I have to say that I'm glad to be home. It's been a long and busy trade show season and year. With the SGIA Expo as the last trade show for me for the year, it always marks the "end" of a year and the start of the next—with a little vacation thrown in before the new year officially begins.
I will be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of New Orleans. The heat and humidity generally around the majority of the year does a number on me—and my hair. I try to stay away from fried food as a general rule and Cajun food and I just don't get along. The scene down on Bourbon Street isn't my cup of tea, either. And no matter how many times I go to the city, I always end up eating some kind of fried or Cajun food down on Bourbon Street somewhere. Every time I go, I say I want to see something else besides the neon-lit Bourbon Street—like the Garden District or some of the plantations outside the downtown area. Something else, something different.
This year I did finally made it to Café Du Monde over in Jackson Square on Friday morning for a very early breakfast of beignets and café au lait—and even managed not to get powdered sugar over my black suit. Yes, I am just as impressed with myself as you probably are. Yes, the doughnuts are fried. Yes, they are covered in sugar. I don't want to know how many calories they were, but they were absolutely divine. And Jackson Square—with its art galleries and quaint storefronts and architecture was very cool. I only wish I had been able to see more of it.
So, enough about the food, you are probably saying, how was the show? For me, trade shows are always very hectic and rewarding at the same time. I have the opportunity to meet new people, put faces to names and emails, and renew friendships with industry folks who I only ever get to see at industry events. This year was no different. (For details on some of what I saw, you can see my highlights of the first two days of the show in my two previous blog entries.)
Overall, it felt like attendance was a little light and the numbers SGIA reported on Monday bore out my feeling. Total registrants for the 2011Expo was 16,006, which was up 12.4 percent from 2009, but down from 2010 numbers (21,956). Exhibitors were down 31 companies from 2010 to 456, but up from 2009. Interestingly, the first-time attendee number was pretty close: 36 percent in 2011 compared to 39.8 percent in 2010.
The exhibitors I spoke to throughout the show were positive, even with the lower attendee numbers, saying that those visiting their booths were highly qualified and interested in buying. Several manufacturers reported sales of printing and finishing equipment on the show floor and there's a lot of positive energy—and comments—as evidenced by social media. Check out my Storify story about the Expo here (http://storify.com/denisegustavson/sgia-expo-2011).
So how was the show? Good, overall, I would say. There were a number of new product introductions and good energy in the booths. If I were forced to pick my top three things of interest, I would have to say: Novus Imaging/Printer Evolution's new and re-imagined products; Ilford's debut of BioMedia substrates and laminates (after its acquisition of the company BioMedia); and the sheer size of the Durst Rho100 with the automation equipment attached to it. Attendees were looking to buy more than just kicking the tires. And my order of beignets provided a sweet end to a good trade show year.