Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 17 2014

This Trade Show Breaks Attendance Records Year After Year

By David McMillin

In 2012, there were 25,500 attendees. In 2013, that number climbed to 27,600. In 2014, the tally rose to more than 30,000.

Where are all these people going? It’s the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show, held each January in New York City, and it’s turning heads in the trade show industry as its organizers continue to find a way to increase participation each year.

Exhibits + Education

Like nearly every other industry, the retail landscape is undergoing some big changes due to the rapid technological revolution. As merchants work to figure out how to embrace mobile while maintaining success in brick-and-mortar locations, the BIG Show has positioned itself as much more than a sales destination. In 2014, the show featured 113 educational sessions and 100 hours of content with programs like “Even Amazon Can’t Do This…Yet”, “Your Label Is Showing: From Ready-to-Wear to Supermarket, Retailers Are Growing through Private Brands” and “Mapping the Consumer Genome to Drive Profitable Growth in Retail.” The schedule even featured a keynote address from President George W. Bush.

SEE ALSO: How To Expand Your Trade Show Audience


While many show organizers hope that exhibitors and attendees will create a social buzz during the event, NRF took their efforts to understand social media to the next level by hiring Pointmarc, a digital analytics agency, to monitor Twitter and Instagram activity throughout all five days of the show. With more than 29,000 Tweets and more than 7,000 contributors, the show reached well beyond its 30,000+ on-site attendees. Pointmarc’s infographic estimates a reach of nearly 19 million.

NRF wasn’t just working to drive 140-character traffic, either. The organization maintained a robust blog throughout the show with video content and full-length posts that highlighted some of the most compelling sessions and new products.

SEE ALSO: Does Your Annual Meeting Site Still Need A Blog?

International Impact

As meeting planners and show organizers look to expand their audience base, the BIG Show has managed to go global. In 2014, participants from 86 countries came to New York City for the show. NRF has an international delegation program that helps to sweeten the deal, too. For every 10 paid registrants from one delegation, the group receives one complimentary registration, which saves $975.

NRF also worked to make sure its largest international delegations felt comfortable once they arrive. With 1,652 attendees, Brazil was the most-represented foreign country, and the organization offered simultaneous translation in Portuguese and Spanish for all educational sessions.

A Bright Future

The record-setting success looks like it’s on track to continue. NRF has already sold 205,000 net square feet for next year’s show, and the organization is already planning one additional EXPO day and a new retail industry gala in 2015.

Interested in predicting the future of trade shows? Click here for a preview of what the show floor might look like in 2016.

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