How ISH can make a difference over here

HERES A DIRTY little secret that I suspect many contractors have about trade shows: The more of them the better. This thinking flies in the face of plumbing manufacturers who for years have crusaded against the high number of industry events that they feel obligated to attend and finance. Besides a myriad of regional shows for plumbing contractors, wholesalers and engineers, the manufacturers have

HERE’S A DIRTY little secret that I suspect many contractors have about trade shows: The more of them the better.

This thinking flies in the face of plumbing manufacturers who for years have crusaded against the high number of industry events that they feel obligated to attend — and finance. Besides a myriad of regional shows for plumbing contractors, wholesalers and engineers, the manufacturers have the big national events: the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show, Builders’ Show, ASPE Show and now ISH North America, which replaced NEX, which replaced the PHCP Expo.

And, we’ve agreed with the manufacturers’ point of view in this space repeatedly over the years. So many industry events waste time and resources while they add to the cost that manufacturers must pay to get their products to market and the price contractors must pay for them.

Still, I can’t help but think that a lot of contractors who want to attend a big national show actually like having so many from which to choose. I’ve come to this conclusion in the course of 13 years of going to these events myself. One of the complaints I’ve always heard from exhibitors — along with our industry having too many trade shows and not enough wholesalers showing up — is that only contractors from the immediate area attend.

If that’s true — and by and large I’ve found that it is — then having more trade shows should allow a greater number of local contractors to see the new products on display and give them the all-important face time with their most important vendors. Since the convention is nearby, the contractors don’t have to take as much time off from work to travel as far.

I was reminded of the logic of this thinking last month when I attended the first ISH North America show in Toronto. I saw a large number of contractors there from Canada, Michigan and Upstate New York but not nearly as many from the Deep South or the Far West.

Although logical, the idea that local contractors benefit from a high number of trade shows really isn’t true. While more shows may allow more contractors to attend, the quality suffers. With all the repetition, each one of them is less of an event.

The new products on display may not seem as fresh. The vendors that local contractors most want to see can’t make it to all the shows, so they send their regional reps in their place.

ISH can break the routine of trade shows if it concentrates on creating an event here that rivals its cousin in Germany. That, of course, is the goal of the ISH sponsors, along with putting the show on an every-other-year schedule as soon as possible.

Rather than settling on just another show that is easy for contractors to get to, the ISH sponsors should aspire to creating the special event that contractors look forward to visiting, even if they have to wait two years and travel hundreds of miles. To accomplish this objective, ISH must do two things:

  1. Keep working to reduce the number of trade shows to make ISH-NA the event that everyone can’t wait to visit.
  2. Build the convention around the needs of its constituents — contractors, engineers and wholesalers. A stronger, more diverse educational offering would draw these groups who would view the product exhibits as a welcome bonus. Exhibitors would be happy to see increased traffic in their booths.

All in all, we’ve heard mostly positive comments about the first ISH effort over here. The consensus seems to be that the show is a step in the right direction, but much more work still needs to be done to make it the special event we all hope it will be.