by Brendan M. Lynch | June 01, 2004


Stepping up:
Reed’s National Hardware Show
grew in Vegas.

The split between the 104-year-old American Hardware Manufacturers Association and trade show behemoth Reed Exhibitions has played out like a vicious divorce with power tools.
    After 27 years producing the National Hardware Show together in Chicago, in March 2003 the two groups bitterly parted ways, laying the foundation for rival trade shows in spring 2004. Both events are now history, and the results seem to favor Reed.
     Following last year’s rift, each organization staked out its turf: The Shaumburg, Ill.-based AHMA scheduled a new event in nearby Chicago, while Norwalk, Conn.-based Reed Exhibitions packed up its tool show for Las Vegas, to run less than a month later.
    But the first of this year’s dueling tool extravaganzas the AHMA Hardware Show, which ran April 18-20 at Chicago’s McCormick Place drew just 700 exhibitors and mixed reviews. For some, attendance was disappointing. “If you’re going to compare it with previous years, there’s a huge difference, with this one being tiny,” said Janice Coughlin, a buyer for Plow & Hearth, the home catalogue based in Madison, Va.
    Next, Reed staged its first Las Vegas tool exhibition at the Sands Expo & Convention Center from May 10-12. The trade show company, which still owns the National Hardware Show moniker, called its event a huge success.
    "It’s the first time we’ve grown in both square- footage and exhibitors since 1999,” said Rob Cappiello of  Reed Exhibitions’ National Hardware Show. According to Cappiello, the Las Vegas debut featured 2,300 exhibitors in 483,000 square feet of exhibition space. Moreover, the 2005 show will span two convention facilities: the Sands Center and the Las Vegas Convention Center.
     In the meantime, a pending federal lawsuit filed by the AHMA, claiming that Reed used illegal accounting tricks to inflate charges to past National Hardware Show exhibitors, has further ratcheted tensions between the ex-partners. “Reed has resorted to illegal and unethical activity. This lawsuit holds them accountable,” said Tim Farrell, CEO of the AHMA.
    Reed’s Cappiello saw the AHMA’s legal maneuver in a different light: “I can say the lawsuit is completely without merit, and we expect to be totally vindicated,” he said.