NACE, SEMA or Both? Industry Weighs In on Travel Plans - BodyShop Business

NACE, SEMA or Both? Industry Weighs In on Travel Plans

When Hanley Wood Exhibitions announced that the 2010 Automotive Service and Repair Week (ASRW) events, including NACE and CARS, would take place Oct. 11-13 instead of during Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (Nov. 2-5), it put a big decision in front of the companies that provide equipment and services to the collision repair industry: At which show should we exhibit?

Some traditionalists believe that NACE is still the No. 1 collision show and will exhibit there. Others believe SEMA and its Paint, Body & Equipment section is the up-and-comer and deserves their attention. Although some feel both shows merit their attendance, others feel that they have to make a choice because they can’t afford to go to both.

Like a lot of things, it really depends on who you talk to.

“We’re going to be at NACE,” says Gary Ledoux, assistant manager for the Parts Marketing Department/Collision Group of American Honda Motor Company. “Although we won’t be exhibiting at SEMA, we’re going to visit it to see what’s happening.”

Ledoux says that NACE worked out just fine for Honda last year, in part because of the additional attention it got from being in the first-ever OEM Pavilion.

“[The OEM Pavilion] was a great concept, and we had all the right people talking to us,” said Ledoux, who added that Honda will be increasing its space slightly from 400 square feet to 600.

The “right people” in Honda’s eyes are collision repair facility owners and managers, and in Ledoux’s opinion, NACE has a better chance of delivering them than any other show. Still, it wasn’t a certainty that Honda would return to NACE this year because it first wanted to see what the rest of the industry was going to do.

“We looked at all the different possibilities, but we need to be where our constituency is – bottom line,” Ledoux said.

Ledoux believes 2010 will be a defining year for NACE, and Honda and the rest of the industry will be watching closely to determine their strategy for the coming years.

“As of now, we’re committed to NACE, and if we see a good number of people, fine. If the rest of the industry says, ‘To heck with NACE, we’re going to SEMA,’ it will no longer make sense to go to NACE.”

Despite Honda’s support of NACE, Ledoux has not been oblivious to the show’s decreasing size over the years.

“NACE is decidedly smaller than it was a few years ago. I remember going to Atlanta, and it took the better part of three days to walk it. Last year, you could have walked the whole show in one afternoon. But I understand the whole industry is shrinking,” he says. “For my money, [NACE and SEMA] should hold hands and combine under one roof, if not to increase attendance at NACE then to generate more buzz in the industry and gain more support for it.”

Fred Nicholson, vice president of operations for the Collision Equipment Group (CEG), has attended every NACE since its inception but won’t be there in 2010. His company will only be exhibiting at SEMA due to what he said was the worst attendance at NACE he had ever seen last year.

“I manned the booth by myself for three days and told my other guys to go walk the show,” Nicholson said. “They all said there was nobody on the floor.”

Nicholson admitted that his booth got less traffic due in part to the show floor being reconfigured, but believes the show has been declining for years.

“It used to be if we didn’t do $1 million on the floor, we had a bad show,” Nicholson said. “Now we don’t expect to sell anything.”

Nicholson says CEG sold $100,000 worth of equipment in 2008 and got “a couple hundred” leads. Last year, he claims he only got 38 leads.

Last year was the first year CEG exhibited at SEMA, and the results were positive enough for him to return this year.

“We had good attendance at SEMA, and a whole lot of people from NACE came to SEMA to see what was going on,” he said. “We sold merchandise on the floor, and that hadn’t happened in a couple years.”

In talking with other companies, Nicholson said he’s heard of a range of plans, from cutting down the booth size at NACE but maintaining a presence there while also  exhibiting at SEMA to exclusively exhibiting at SEMA. Overall, Nicholson is not happy with the decision to move NACE away from Industry Week.

“When you boil it down, the exhibitors are getting screwed because they’ve asked us to double our expenses with the shows being separated by a few weeks,” he said. “You go out to NACE and put everything in storage, fine, but then you have to send your people back out and ship it back.

“NACE has to wake up and realize it’s not an every year show anymore. There’s not that much new stuff in the market.” Poll: Have you as an exhibitor decided on whether you’re going to NACE or SEMA this year?

