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Suspension of NPA MarketPlace symptom of changing trade show landscape

By Hank Schultz , 20-Dec-2012

New Hope Natural Media’s decision to suspend the NPA MarketPlace show for 2013 is symptomatic of changes in the trade show industry across all markets since the financial collapse of 2008, said Fred Linder, president of New Hope.

“This is not a reflection on the NPA. We have a good partnership with them,” Linder told NutraIngredients-USA.

“There were a number of factors (for the decision). The secondary and tertiary shows in virtually every market have had a tough time since 2008,” he said.

“The larger shows have done well because people have consolidated their marketing.”

“We are disappointed.  We understand that New Hope as the owner of the show has business needs that need to be met based on their own internal profit models,” said John Shaw, CEO of the Natural Products Association. “Given economic conditions over the last few years trade shows across all spectrums have suffered attendance drops and revenue loss."

Waning attendance

New Hope purchased the trade show from NPA in 2008, shortly before the financial collapse.  The show continued to have good support from exhibitors, Linder said, but attendance was waning.

“After 2008, Expo East and Expo West (both New Hope shows) have grown,” Linder said. “Our decision (on MarketPlace) was based on where we saw the attendance curve might need to go.

“We thought we could serve all parties best interests better with the existing shows, and it was tough to support from an attendee standpoint,” he said.

The NPA, founded in 1936, is the oldest trade organization in the natural products business.  It has gone through a number of names; from 1970 to 2006 it was known as the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA).

It has also gone through a number of organizational changes.  The organization, which originally had a number of regional chapters, has gradually become more centralized.

“There originally were eight different regional offices of the NNFA.  Every region had their own regional trade shows.  It was a little bit of overkill,” said Rick Prill, former vice president of New Hope’s Lifestyle Media division.

“Those regional shows went by the wayside one by one,” he said.

Overshadowed by other shows

Even as a single, consolidated show, MarketPlace always stood in the shadow of New Hope’s other shows, Prill said.  For example, Expo West, located Anaheim, CA, topped the 60,000 attendee mark for its most recent iteration in March.

“The time (the MarketPlace show) did the best was when the independent retailers embraced having their own show,” Prill said. "Because of Expo West and Expo East it really struggled to find its own unique brand and unique niche.”

Both Shaw and Linder said the decision to close the show is not a blow the relationship between the organizations.

“We’re going to sit down after the first of the year and hash out what programs he feels he needs for his members,” Linder said.

“Next year NPA intends to increase it’s presence across all shows,” Shaw said. “We will continue to work with New Hope on areas of interest.”

 And Linder said the verb “to suspend” should be taken at face value.  New Hope would consider restarting the show if it made economic sense.

“If the economy comes back and things change we will address this at that time,” he said.

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