2005: Business - Attendance audit set for ’06 PGA show
Attendance at the 2006 PGA Merchandise Show almost certainly will decline, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Show owner Reed Exhibitions N.A. recently announced that it will submit an increasing number of its properties, including the PGA Show, held in January in Orlando, Fla., to independent attendance audits. Trade show operators generally have resisted independent audits, in part because audited figures typically are lower – sometimes dramatically lower – than unaudited figures that had been reported previously.
“This is generally referred to as ‘biting the bullet once,’ ” said Lee Knight, editor in chief of Exhibitor magazine, which covers the trade show industry.
Separately, PGA Golf Exhibitions, the Reed division that manages the show, restated attendance figures for the January 2004 show following an internal review. According to PGA Golf Exhibitions, 41,405 people attended the 2004 show, down 7.9 percent from the previously reported figure of 44,679. That meant that the 43,173 people who attended the 2005 show represented a 4.3 percent increase.
The decision to have Exhibit Surveys Inc., a Red Bank, N.J., company, independently audit the PGA Show beginning next year will bolster the validity of attendance figures, long a source of contention among exhibitors. But it potentially is a risky move by Reed Exhibitions, which operates more than 420 trade shows worldwide.
“The potential backlash from exhibitors is one reason why show organizers are hesitant to audit their events,” said Darlene Gudea, editor of Trade Show Executive magazine. “Others feel that audits are irrelevant.”
In a January column headlined “Secrecy and Shameless Lies,” Knight wrote that independent attendance audits have been debated for more than 30 years, yet fewer than 75 of 13,000 trade and consumer shows, or .005 percent, currently audit attendance.
So Reed’s decision to have independent audits of the PGA Show and its other properties “is a breakthrough leadership move much needed by the trade show industry,” Knight said.
Gudea noted that another trade show operator, IDG World Expo, recently began auditing some of its shows, and the attendance for one of its technology shows fell 65 percent from the previous year. She added that the Consumer Electronics Show “faced angry exhibitors when a similar discrepancy was revealed by its first audit in the ’80s.”
The move to independent auditing will provide PGA Show exhibitors with better information, but it’s not likely to fix one of the biggest problems afflicting the show: the departure of major manufacturers – such as Titleist, Ping and TaylorMade – which attract retail buyers. Other major manufacturers continue to re-evaluate whether to attend the show each year.