Yes, and I’m going to NACE: 26.83%
Yes, and I’m going to SEMA: 17.07%
I haven’t decided yet: 14.63%
Yes, and I’m going to both shows: 9.76%
I am not going to either show: 31.71%

After exhibiting only at NACE last year, ALLDATA will exhibit at both NACE and SEMA this year because it recognizes the tried-and-true nature of NACE but also the growing popularity of SEMA.

“We’re going to have a bigger booth to have a bigger presence at NACE and a smaller booth at SEMA,” said Dan Espersen, ALLDATA’s collision senior program manager. “The reason is because NACE has been around for awhile, is still the standard and is still our target market in the industry. SEMA is still new, but we know a lot of people are moving in that direction.”

Espersen appears to be correct, if you look at the numbers. According to SEMA, 77 companies so far (more than half of which are new exhibitors) have committed to the Paint, Body & Equipment section in 2010, compared to 14 companies in 2009. This amounts to 26,300 net square feet in 2010 (up from 2,950 in 2009). ASRW is currently at 193 companies and 58,200 square feet.

“I’m hearing about more big vendors going to SEMA, but the problem I have is that it’s a first-year run,” Espersen added. “SEMA has historically been automotive aftermarket accessories, and now you have collision going in selling parts, equipment and info, so it will take years to develop. There won’t be a big audience to target right off.”

Espersen believes the lackluster attendance at NACE last year was in part due to the economy but claims it wasn’t the worst he has seen. Overall, he says his company fared well, but believes that the move away from Industry Week could hurt.

“The worst mistake NACE made was moving away from Industry Week,” he says. “The reason people went that week was to grab both shows, and SEMA pulled in the bodies for NACE. Ultimately, guys will say, ‘It’s not in my budget to do two shows, so I’ll pick one or the other.’” Poll: Are you pleased that NACE has moved away from Industry Week and changed its dates to Oct. 11-13?

Yes: 32.89%
No: 43.42%
I have no opinion: 23.68%

Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) will be at both NACE and SEMA, says Marketing Manager Jonathan Barrick. To Barrick, it’s a no-brainer.

“NACE is still the industry event focused on collision,” Barrick says. “That being said, if you’re anybody in the auto industry, you have to be at SEMA.”

Barrick said that GFS will have a 20×20 booth at NACE this year, which is smaller than it has had in the past but is still big enough to make it one of the largest exhibitors there.

“[NACE] was kind of a paradox last year,” Barrick says. “Attendance was way down, but the people who were there had done their research and asked serious questions and knew what they were doing. That’s what makes your show successful.”

At SEMA, GFS will continue its involvement with West Coast Customs of “Pimp My Ride” fame by providing a working spraybooth outdoors so attendees can get the “West Coast Customs experience.” Like at NACE, in the PBE section, GFS will also have a 20×20 booth, up from last year’s 10×10.

“The sheer volume of people we saw last year at SEMA was hard to manage in a small, 10-by-10 space,” Barrick says. “No one knew how it would be received at the time, and so manufacturers went with smaller spaces and entered cautiously. But we were happy with the results.”

For those exhibitors that have abandoned NACE completely for SEMA, Barrick says he sees no advantage to that, citing NACE’s educational track as still being a big draw for attendees. But now that the shows won’t be held the same week, he wonders if people will choose to just go to one or split it up.

“When looking at the average body shop, I wonder if the owner will go to SEMA more as a vacation but send the manager to NACE because he is the guy who makes the equipment decisions,” Barrick says.

John Rylee, who is the director of marketing for Vehicles Services Group – VSG (which includes Chief Automotive Technologies, Rotary Lift and Chassis Liner), says he is firmly committed to both NACE and SEMA as well this year. At 30×50, the booth at NACE will be slightly smaller than last year’s, but it still makes VSG one of the top five or six exhibitors.

“We scaled back at NACE because there will be an opportunity to reach customers at both NACE and SEMA. The scaling back was also attributable to being able to streamline things in the exhibit,” Rylee says. “We’re trying not to be too judgmental about the shows right now because for us, it’s all about the customers.”

His company will continue to be the largest exhibitor in SEMA’s Tool & Equipment Section and also exhibit in the Paint, Body & Equipment section. If that wasn’t enough, VSG will also have a presence at AAPEX, where Rylee says it has been a “strong stanchion” for years.

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