SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR
CHICAGO — Show management reported a total of 10,932 registered industry professionals at ISH North America, held Sept. 28-30 at McCormick Place here. Attendance included personnel from 561 exhibiting companies from 18 countries and almost 400 members of the United Association labor union.
ISH NA was held in conjunction with the annual conventions of the show's partners: the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors — National Association, Radiant Panel Association, International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials, American Supply Association and the Maple Leaf Reception of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating.
The event marked the fourth time the trade show for kitchen-and-bath, plumbing, commercial/industrial PVF and HVAC products occurred in North America. It was the first time, however, that ISH had taken place in the biennial schedule, which was instituted at the behest of exhibitors who opposed an annual show.
While show management released largely positive comments from several exhibitors, not everyone expressed enthusiasm for the event. Some exhibitors said privately that they were disappointed in the lack of attendance of both contractors and wholesalers.
Among those cited by show management was Betty Stenaka, marketing director for Estimation, who said, "We are very happy with the entire show results and are looking forward to 2008."
Dan Hunt, promotional service manager for Watts Regulator, said, "We had really busy days; we will most likely have to get a larger booth in 2008."
Dan Chiles, vice president/marketing at Watts Radiant, told CONTRACTOR: "The gate could have been larger, but I don't think anyone is ever satisfied with the attendance at any trade show. This turned out to be more of a meet-andgreet and bonding experience with our customers, and, from that point of view, we were satisfied.
"Some of the largest customers we've got were there, and it was more of an opportunity to cement relationships than start new ones. I think show management could be more aggressive in getting new people there."
Another exhibitor, who asked not to be named, said he thinks ISH NA is trying too hard to expand its appeal beyond the core audience of plumbing, heating and piping wholesalers and contractors.
"It has lost its focus, consequently you have fragmented audiences arriving at the show, and 90% of the show doesn't pertain to them," he told CONTRACTOR. "So, how do I justify the expense of reaching just 10% of the attendees on my marketing budget?"
Among contractors at the show, Jay Dorsey, vice president and owner of Jim Dorsey & Son Inc. Mechanical, said ISH NA was worth the trip from Taunton, Mass.
"I absolutely enjoyed it," Dorsey told CONTRACTOR. "I went there with the purpose of checking out renewable energy, such as solar, and I saw a lot. I was kind of shocked at the amount of Chinese manufacturers there, especially with all the manufacturing jobs that we're losing overseas."
Joel Boucher, vice president of Boucher Energy Systems in Mendon, Mass., said he also was interested in the renewable energy displays.
"We where particularly interested in the different solar manufacturers as that market is definitely becoming very hot again," he told CONTRACTOR. "There is a lot of interest from consumers."
Dale Arndt, owner of Arndt & Son Plumbing and Heating, didn't have as far to travel from his shop in Brooklyn, Wis., near Madison.
"It's always worth the trip when I get a chance to interact with other contractors, reps and manufacturers," he told CONTRACTOR. "I like to spend a lot of time with guys in their booths. I saw some of the manufacturers that I wanted to see, and some others I thought would be at the show weren't there."
Show management tried to inject excitement into the event by bringing back popular features from past events as well as introducing new activities. Returning this year was the New Product Showcase.
The Best Overall Winner of the juried showcase was Schuco's Solar Domestic Hot Water System in the HVAC category. The winners in the specific product categories were:
Hydronic Heating: Pommerening Armaturenwerk's Modular Hydronic Zone System DN 20;
Kitchen and Bath: Gerber Plumbing's Wicker Park;
Plumbing and Piping: Sun Hydronic's Sunstation;
Software and Business Efficiency: Estimation's Tool Box; and
Tools and Equipment: Mill Rose Co.'s All Purpose Pressure Tester.
Also returning was a curriculum of 46 industry-specific seminars and workshops, with presenters such as CONTRACTOR plumbing columnist Dave Yates, marketing columnist Adams Hudson and Kirk Alter of Purdue University. The Radiant House, presented by the RPA and constructed on the show floor, provided participating exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their products and installation techniques.
New this year at ISH NA was a Renewable Energy Technologies area presented by show producer Messe Frankfurt and the German Federal Industrial Association of House, Energy and Environmental Technology. The pavilion provided examples of energy alternatives to oil, gas and electricity and focused on solar thermal, wood stoves, heat pumps, ventilation systems with heat recovery and hydrogen fuel cells.
The display was intended to offer ISH NA attendees the opportunity to explore advanced energy alternatives as featured in ISH Frankfurt in Germany and ISH China, show management said.
Labor's heightened visibility at ISH NA featured a speech Sept. 29 by William Hite, general president of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.
After Hite's presentation, attendees were able to visit seven mobile training trailers displayed by UA Training Director Mike Arndt and his staff. The trailers contained systems that simulate conditions encountered by UA members in the field.