The numbers are in: “AWFS®Vegas” had a total registration of 30,323 including a record 19,866 attendees. Verified total attendance (a de-duped count recorded onsite by electronic scanners at registration and badge holder pickup) of 24,289 for the Wednesday-through-Saturday show days, July 27 to July 30, 2005, was up 37% from 2003. Verified attendee numbers increased 22%, for a total of 17,045 – the largest attendee crowd in the history of the show.
In addition, “AWFS®Vegas” had the largest exhibit space of any show in its history with 418,435 net square feet of exhibit space, filled with 898 exhibiting companies, nearly a 20% increase in both exhibit space and number of exhibitors from 2003.
The demographics for the inaugural Las Vegas event were markedly different from past Anaheim fairs. While California still represented the largest group of attendees, attendance from every other state increased dramatically, with 44 of 50 states experiencing triple digit percentage increases. International attendance more than doubled, with a 134% increase. “We have achieved our two main goals, of increasing our attendance by 20% without sacrificing quality, and of making this truly a national, indeed, an international event,” notes Dale Silverman, executive director of the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers® (AWFS®). “In addition, exhibitors are telling us they’ve seen more qualified buyers this year than at any other previous AWFS®Fair.”
“ We were extremely pleased to see our attendee numbers up from the mid-west, east and southern states,” adds Angelo Gangone, AWFS® trade show director. He shared some statistics: Texas had a 284% increase, Ohio a 278% increase, Illinois a 133% increase, Indiana an astounding 692% increase, Michigan a 216% increase, North Carolina a 185% increase and Florida an impressive 374% increase. “Our western states were up as well including Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Washington and Oregon with gains of 248%, 142%, 77%, 73%, and 47% respectively.”
Attendees and exhibitors have indicated they like the new venue, the new show days and hours, the convention center and the city itself. According to Robert Slater, Optimizing Group Manager of Weinig Group “This wasn’t a good show, it was a great show! It far exceeded our expectations in terms of the actual sales that were generated during the event, as well as the amount of post-show leads that we are following. In addition, we were really excited by the demographic makeup of the attendees. We expected more attendees from the East and Midwest because of the new venue but could not believe how many customers we met with from all over the country. Also remarkable, we had very steady traffic well into the last day of the show, something that doesn’t typically happen on the last day of any show.”
Doug Kemp of Kemp Hardware, a long time exhibitor who initially had doubts about the new venue had similar thoughts. “This was a great show! I saw all the buyers I used to see in Anaheim and a whole lot of new people as well. Friday was a record-breaking day for us and Saturday was even better! In fact it was the best last day of any show I’ve been to in years.”
Exhibitors confirmed the attendance statistics, with many anecdotal stories of meeting with new contacts and generating new leads. “We met so many new people this year, it was fantastic,” said Kevin Fong of Decore-ative Specialties.
Max Salmi, marketing manager of Biesse America stated that “ ‘AWFS®Vegas’ was the best ‘West Coast’ show Biesse has ever had in its history.”
Stephanie Sorrels, marketing manager of Interior Products Inc. stated, “This was the largest show in the last six years in terms of sales leads generated. We will be expanding our booth in 2007 and maybe adding a second one!”
Morgen Harrelson, of wgsonline.com, a first time exhibitor, noted when picking up her display at the First Timer Exhibit Showcase that she was “very happy”, that after so much planning and preparation, the show had actually exceeded their expectations.
Pre-registration figures were close to on-site attendance, which was a new phenomenon for the AWFS®Fair. “In past history of AWFS® shows, pre-registration would run high, but there would be many “no-shows” as people would get busy with orders and never carve out the time to get to the local event.” explained Silverman. “Because Las Vegas drew in people from further away, they had to make a more serious commitment to attend, including hotel reservations and travel arrangements. We are thrilled with this new development as it means pre-registration figures are more indicative of actual attendance.”
Participation was also high for the College of Woodworking Knowledge® (CWWK), increasing by 74% over 2003 Fair levels with 3,722 participants. A total of 44 seminars and SMART programs were offered, in cooperation with many associations and industry trade publications.
The AWFS® Awards dinner was a great success and sold out before the Fair opened. Scott Phillips, host of the PBS series “The American Woodshop,” served as Master of Ceremonies for the professionally-produced event. A star-studded stage and two large video screens added to the evening’s excitement. AWFS® President Barry Howerton of Leggett & Platt noted that the night showcased the future of the industry, recognizing the talent of the future woodworking students as well as innovative new products with the AWFS® Sequoia Awards. He also thanked the AWFS® Board of Directors for making the courageous decision to move to Las Vegas. “In hindsight we know it was a wise decision, but 2 years ago, it was not that easy,” said Howerton.
Nineteen companies participated in the WoodWORKS for Children program, using demonstration materials to create furniture for the Las Vegas charity, The Shade Tree shelter, including 12 sets of children’s tables and chairs, 6 baby changing stations, 10 cribs, 20 bookshelves, 20 tables, 20 desks, and 15 storage cabinets. “The furniture we’re receiving from WoodWORKS for Children is priceless!” declared Brenda Dizon, executive director of The Shade Tree. “To receive this furniture, and have a group come in and partner with us at a time when we are expanding our facilities is just wonderful.” The furniture is projected to be delivered and assembled this fall.
The Student Design Contest area was very popular with attendees and exhibitors alike. A total of 58 innovative and traditional furniture pieces were on display from both high school and postsecondary students throughout the nation. Joshua Nickolds Williams from Rockingham Community College in North Carolina “swept” top honors, winning Best of Show, People’s Choice and the Fine Woodworking Craftsmanship award, for his Newport Block Desk. Interest was also high in the book, Fresh Wood, documenting the student design projects, with hundreds of orders taken for Fresh Wood, volume 2 which will be out in December 2005 and feature the 2005 finalists and winners.
“We will definitely be in Vegas for a long time to come,” noted Gangone. “In fact, we are thrilled that the Convention Center has been able to work our future shows into the Central and North halls which we believe will be even more convenient for both exhibitors and attendees from a traffic flow and logistical standpoint. In addition, the added space will allow us to expand the machinery as well as the supplier halls.” He announced that the dates of the 2007 event will be Wednesday, July 18 through Saturday, July 21.
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Founded in 1911, the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers® (AWFS®) is the largest national trade association in the United States representing companies that supply the home and commercial furnishings industry. AWFS® has an international membership that includes manufacturers and distributors of machinery, hardware, lumber, upholstery, materials, bedding and other supplies to furniture, cabinet manufacturers and custom woodworkers. The AWFS®Fair is a biennial event in which buyers and manufacturers gather from around the world to buy and sell the latest products and services related to the wood and home furnishings markets.
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