Ready or not, the AWFS Fair begins its four-day run July 15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Soon we’ll know whether or not some of the more dire predictions recently circulating around the industry about the show’s health were justified. Heading into the event we know there will be fewer exhibitors than the successful 2007 AWFS Fair and that many returning exhibitors, particularly on the machinery side, will occupy less space than they did two years ago. We assume that attendance will also be down, but by how much?

To its credit, the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers has continued to pump up the volume about the benefits of attending the event through print ads, direct mail and e-mail promotions. The show boasts the most expansive educational conference in its history with many sessions dedicated to helping woodworking professionals better handle the pressures and strains of operating in a less than stellar market for their products and services.

AWFS Fair Not Alone
North America’s biggest woodworking trade event of the year is yet the latest industry trade show to be victimized by the flailing economy. Indeed, all of the domestic trade shows we have participated in this year have been marked by fewer exhibits and substantially lower attendance. This list includes the International Builder’s Show, the Closets Conference & Expo, the Carolinas Industrial Woodworking Expo, the Mid-Atlantic Industrial Woodworking Expo, the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show and NeoCon. To this list, we can also add Germany’s Interzum and Ligna fairs.

The cruel economic climate prompted Vance Publishing Corp., owner of Wood & Wood Products, to cancel its Texas Woodworking Show slated for this past March. Indeed, the future of regional trade shows is shadowed in doubt. Trade Shows Inc. apparently has suspended its 2009 shows in Orlando, FL, and Indianapolis, IN. Efforts to contact TSI about plans for these and other regional events it organizes around the country were unsuccessful.

What’s more the current calendar year has witnessed significant attendance slippage at association conventions. An extreme example is the Wood Industry Conference, which was cancelled at the 11th hour due to lack of registrants.

Live Events Still Viable
While many companies have made the difficult decision to limit or eliminate their participation at trade shows and other industry events this year due to budgetary considerations, many others continue to forge ahead and not pass up the unique opportunities that live interaction facilitate.

The downsized AWFS Fair will still bring together hundreds of exhibiting companies and thousands of attendees to one space and time. Attendees will see and touch a wide variety of products, see demonstrations and get answers to their questions in real time. They will shop and compare machinery and supplies offered by multiple sources. And they will learn how to improve their businesses from expert speakers by attending seminars of special interest to their company’s needs and mine valuable information networking with their peers.

As my colleague Karen Koenig notes in her column, representatives of W&WP and its sister publications will be at the AWFS Fair in force covering the event using multiple media, including daily e-newsletters featuring video highlights.

Stop by our Booth #2335 … shake hands … swap war stories … keep it real.

How to win a ‘green’ or closets conference pass
It’s simple. Just stop by the Wood & Wood Products’ booth (#2335) during the AWFS Fair, July 15-18 in Las Vegas, and fill out the entry form. Winners of the daily drawings will be notified that they have won their choice of a free full-conference package for either the second annual “Dollars & Sense of Going Green Conference” or the sixth annual Closets & Home Organization Conference & Expo.

The Dollars & Sense of Going Green, cosponsored by Purdue University and W&WP, is scheduled for Nov. 19-20 in Schaumburg (Chicago), IL; visit woodgreenseminar.com.
The Closets Conference, cosponsored by CLOSETS magazine and the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals, takes place Feb. 10-12 in Long Beach, CA; visit closets-expo.com.

No purchase is required to enter; winners need not be present.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.