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After the Automotive Service Association (ASA) announced last week that it was moving Automotive Service & Repair Week (which includes NACE, CARS and Auto Glass Week) to Oct. 11-13 in 2010, industry people posted a flurry of mostly negative comments on www.bodyshopbusiness.com. Some of the comments included:
“We’ve been a NACE exhibitor since the beginning. We spent $7,500 to be there this year, and we met with fewer than 10 WDs and jobbers. Goodbye, NACE. Let me know when you decide to exhibit somewhere other than Las Vegas.”
“Splitting them is a big mistake. They need to be combined to save everyone the expense of going to two shows. If I have to chose one over the other, there’s more benefit to go to SEMA…”
“What were they thinking? Every year, NACE attendance has declined. Having SEMA and NACE the same week was smart! Unless you’re a vendor, NACE alone doesn’t warrant the trip. You just killed NACE…may it rest in peace.”
“If SEMA and NACE are not together, I will not be there in 2010.”
Despite these negative comments, ASA President Ron Pyle stands resolute in his decision. He says the move was carefully calculated, and that he has heard plenty of positive remarks to support the change. BodyShop Business asked him to address some of the industry’s concerns and talk about the rationale for the move in an interview:
BSB: Some people are saying they’re going to have to pay more now because they’ll have to go to two shows at two different times. Do you agree?
Pyle: It’s actually going to cost less to exhibit and attend because the demand for hotels during our new week will be less than during Industry Week. For those who feel they have to be at both, and frankly, the crossover component this past year was roughly 30 companies, there’s a decision to be made. Is it more expensive to go out there twice, or more expensive to man two booths in the same week? If you have two different types of booths, one designed for the specialty market and one for the professional market, then yes, you’ll have to be at both places. If you’re just trying to capture some business at both locations, heck, we’ll store your booth until SEMA or AAPEX.
My opinion is that they only need to come to one. If they’re a shop or a company that sells to shops, they need to be at ASRW. This is definitely a shop and technician event. If you’re a manufacturer that sells to distributors, frankly you should be at the event where most distributors are. That would more likely be AAPEX. Marketing managers and distributor sales managers find SEMA very glamorous and attractive, and so do I, but the hardcore professional service and repair market is not the target audience.
I think some of the arguments are based on personal convenience. For every one of those comments, you have to look at it and evaluate it. If you need to be at NACE, be there. If not, don’t come. On the other side of the coin, I’ve had some commitments from major exhibitors that are applauding the change and are glad we’ve gone back to a freestanding week. They’re happy to see it return. We’ve gotten commitments from folks who have decided to leave SEMA or AAPEX and be at the show dedicated to the end user. I think you’ll see some of that on both sides. I don’t know if we’ll have a big net gain. But there won’t be a question about what market audience is at the show. However, what we do know is that with this schedule change, we won’t be providing 20,000-plus attendees for a competitive event to draw from.
BSB: Some people contend that NACE just killed itself because it won’t be able to benefit from SEMA traffic. Do you agree?
Pyle: No. We never got much traffic from SEMA, and there were very few professional repairers who registered there and came over. Frankly, the crossover traffic in both directions was more likely to be casual lookers. Every show was smaller this year and that, of course, made it hard for any one of them to keep the audience occupied for the full duration. As a result, we had more traffic from SEMA this year than in recent years.
BSB: What is your take on SEMA’s PBE section?
Pyle: I totally understand SEMA’s motivation to market a PBE section at their show they’re protecting themselves just as we are. They’ve lost a significant amount of space and attendance like everyone else. That said, they’ve been very cordial, and there is no feud going on. Chris Kersting has been a real gentleman on every occasion we’ve spoken, and Peter MacGillivray is one of the smartest marketers around. It’s business, it’s competition. Competition makes everyone better, if they’re smart.
We have a particular niche we’re good at serving. We’re going to be a shop show for any shop that wants to show up. Anyone’s welcome at ASRW who has a real interest in what the end user wants. By having a singular focus, we can be more confident that the date change will be successful. For example, I’m really gratified that the OEMs will be at our event with a significant presence. What are the aftermarket folks going to think? It’s competition, but it should breed a lot of benefits for the professional repair marketplace.
BSB: Other than moving the date, is anything else about ASRW going to change?
Pyle: The recession has increased the pressure on everyone to perform. It’s a very competitive environment. We’re all hungry to sell booth space, and it has become increasingly clear to me that the key question that needs to be addressed is not what week the show is going to be, but how is the show going to be more relevant and more valuable. Before the show ended this year, we were working hard on plans for next year because we knew what our announcement was going to be. We understood that any show is a reflection of the conditions of the industry at a given point in time. In my opinion, the good news was that if everything we heard was accurate, we didn’t lose nearly as many attendees as other shows did. On the other hand, just moving the date is not enough to justify all the work and inconvenience that it will create. As we move forward, we’re excited to unveil the rest of the plan to answer those who want to know how ASRW 2010 will be better and why they should be there.