by Michael J. Shapiro | May 01, 2016

Trade-show organizers believe there's strength in numbers. An impressive 44 percent are either very or somewhat likely to begin co-locating a show with another within the next three years, according to a survey of more than 200 C-level event producers. That same study, the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum Pulse, conducted last year, also found that nearly half of respondents (48 percent) were very or somewhat likely to continue their current co-location arrangements.


Sam Lippman, Lippman Connects

"It's imperative for the modern show producer to add value and to evolve their event on an annual basis," says Sam Lippman, president and founder of trade-show consultancy Lippman Connects, which produces the Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum. "Co-location is one way of doing that. Not only are the major exhibitors saving money, but you're providing a brand new set of solutions to your attendees, to your members."

Seizing an opportunity
In some cases, co-location relationships are born from economic necessity.

The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show and the International Builders' Show are two trade events with a long history. Each has been an essential yearly event for the trade associations that own them -- the National Kitchen & Bath Association and the National Association of Home Builders, respectively --  for more than 50 years. But a few years ago, the outlook was not particularly good for either.

"Serving the residential housing sector was challenging after the market crashed in 2008 and 2009," recalls Brian Pagel, vice president, Kitchen and Bath Group, for Emerald Expositions, the New York City-based trade-show operator that produces KBIS. "As both events really felt the brunt of the meltdown in housing, we started having conversations on how we could drive more value to the marketplace, given what we were up against."

After a thorough analysis of respective audiences and exhibitors, the two organizations realized that their dire  circumstances presented an opportunity. "We quickly came to the conclusion that, while there was some crossover in terms of exhibitors, the audience crossover was minimal," says Pagel, who notes that IBS attendees typically are architects and contractors, while the KBIS attendees are designers. "We reached out to some of the larger exhibitors, because we wanted to gauge their level of interest in a co-located event. They all were very supportive."

As a result, Design & Construction Week, the co-located event, was born. Several anchor exhibitors that participated in both shows pushed for it because they would benefit from scale and cost savings. Others jumped at the opportunity to expand their reach. As for the boards of the respective associations, a majority of executives were open to the possibilities.

Exceeding expectations
The inaugural Design & Construction Week debuted in Las Vegas in February 2014. While both associations believed they were on to something, they weren't sure how the market would react. "We exceeded our wildest dreams," says Pagel. "We went from 165,000 square feet of exhibit space for KBIS in May 2013 to a show less than a year later that was wall-bound at 225,000 square feet. Our attendance increased from 13,000 to almost 24,000. And those numbers are just for the KBIS side of the show; it doesn't factor in the attendees who came in on the IBS side."

That year, KBIS was the fastest-growing trade show, attendance-wise, in North America -- by a landslide. It grew eight times faster than the show in second place. And the numbers have continued to climb as the two associations have continued to co-locate. In January, KBIS drew nearly 29,000 attendees to Las Vegas. Overall, Design & Construction Week 2016 -- which included KBIS, the International Builders' Show and the smaller partnering International Window Coverings Expo, International Surface Event and Tile Expo -- brought more than 110,000 attendees to the Las Vegas Convention Center.  

The success shows no signs of waning: KBIS 2017 already has confirmed more than 580 exhibitors for 332,000 net square feet of space. The organizations have agreed to co-locate KBIS and IBS through 2020.

Different scales
While the practice of co-locating is relatively popular, it doesn't often happen on the scale of the KBIS/IBS collaboration. "'Co-location' can mean anything from 'I've got excess space, so I'm going bring on another show and just charge them rental' to joint ventures that include booth sales and everything else," says Lew Shomer, former executive director of the Society of Independent Show Organizers. Often, the arrangements tend to be informal.

Shomer currently is chairman of the Abilities Expo, a series of events about products and services for the disability community. "When we're at a convention center, we always ask who else is going to be there," he says. "If we know in advance, we call the organizer and offer to promote their event, and they can in turn promote ours. As long as the events are complementary, that happens."

One of Shomer's shows two years ago took place concurrently with the Pri-Med East Annual Conference in Boston. "Their show is primarily for nurses and doctors; ours is primarily for therapists and people with disabilities," he says. "It wasn't planned far in advance, but we were able to get a significant number of their people to come down to our show because of the interest in the technology and helping people with disabilities. Our audience wouldn't necessarily fit into Pri-Med's profile, but the Pri-Med profile certainly fits ours."

The groups exchanged signage to cross-promote on-site, and attendees with Pri-Med badges were welcomed into the Abilities Expo. While the ad-hoc nature of that agreement might not constitute a true co-location, potential benefits are similar -- to expand reach and increase attendance, specifically. No data was officially collected in that case from the Pri-Med attendees who crossed over, but contact information was exchanged with exhibitors, and relationships were born.