BY ROBERT P. MADER
Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
TORONTO — The ISH North America show is like a rookie ballplayer with plenty of upside. The first show, Oct. 31-Nov. 2 here, was rough around the edges, but it shows so much promise that many exhibitors and visitors are eager to come back next year when the venue shifts to Las Vegas.
Still, a preponderance of plumbing manufacturers remains unhappy about the number of trade shows that they have to attend.
ISH ended up in Toronto at the end of October because that was the one city with the right combination of exhibit space and hotel rooms. The scheduling conflict with the American Society of Plumbing Engineers Show also was a problem for some manufacturers. The ASPE show took place earlier in the same week in Fort Worth, Texas.
Nonetheless, show organizers Messe Frankfurt reported that 10,735 attendees filled the aisles of the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place during the three-day event. Canadian attendees were well represented with more than 4,500 registrants, but U.S. attendees made the strongest showing with more than 5,300 visitors.
Representatives of more than 40 nations outside North America added an international flavor to the show, with large contingents of attendees from Italy, Taiwan, Mexico and Germany.
ISH North America was produced in partnership with Messe Frankfurt, the American Supply Association, Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association.
Exhibiting their latest products and services were 475 companies that used almost 110,000 sq. ft. of net exhibition space. About 23% of all exhibitors were Canadian-based companies. U.S.-based companies accounted for almost 72% while 5% of exhibitors were non-North American manufacturers.
Pete Reynolds, director of residential markets for Rheem Water Heater Division, said his booth was busy throughout the show. He said Rheem’s decision to narrow its product focus to the introduction of its flammable vapor arrestor technology was the reason for that success. The company plans the same tight focus for its booth in Las Vegas next year.
Reynolds, a veteran of ISH Frankfurt and ISH China, said that Toronto was a questionable location — and he’s a Toronto native. He said that it might have frightened away U.S. contractors simply because it was across the border. Other factors are that late October weather is iffy; the exhibit hall was too far away from the hotels; and airfare was exorbitant without a Saturday night stay. Some of the Rheem contingent flew to Buffalo, N.Y., and drove the rest of the way.
Still, Reynolds said he expects a great show in Las Vegas, full of new construction and production plumbers and, perhaps, even some home builders looking for mechanical and plumbing ideas. Plus, Las Vegas is easy to get to and the hotels and food are relatively inexpensive.
Reynolds noted that because he’s selling a residential product he did not exhibit at the ASPE show in favor of ISH, although that would have been difficult for a manufacturer with a commercial/industrial product. Reynolds spent one day at ASPE, one day at the pool-and-spa show in Dallas and then flew to Toronto for ISH.
“Trade show consolidation is still a concern,” said Dan Murphy, market manager/contractor segment for Delta Faucet Co. “This show is a step in the right direction. Contractors and wholesalers have the right partner in Messe Frankfurt, but they have to look for more affiliates to get a larger show.”
Charles S. White, marketing manager, Jay R. Smith Mfg. Co., said his firm experienced “the first show blues.” He thought show managers were overwhelmed, and it took until 1 p.m. on the first day of the show for his booth to have electricity. The show opened at 10 a.m.
White said he wasn’t happy with the booth selection process. He is accustomed to selecting booth preferences one through five. For ISH-NA, he was asked if he preferred mid-aisle or on a corner, and Jay R. Smith ended up on a corner in the back of the hall.
“The traffic was busy in the front of hall,” White said, “but we were in the back of the building just off one of the main intersections and the traffic never made it back there, so we weren’t terribly busy.”
The Smith booth saw plenty of Canadian contractors, although White said he was struck by how few wholesalers came by. Nevertheless, White said his company would be in Las Vegas, this time with a bigger booth to get a better location.
He noted that scheduling ISH the same week as ASPE was “regrettable” and it made it difficult for his company.
McGuire Manufacturing decided not to take the chance of shipping its booth from Fort Worth to Toronto, said Brian Suriner, national sales manager. He attended the show in Toronto, however, with President Mike McRoberts.
“We had every intention of exhibiting at ISH, but scheduling it the same week as ASPE prevented us from doing so,” he said. “We walked the ISH show every day and scheduled meetings. We met everybody we needed to meet.”
Show organizers had numerous expressions of support from exhibitors.
“The visitor traffic to our booth was steady and of high quality,” said Kenneth Webster, marketing manager for Viessmann.
Noted Raymond Farley, vice president and general manager of Myson: “We were really pleased with the level of traffic through our booth and the interest in our products as well as the range of people that have come to the show. We’ve seen people from all across Canada and the U.S. Business leads are coming in.”