by Matt Alderton | December 08, 2017

On first glance, the exhibition industry seems to be in a slump. On closer inspection, however, what appears to be a downturn is actually an upswing, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), which yesterday published the third-quarter results of its periodic CEIR Index research report.

According to CEIR's data, the exhibition industry ended the third quarter of 2017 down 0.7 percent from the third quarter of 2016. However, that number is deceiving, it said.

"Performance of the exhibition industry in the third quarter of 2017 … was impacted by factors related to several large exhibitions in the Consumer Goods and Retail Trade (CG) and Sporting Goods, Travel, and Amusement (ST) sectors," CEIR explained. "The weaknesses in those events were attributable to event-specific factors not related to the overall exhibition industry or the economy, as both consumer disposable income and consumption expenditures remain strong. Excluding the CG and ST sectors, the exhibition industry gained 2.8 percent from a year ago."

And yet, there's still reason for concern: The CEIR Index measures year-over-year performance in four industry metrics. Although one, attendance, rose by 3.4 percent, each of the other three -- net square feet of exhibit space sold, exhibitors, and revenues -- showed negative year-on-year losses, decreasing 1.1 percent, 2.1 percent, and 3 percent, respectively.

"The decline was a temporary setback as economic fundamentals still point to moderate growth for the exhibition industry," said CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., chief economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates Inc. "In looking at performance of the industry cumulatively from Q1 through Q3, all metrics remain in positive territory. Even with the negative performance in Q3, the overall Index growth for the first three quarters still achieved a moderate 1.6 percent growth rate. Nonetheless, the exhibition industry lagged U.S. GDP growth of 2.2 percent during the same period."

Added CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, "While the results of the third quarter might appear dire, it is important to keep in mind that without the outliers, the exhibition industry gained 2.8 percent over a year ago. Our industry is still forecast to grow through year-end."

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