Pelco will be supporting IFSEC 2009 by hosting their established networking events during the week of the show. Oh, here are Norbain and Pelco. Nice spin. They'll be "supporting" IFSEC by not giving them any money for a booth and by having a party in the general vicinity. James Blue, director of fire & security at UBM Live, organisers of IFSEC explains:  “We pride ourselves on IFSEC being an event that facilitates business and delivers real results; bringing exhibitors together with a high quantity of quality leads and branding opportunities. IFSEC 2009 is set to be another successful event with an extensive educational programme, dedicated end user and installer campaigns and the most innovative marketing activities to date.” IFSEC 2009 takes place from 11-14 May 2009 at the NEC, Birmingham in the UK.  For further information on the event and its exhibitors please visit www.ifsec.co.uk.  Companies interested in exhibiting should contact Kristan Johnstone at kjohnstone@cmpi.biz. That's the security-industry version of "let's make a deal." So, what's this mean for the industry at large? I think people - integrators and manufacturers alike - are being conservative and watching their costs, and there's no way around the fact that IFSEC is god-awful expensive to attend. The British pound has treated the dollar rather poorly as of late, cab rides are $40, a decent dinner is $100 for two, and hotels are always over-booked and under-accommodating. IFSEC might be a good show, but it's in an expensive place and it doesn't deliver much that you can't get at Essen, if you're targeting the European market, and Essen is much cheaper and only every other year. Further, ASIS admits attendance and booths were down this past fall, for the first time in years, and I'd be shocked if ISC West didn't shrink a bit, though of all the shows, it seems like the most must-attend, so it may fare pretty well. Vegas ain't cheap either, but it's a hell of a lot more fun than Birmingham. I don't think this means the era of the big show is coming to an end, but it's definitely possible that the extravagance of the big shows is coming to an end, and that most manufacturers are becoming a lot more choosy about where and how they spend their show dollars. Is anybody actually impressed or care much about the giant booths, anyway? Don't you really just want to find a person to ask questions of and make a connection with?

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