Next week, the outdoor industry was expecting to be in Nuremberg, Germany for the IWA Outdoor Classics 2020 show. If you’re not familiar with IWA, it’s the European version of SHOT, although attendees say it’s a decidedly less pressurized, more relationship-focused event.
IWA will not be happening next week.
COVID-19 has claimed another victim.
After a series of meetings Wednesday and Thursday with German government officials, the organizers of IWA (NurnbergMesse) decided to postpone the event until “some time later in 2020.” Enforce Tac/U.T.SEC 2020 which normally follows IWA was also postponed.
NurnbergMesse Board Member Petra Wolf said “We hope the industry will understand the decision to postpone. The aim of every exhibition has to be to create a special experience for the exhibitors and visitors likewise and to enable networking and expansion of existing business relationships.”
“Unfortunately, this goal cannot be achieved under the current circumstances,” although Wolf says the organization is looking to find “the best possible alternative date for such an important event for our customers.”
Wow. That says a lot.
There are a lot of moving parts involved in any trade event. Cancelling a significant trade show is actually more complicated than staging one. After decades of attending shows across a variety of industries, I realize there are lots of moving parts in a trade event.
Speaking with the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Chris Dolnack, the executive who oversees SHOT Show shortly after yesterday’s announcement, I began to realize there are significant challenges involved in cancelling an event.
“There are detailed contracts with labor, facilities and service suppliers to unwind,” he explained, “it’s a huge job to work through all the details.”
And the details are normally very specific. But this latest threat to business is anything but business as usual.
SHOT, for example, has separate agreements with twenty-two hotels. According to Dolnack, they cover “a wide range of price points for attendees and exhibitors.” Each of those contracts is separately negotiated and must be “unwound” the same way.
Consider the last trade show your company attended. There were the obvious logistical concerns: display space, housing, and collaterals materials to give, show or sell to attendees. Those are significant investments, but only show the tip of the trade show iceberg. What about the cost of pipe and drape to separate you from the other booths, or to carpeting (pad, anyone?) and, oh, you want electricity? Then there are the costs associated with a term called drayage. If you know the term, your teeth are grinding.
It’s a dizzying deal. Now multiply that by hundreds- if not thousands- of times, and you see what the show organizers of IWA are facing.
We’re only a week away from this major annual event. Exhibition materials are most likely already on the way, hotel reservations have been made, plane tickets purchased and staffing rescheduled to cover the business during the show.
Suddenly, there is no show.
Your booth is in transit, if not already sitting on the docks at the venue. What do you do? After all, you’ve been told the event isn’t cancelled, it’s delayed.
Did you buy: 1) non-refundable airline tickets, or 2) travel insurance? Is there a travel agent working on your behalf?
And what about the potential for loss of business? If this show represents a significant portion of your international business, you’re looking at real, tangible losses.
Some companies had already made the decision not to attend. Yesterday’s Outdoor Wire, for example, had Maxpedition’s official announcement that they would not be going to Germany. As Maxpedition’s Tim Tang said, “we are not willing to expose our employees to the potential medical, public health, economic and social risks associated with this rapidly spreading new disease for which there is no cure.”
Others, like Stag Arms, were making the announcement that, for the first time, they would be in their own display area at IWA 2020.
Yesterday, I had to tell some PR agencies that no matter what their releases said to the contrary, their clients wouldn’t be attending IWA next week.
Because there won’t be an event next week.
The Coronavirus isn’t widespread in the United States, but it’s decidedly having an impact here.
Yesterday, Facebook announced its annual developers conference set for May in San Jose, California, was cancelled.
The Game Developers Conference, the largest convention for video game developers is still set to happen March 16-20 in San Francisco. But all ten of the Chinese-based exhibitors at the show have already cancelled and all China-based attendees are out as well. That’s two percent of the expected total attendance eliminated.
As of this writing, IWA is only the latest group to cancel or postpone events.
Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile phone trade show, was set for February 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain. It was cancelled. Ditto the Milan (Italy) Furniture Fair, the world’s largest for April 21-26. Fashion weeks in Paris and Milan were hit hard, and the weeks in Beijing and Shanghai have been cancelled altogether.
The Chinese Grand Prix, set to open the Formula One season, has been cancelled, and organizers for races in Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam say they’re “waiting to make decisions” on their events.
When I met the guys from Mira Safety at SHOT Show in January, I had no idea that their area would quickly become one of the hot topics in business. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.
At this point, despite the fact COVID-19 has not been declared a pandemic, the impact is inarguable, and far from over.
Around the world, industries are being impacted in ways few would have imagined only a couple of weeks ago. As stock markets tank, companies with products that are used for disinfecting, sanitizing or protecting people from infection are quietly rising while airlines, cruise ships and transportation sector-stocks are tanking.
Meanwhile, the protective mask business is booming. Around the world, consumer demand for masks to help protect everyone from business travelers to toddlers from COVID-19 has skyrocketed.
But are the generally-applied paper masks like you see in widespread usage across other parts of the world really effective?
According to safety experts the short answer is: no.
According to Roman Zrazhevskiy, founder of Mira Safety (www.mirasafety.com) a Texas manufacturer of professional respirators, safety devices and tactical gear in Austin, Texas, consumers don’t realize that there are designations of protective levels.
“A paper mask with the notation N-95 means it is rated as being capable of filtering out 95 percent of particulates,” he explains, “it also means five percent of the particulates aren’t, and there could certainly be some virus in that remaining five percent.”
To protect your face and eyes (the virus is thought to be transmittable via the eyes), he says, you need a full-face respirator. In fact, he said that he thought the idea of full-face protection “sensible” for international air travel right now.
So why are people wearing the masks? His answer wasn’t want I expected.
“Fear,” he said, “not just the fear of coming down with Coronavirus. People realize that if they contract the virus, they’re not only going to be sick, they’re going to be singled out, and automatically placed in quarantine. They’re essentially going to be imprisoned until you either recover, or die.”
Mira Safety, like 3M and other manufacturers of safety equipment, is feeling the impact of that fear. According to Zrazhevskiy, business is up, not significantly, but “orders of magnitude” over normal. His fear, he said, was that the impact of Coronavirus would cause widespread panic.
It’s too-early to be visualizing bare grocery shelves, scarce foodstuffs and shortages, but it’s not too-soon to wonder if it’s time to start taking a hard look at our personal pantries and doing a little “common-sense” planning of our own.
We’ll keep you posted.
Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in learning more about protective masks, Mira Safety (www.mirasafety.com) is offering a free e-Book on their website that might help.