IWF 2010

Reports from 2010 years IWF show in Atlanta prompt the question: are big woodworking machinery shows a thing of the past? April 4, 2011

Headed to IWF tomorrow. Just got off the phone with the fellow who builds my CNC and he says the show is better than expected. He says he's sold some machines and the serious survivors are there, ready to get back to work! Anybody else got input?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
Went over on Thursday. Floors A and B are about 80% occupied but C is not used. I was disappointed, but I am glad I went. Have fun.

From contributor E:
I was at the show for two and a half days. Supply hardware Hall A seemed to have less attendees than machinery side. Most people I talked to had a positive attitude about the future. They also are going ahead safely.

It's like my situation. Business is good and steady. I can't get good help. So I was looking at upgrading software and getting a CNC. It's a lot of money, but I feel it will be well spent. Better than an employee. I went to the seminar about hiring and retaining employees. A speaker from the National Manufacturers Association wasn't painting a good picture of the available skilled labor force.

From contributor A:
For the most part, it was a ghost town, few people roaming the halls, very little education and a heck of a lot less space. Sure, it seemed busy; but let’s not forget that this year's show is approximately 400,000 sf, as opposed to previous shows of 800,000+ sf. Walking around, many companies didn’t even have machines powered up. Weinig, Stiles, Delmac and Biesse (as most people know) bailed on the show and their customers. Although there was activity (as there always is), I’d put my money on very few (significant) transactions taking place. Lots of dealers were commenting on sales activity coming from the used market.

From the original questioner:
I am glad I went! Was able to buy blades and tooling as I had been ignoring this for a while. Hall A was quiet. Some of the midsize CNC machine companies always had demos going on and I watched some sell some machines. I am glad the show is still there and glad to support it. My guess is we have seen the last of many big iron companies at these shows.

From contributor S:
The show was definitely smaller, but traffic Wednesday to Friday was solid. Saturday was a bit quiet but that is to be expected with the show so close to the start of the school year for many woodworkers’ children. Personally I was one delayed flight from not seeing my kids off to the first day of school today.

As a company we were very pleased, sold some machines, got some great leads and got to see a lot of old customers. Thanks to all that came to support IWF, and we hope you come again.

From contributor I:
This says it all: "nearly 11,000 woodworking attendees"

That is a pathetic showing. What a sad time. The show was a mere shadow of its former self. I think the big boys made the right decision. They all have great showrooms and can do live web demos and if the customer is really interested, fly them out and have a captive audience for a day. Do they even have the Vegas show in 2011?

From contributor C:
The 2011 "Vegas show" is owned and operated by a different organization than the Atlanta show. In the even years, IWF runs the Atlanta show. In the odd years, AWFS runs the Las Vegas show. Incidentally, AWFS had a booth at this year's IWF show advertising for the 2011 AWFS show. So, yes, I fully expect that there will be a 2011 Vegas show.

From contributor I:
I know that the two shows are not put on by the same people. Been going to them since the mid-80s. My point is, as weakly attended as IWF was, why bother to put on Vegas?

From contributor B:
Why put on the Vegas show? For us folks on the West coast.

From the original questioner:
One of the single most common statements I heard at the show by the vendors was that "these attendees were not the tire kickers; they were small shops (survivors) who are looking to get busy." It at least made me feel good. I saw lots of activity with smaller machines and I know of one CNC company who sold quite a few mid size machines. My hope is we will see the continued shows. I have never left with less than I got there with whether it be spending money or learning new ways and materials. These are tough times - no one's fault - just something we have to get through.

From contributor C:
I am on the East Coast, but I have some preference for the Vegas show. I have found the seminars to be much more helpful. I have attended AWFS seminars that have helped me earn money. That was very good.

I attended three seminars this year at IWF and felt that I did not get my money's worth. For example, I signed up for a seminar that was supposed to help me improve my website to get more business. All I "learned" was that analyzing user interactions at my website was complex and that I should hire the speaker's company (or someone like them) to do the job for me. He had special industry terminology for all his stuff and maybe I should have been wowed, but I wasn't. It was a waste of $45 and 1.5 hours of my time.

Another morning seminar I attended, the speaker kept making references to topics on his PowerPoint screen that he would be covering in his afternoon seminar. Well, I signed up for the seminars based on the descriptions provided ahead of time on the IWF website. Nowhere did it say that this speaker was breaking his talk into Part 1 and Part 2. And from what I heard from someone who attended Part 2, one of his key points was that the audience members should spend $2400 on an advertisement in his publication and they would receive lots of work in return. I am glad I didn't waste my time and money on the afternoon seminar. Listening to him gloss over the topics in the morning was bad enough for me.

