Concerns are beginning to emerge that the much-loved PMA photo trade show's future may be threatened by the relentless growth of CES
Welcome to this week's DPNow Editor's soapbox, Manual Focus
Having recently spent a week in Las Vegas to cover the big annual PMA show, the biggest annual international photo industry expo, and needing a holiday after the stresses and strains of covering this event, you might be surprised that this editorial centres around concerns that the days of the PMA show might be numbered.
I must immediately impress upon you that I have nothing but the greatest regard for the PMAI organisation that runs the PMA show every spring. I genuinely look forward to the event each year, despite returning home exhausted every time and I've been to five PMAs in succession. But the industry's affection for PMA may not be enough to save the show from the expanding monster that is the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES.
The simple fact is that modern photography easily fits under the umbrella term of 'consumer electronics' and traditional photo brands, like Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and Fujifilm, as well as the new big photo players, including Panasonic, Sony and Samsung, now exhibit at both CES and PMA.
Both these shows take place close to each other in the calendar. This year CES occupied its traditional early January slot and PMA in early March. Next year, PMA starts on the last day of January, just three weeks after CES closes its doors on 10th January and both take place in the same city; Las Vegas.
It's both a logistical and fiscal headache for exhibitors to attend both shows and maintain equally impressive presences at both. Exhibition dollars need to be shared between both events and it's more tempting to invest more of the budget at CES for some.
CES 2007 sold 1.8 million net square feet of exhibition space, a record for this fast-expanding event. It also attracted over 140,000 attendees and 2,700 exhibitors. Compare that to PMA, which attracted 21,000 attendees and 600 exhibitors in 2006 and the event showed little growth compared to the year before. It's plain to see that CES is a considerably larger and more dynamic event.
To put things into another perspective, the UK's Focus on Imaging show, now missing most of the big camera brand names, attracted 32,000 visitors, 50% more than PMA. Admittedly, Focus is open to the general public, while PMA is for trade visitors only. But PMA is an international show and it covers the most valuable domestic market for photographic goods and services in the world.
Thin end of the wedge?
Camera manufacturers are already choosing to use CES for launching part of their new product ranges, holding over other models for PMA - very often the more up-market or specialist products. So is this the thin end of the wedge?
And then there is that great trade show exterminator, the world wide web. I used to attend the once-mighty Comdex IT show every year, which boasted over 200,000 attendees at its height, but 2003 became its last hurrah, with many blaming the Web for the show's demise. Why go to a show when you can see all the news about it on the Web?
Lack of big show news
Journalists who have attended PMA in recent years have regularly bemoaned the relative lack of 'big' news at the show. Most of major new products are announced before the show or, even earlier, at the preceding CES.
Trade visitors and media can not always justify the expense and time to attend both CES and PMA. So far, PMA has held on to its faithful media attendees, yours truly included. But if CES makes further inroads into PMA's importance, the focus could be forced away from PMA and onto CES.
Exhibitors I broached this subject with were not willing to be quoted, but there was some acknowledgment that CES was a potential danger to the future of PMA, though there were also complaints that the close proximity of CES to the new year is problematical.
Not all doom and gloom
But it's not all doom and gloom for PMA. GE, for example, chose PMA over CES to launch into the digital camera market and equipped themselves with one of the largest booths at this year's show.
Personally, I hope that the PMA show maintains its individuality, identity and prosperity. Time will tell.
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Can PMA survive CES?
DPNow Can PMA survive CES?
The annual PMA trade show is a much-loved photo industry institution, but is it about to be engulfed... (more)