GIS 2014

Another “show” come and gone, number 41 for me (first one in 1971, missed two since). Nothing much changes; set up, long hours on one’s feet, tear down. And, contrary to what my friends think, it is not all fun and games. In fact, might be the hardest work of the year between stress in what might come up or be seen and being “on” for two days and three nights.


My purpose here is to try to stimulate some thought based on some things I heard and some thoughts I have had for some time.

The times are certainly a changing or maybe just continuing on a course that is found in almost all industries; less and less interest in trade shows. While attendance was supposedly up, it sure seemed down to us though not by a lot. And clearly, while the GCSAA claims to have sold more square feet than last year, it is not hard to see that the scope of the show is considerably less than in days gone by. More than one person remarked how they could easily see from one end of the hall to the other.

So what is the cause?

  1. Surely the golf economy has affected budgets.
  2. Superintendents are more reluctant to leave their courses.
  3. He/she has the ability to get answers to turf questions and/or the latest information and/or reviews of various products are readily available over the internet.
  4. Many manufacturers do not save their new product introductions for the show as in past years. Now, new products are introduced as soon as ready.
  5. And, maybe most alarmingly, the CGCS designation is seemingly losing a little bit of its importance as the general hiring doesn’t put the value in it. This is a shame and if true, minimizes the value of the education which has always been such a big draw.

Obviously, from a manufacturer’s viewpoint, fewer customers affect its willingness to spend more and more money on the show. I believe that Par Aide’s booth space (just the concrete we rent for our booth) was around $36,000. Add to that the cost of carpet, shipping, time lost in production and sales, hotel rooms, airfares, entertainment, and etc, and one cannot help but question the costs vs value. However, for Par Aide, the GIS is truly an international sales meeting and that combined with seeing the customers/friends and supporting the industry makes it hard for us to not participate as we do.

However, here is a suggestion that is not new and maybe worth reconsidering. Should the GIS be held every 18 months?

My thinking is that this might make attendance more palatable to owners and greens committees. It might become a more special event to not be missed. Manufacturers would probably be willing to pay more (we have talked even double for booth space) as ½ of all the other above mentioned expenses would be halved over two years. I have to think that distributors would see the same savings.

Perhaps more importantly, the show could then move around the Country to northern cities when the dates fell in the Spring thru Fall months. The required show square footage has now dropped to a level where smaller show halls around the Country could easily accommodate us, which was not the case a number of years ago. I have to believe that the same three locations alternating does reduce some participation. And, the golf tournament might have far more flexibility in nearby locales.

Many years ago, there was a publication that was feared would try to develop a show on the off years when the GCSAA was being urged to consider an every other year event. Obviously, that was not going to be accommodated. That risk doesn’t really exist now and 18 months would not allow for it anyway.


So anyway, is it time to reconsider? Obviously, I am not privy to discussions within the GCSSA on this subject and there could be numerous reasons it doesn’t work. Additionally, the decision must be influenced by the big companies which carry the show on its back.

Any thoughts out there? Especially from Superintendents. After all, you are why we exist.


3 thoughts on “GIS 2014

  1. Another great post. You’re right on trade shows, attendance is down. I don’t care what industry we’re talking about be it plastics (NPS)or the electronics show in Las Vegas.
    Trade shows are the second most expensive form of advertising. Today your target market can go to your web page and see everything you manufacture. Or they can call your top salesman and pick his brain over the phone and maybe get a free lunch to boot. Why should he go to a show unless some one else pays for it. (Tell me you guys don’t charge your audience a fee to get in to see you.)
    My guess is the number one reason Par Aide continues to fork over what sounds like close to 50,000.00 a show is that you’re afraid that if you don’t have a presence your competition will gain on you.
    And (I’m still guessing) you will continue to spend big money because if you try to reduce costs by scaling down your booth size and number of reps working the show you will appear weaker to your good customers and less attractive to potential new customers.
    Yes Mr Out of Bounds if I’m right about some of the reasons why you keep going year after year to the “show” and continue to spend money and show little to no growth for your effort, then it is easy to see that you are stuck.
    The kind of stuck I’m describing is similar to the rationalization a successful owner or a professional businessman exercises every year when he renews his membership at an expensive private golf club.
    Next year send two guys and buy the minimum space allowed. Take the savings and use it on your best, most loyal customers or go into your top competitors back yard and buy some new business.
    Keep writing about your business you’re good.

  2. I think GCSAA should combine/take over the larger regional shows i.e New England and Ohio. It would allow for more attendees who couldn’t travel across the country to get to the GIS and be able to get a world class conference that they might even be able to drive to.

  3. Steve,
    Great post. I know I was only only 1 of a handful of supts from my large metroplotan area that attended. The reasons for not going was:
    1. Too far to travel for seeing the same thing.
    2. Too much time away from course.
    3. Tired of Orlando- nothing to do since kids have outgrown Disney.
    4. There is nothing at GIS that I can’t get from calling local supplier/ getting online.

    I attended my 29th consecutive but not sure I have many left in me for the reasons above. New cities would make it more appealing. Summers would be a tough time to get away but it might be worth trying. It may be the needed spark. GCSAA has over-tapped the affiliates IMHO, and the organization needs to take a deeper look at the direction they are headed. CGCS is losing its footing and that is sad. It’s time to shake things up!

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