The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) announced this morning that it's combining its Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show (MAATS) with the fall 2010 International Boatbuilder's Exhibition and Conference (IBEX).
This news doesn't come as a surprise. Trade show producers run a business just like the rest of us, and when times are tough, consolidation is a natural consideration. Plus, it wasn't THAT long ago that the industry had only one big show, IMTEC.
In reading the message between the lines, it's clear to me that NMMA has some nostalgia for those days gone by and with good reason. For many years, IMTEC was known for being quite successful, and as its producer, NMMA benefitted from that success, as did its membership. But the association isn't alone in missing those days. Even those of us who've never been to IMTEC can understand the appeal of getting the entire boating industry together in one location every year and the potential benefits.
The question we must ask ourselves in considering consolidation is whether the benefits outweigh what is being sacrificed. Are the efficiencies and industry networking opportunities generated by combining shows worth giving up some of the unique and specialized features that may go by the wayside? The answers to these questions aren't simple and must be answered on a show-by-show basis. In addition, consolidation is often a process, not a one-time decision. As history has proven, it takes time for producers to discover whether they can adapt to the needs of the majority, while continuing to serve those of each individual group.
What I do know is that these times are different than any other the industry has experienced. As much as we long for the opportunity to revisit the IMTEC of years past, much has changed since then.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes has been the realization of the importance of marine retailing success in the health of the entire industry. Never before has it been more essential for dealers to be able to share best practices and learn from leading experts in boat sales, service and operations. That's why we believe so passionately in the future of the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, being held this November in Orlando. Boating Industry magazine has signed a five-year contract with the Marine Retailers Association of America to produce the event because we believe it's the right thing not only for the dealers, but for the entire industry. And from what we've observed, the industry agrees. Not only has the event been growing rapidly in attendance and industry support, the line-up of more than 15 seminars jam-packed with real-world solutions represents an educational and networking opportunity the likes of which this industry has never before experienced.
The industry's needs today are unique and ever-changing. As trade show producers work to meet them, the best tool marine professionals can provide is their direct and honest feedback. What are your needs and how can we serve them?