By Marty Glantz
The demographics of the show have changed over the years, but the lighting category continues to grow.
Holding HD Boutique at the Miami Beach Convention Center, within walking distance of the trendy Lincoln Road boutiques and upscale restaurants – and equidistant from Ocean Drive and South Beach – certainly makes it an attractive venue to attendees.
This is a well-organized and polished trade show. There are plenty of “Meet and Greet” networking opportunities plus relevant educational sessions. The tropical climate is certainly a plus. Enjoying evenings dining at an outdoor café, people-watching under the stars with the breeze of swaying palms while eavesdropping on conversations in a myriad of accents and languages are just another facet of the whole tropical package. Miami is billed as “The Magic City” and for this show, it certainly lived up to that reputation.
This was the seventh year for this event in Miami and the attendance was good. The key buyers were there and all of the exhibitors I spoke with were happy with the results. There are two major hospitality show events per year; one is in Miami and the other is in Las Vegas. When the Miami show launched, roughly 90 percent of the attendance was from South America. Fast-forward to present day and this year’s event seemed to have only a 10 percent representation from South America. There was also a smaller attendance from the Caribbean this year than in the past.
Both shows seem to be regional; the Vegas venue draws from the Western U.S. and Miami from the Eastern part of the country. Naturally, the local Miami architectural community is heavily represented, which is not surprising considering all the refurbishing going on with properties in the city plus all of the new hotel, restaurant, and commercial construction in the area. Many of the show attendees were area property owners, designers, and spec firms with a strong representation from the national hotel, restaurant, and commercial chains. There were certainly many from the entire East Coast up through New England and Canada.
I’m pleased to report that many of the attendees came with projects in hand. One exhibitor told me he refused to break down early on the final day – which turned out to be a great decision since during the last hour, he saw the most qualified buyers of the entire show.
In all, there were 300+ exhibitors. Last year when I visited this show, I counted 27 lighting exhibitors. This time I found more than 50 exhibitors displaying lighting! Remember, this is an event that caters to the needs of restaurants and hotels so there is a vast array of categories showing here: restaurant condiments, hotel towels and bedding, plants, furniture, insurance, cable providers, carpeting and so on. To have such a strong showing of lighting is notable.
Regardless of the type of buyer in attendance, you realize that all of the industries they represent incorporate lighting as a very important design function in their facilities. The lighting exhibitors ranged from small startups to industry giants, with some using different identities and branding for the hospitality and design industry. It is a very different business from the residential side. For example, all of the projects discussed at this show are booked well into the future; they talk years here, not months. Since most of the work is custom, the manufacturer must be ready well in advance and complete. If the job runs ahead or behind schedule, they have to be ready – and that usually means storing finished product. No mistakes, no returns. A residential lighting manufacturer considering dabbling in the hospitality side must understand that it is a separate industry, with a different language and set of requirements. There are no second chances here and buyers remain very loyal to viable, proven suppliers. While it is a very different market, I feel that given the potential for steady growth, residential lighting manufacturers and retailers should become more aware of it.
Marty Glantz is a consulting VP/Marketing & Sales for multiple companies and President of his consulting firm, Circle G Industries, Inc. He will also design, source, and assist his clients in other areas such as advertising, cataloging, human resources, and operations.