A bit more history... Four years ago I attended a number of seminars at IWF. My colleagues and I felt they were horrible. The speakers were confused in their presentations, the content was not covered properly, etc. Two years ago I attended none at IWF. None of them were applicable to my business. And, as I stated above, three years ago I attended some AWFS seminars that gave me the knowledge to add thousands of dollars of increased profit in the next 12 months to my bottom line. So, I am looking forward to the Vegas show!

Now, regarding the show floor... Yes, it was smaller. However, I have seen the big iron machines in the past. I am not, and will probably never be, in the market for them. So I didn't miss them. I did find all of my suppliers that I wanted to meet there. I did find some new products that I need as I grow my business. And all of the exhibitors that I met were very helpful.

I agree that there were a lot of survivors there working hard to make their business even better. The future of IWF probably will not look like the past. But I do not believe our future economy will look like the past either. However, I personally do not think that IWF will follow TSI's path. But they really need to improve their seminars. And maybe even consider a new city? Atlanta is an expensive place to sleep. I can stay at the Las Vegas Venetian for less than what I paid in Atlanta. Or two nights at the Mirage in Las Vegas for one night in Atlanta.

From contributor M:
There is no doubt that the attendance was way down, and anyone who was exhibiting should have expected that to be the case. Booths were downsized, manpower was reduced and exhibitors had to modify their approach. As suppliers to this industry we are all in this together. Your success or failure predicts ours, so at the Häfele America Co. booth we dedicated about a third of our large booth space to hands-on demos. We demonstrated how shops could add $2500 of kitchen accessory sales to their cabinets in less than a total of 10 minutes of install time. We installed a custom roller shutter (tambour doors), a double wall metal drawer box, a lift-up fitting, a neat blind corner fitting and a pull-out trash can. Not only did this give us the opportunity to shine the light on the profitability of these items, but the live demos and accompanying prize drawings made our booth the center of attention several times each day.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor I:
Look, in 2004, there were over 30k attendees, in 2006 over 43k. In 2008 just over 19k and this year, maybe 11k. I guess for some it is worthwhile to exhibit, more power to them. I just think this type of venue may be a thing of the past.

From contributor M:
Your point is well made, and yes, I posted one of the better pictures.

I'm Häfele America Co.'s Trainer, and the realities of our recent economy have required me to modify the way I train. I conduct more webinars than live hands-on classes, and smaller, targeted local meetings rather than large company-wide meetings. I suspect that things will never return to what I fondly remember as normal, but that's not all bad. There were inefficiencies built into our old methods, and as I look at what the machinery guys have gone through I have to believe that the new normal is here to stay for them.

Remember when none of the European tool companies (or their partners) had American showrooms or training centers, where now most of them do? They used to schedule tours of Germany, Italy, Austria, etc., just so they could get us to spend a day or two at their facilities. Every few years they would load all their tools into several tractor trailers and head off to Atlanta, where they would spend days, and in some cases weeks setting up their tools for the show. Today most of the tool guys have American facilities where they can bring their prospective clients for uninterrupted one-on-one time; and the tools will be ready to demo tomorrow, next week and next month. Why would they return to the old “normal”?

Now you are a captive audience when you are visiting a company, as opposed to the free movement between suppliers afforded at a trade show. Which is best for you, the consumer? The decision for the big guys to go it alone is being ratified by our industry when we skip the shows.

From contributor A:
I view the big iron the same as I would view an anchor tenant in a mall - 2-5 quality anchors and the mall draws great traffic, which is good for all retailers.

You are a specialty vendor that has a wide market appeal, all segments of the wood industry can use products you have, so I would guess out of 19000 you had at least 850 visitor scans at a minimum and probably 2-3,000.

That's a lot of leads or connections with existing customers that you can show new products, make sure the local rep follows up on, and take care of customer service issues. If a few hundred leads are a good show for a small specialty vendor that relies on customers looking at big iron and that drops to 20-40 leads, the cost per lead gets too high.

So trade shows may continue to be a great medium for touch and feel items, the cost compared to other methods of delivery for those that don't get the same benefit with the big iron gone is getting too high.

I also don't like the way the last few years the big iron vendors announce they aren't attending the show a few days after everyone else's payments are due, which deprive the small vendor from making an educated choice without an economic impact.

From contributor T:
We are in Ontario Canada and have a large show in Toronto every other year. We never go even with all the free tickets we are given by vendors. Even in years when we were making major purchases. If you are serious about a purchase, the salesman will visit you, take you to their showroom or another shop. I think most guys just like watching/seeing the big iron. Like someone already stated, the cost per active lead is too high.