by Tom Isler | July 01, 2008

National Restaurant Show: Perdue bid adieu. Some high-profile players in a variety of industries have scaled back participation in major trade shows this year, sending a signal to show organizers that in tough economic times, they no longer can take for granted the continuing support of longtime exhibitors who are searching for more cost-effective ways to reach customers.

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show, held in May in Chicago, attracted a record number of exhibitors, but two key former participants, McCain Foods Ltd. and Perdue Farms Co., were not among them. Others, including Tyson Foods Inc., opted to cut back on displays to save money.

“We decided to eliminate the event this year to help reduce our overall costs and minimize the price increases we have to pass on to customers,” said a Perdue spokesperson.

The Entertainment Software Association also has struggled to keep some industry heavyweights. Last year, neither Sony nor Microsoft officially participated in the E3 Media and Business Summit, held in Southern California. This year, interactive entertainment giant Activision said it would not only pull out of E3, but it would drop its ESA membership altogether “for business reasons.”

Losing a key exhibitor is a “wake-up call,” said Chris Brown, executive vice president, convention and business operations for the National Association of Broadcasters, which held its annual meeting in Las Vegas in April without displays from major software firms Apple and Avid Technology Inc. Brown noted that Apple still reserved meeting space in the convention center and Avid held off-site functions, indicating that the event remains an important forum for buyers and sellers. Brown is hopeful that Avid, at least, will be back in the fold next year.