As I write this early on Wednesday morning, about an hour after most American stock markets opened, the Dow Jones is up 240 points and the Nasdaq by 70. So I guess Congress didn’t send the global economy over the fiscal cliff during the New Year’s holiday.
But does that mean the first quarter of 2013 is going to be any different for the tradeshow industry than the last quarter of 2012—which ended way, way back on Monday night?
My guess is things will only get worse for certain shows and certain companies and associations—but you won’t be able to tell by looking. I’m pretty certain that we’ll soon have an announcement from CEIR that the fourth quarter represented the 10th consecutive quarter of growth for the tradeshow industry.
And the word from some of the mega-shows that take place at the beginning of the year—like International CES, which begins in a few days with 1.87 million net square feet, and NAB—will no doubt be that they have returned to near-record-breaking pre-recession levels.
Still, everybody who has an investor or an association board that they have to explain their 2012 numbers to today knows that things could be a lot better. Not that many CEOs I talk to tell me they made their financial targets for the year.
The culprits, in many cases, were customers simply too anxious to commit to spending money while the economy was in such an uncertain state. Their mantra: “Wait until the first of the year.”
But the first of the year is here, Congress came to an overly dramatic conclusion and what do we have? Just as much uncertainty as ever. There are still fights ahead in Washington on $100 billion in spending cuts that didn’t get taken care of yesterday and a debt ceiling to be raised.
In other words, those anxious customers that didn’t want to commit to marketing programs, to buying booths, to booking flights, should be just as anxious today as they were two days ago.
It’s a good excuse, a good explanation for why 2012 didn’t go as well as many people wanted it to, but it doesn’t help matters much, even for the most optimistic of us who kept saying—and hoping—2013 would be different.