Weak economy cuts exhibitors at county trade expo Show returns to BWI Marriott

September 02, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

Services will be hawked. Customers wooed. Business cards exchanged. Old acquaintances will be renewed, and new ones made at the biggest trade show in Anne Arundel County next Tuesday.

But like the businesses it serves, the ninth annua business-to-business expo, sponsored by the Anne Arundel Trade Council, hasn't been spared the sting of a sluggish economy.

Organizers of the show at the BWI Marriott had aimed for 9 exhibitors, but say they had to settle for 80, a far cry from the 136 business people who displayed their companies' wares at the 1990 show.

Buoyed by the numbers from that show, which was so crowded that the Trade Council set up a waiting list for exhibitors and rented part of the hotel's parking lot to a limousine service, organizers moved the next show from the BWI Marriott to larger quarters in Glen Burnie, said Jeanette Wessel, executive vice president of the Trade Council.

But the poor economy of 1991 prevented a sellout, and with the number of exhibitors hovering around 80 since then, the council moved back to the hotel.

In the years before that, "money was much freer, and people weren't squeezing every penny as they are now," Ms. Wessel said.

"People are certainly pinching every possible penny these days and making hard decisions," she added. "Do I make payroll or do I go to a trade show?"

Other trade shows also have experience a fall in the number o exhibitors because of the economy, she said.

But despite the drop in exhibitors at the Anne Arundel show over the past few years, attendance has held steady, she said.

While the poor economy might keep some businesses away from this year's trade show, it's drawing others, including Don Dailey, owner of Minuteman Press in Glen Burnie.

"In a bad economy, that's when you have to try to sell the most," he said.

Meanwhile, the Trade Council is evaluating past expos to fin ways of making them a top marketing priority tool for businesses.

One event the council is considering is specialty shows, perhap one that would target the senior citizen market, Ms. Wessel said.

"We believe that the specialty market is a very lucrative market It's a very good market in this county," she said.

But that doesn't signify the end for regular trade shows, she said.

They still remain a cost-effective way for business people to meet while touting their goods, and they help managers stay abreast of trends in their industries and others, Ms. Wessel said.

As in the past, next week's show will offer seminars. The theme this year is "Hot Issues in Today's Workplace."

The seminars will range from discussions on "Understanding Sexual Harassment" to "Setting Policy You Can Enforce on Substance and Alcohol Abuse."

The expo's $5 admission fee includes the cost of the seminars The expo will run from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A business mixer, which costs extra, will be held afterward at the Westinghouse Historical Electronics Museum next door.

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