SEMA News—January 2020

2019 SEMA Show: 

The Early Returns

Chris Kersting

Chris Kersting

As the saying goes, “that which gets measured, gets done,” which is why we take time each year to conduct a deep dive into how the SEMA Show went for exhibitors, buyers and media. Our annual Show Satisfaction survey quantifies a number of measures and provides feedback so that we can tune our plans for future Shows.

Our formal survey, however informative, takes time to pull together. Meanwhile, there are certain immediately available data nuggets that provide insights about trends, industry attendees and how they are making use of the Show. This “data exhaust” consists of information we might not find as part of a formal survey but which tells a tale about Show activities, behaviors and transactions that are interesting and informative. One example would be participation in Show educational activities.

This year saw a remarkable 20% increase in average attendance at Show seminars, with common double-digit increases in both preregistration and actual attendance. Standing-room only was the rule in many seminars but especially those that addressed social-media management, new-vehicle technologies and the business of building custom cars. Trending at this level indicates that SEMA members may be eager for more educational, professional development and technical seminars that the association could offer away from the SEMA Show.

Another area of increasing industry interest can be seen in the visits to the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) exhibit, which were up more than 50% over the prior year. SDC education sessions and user-group meetings also saw higher participation, suggesting that more of our industry is recognizing comprehensive product data management as a key priority. The interest at the Show also reflects strong SDC growth, with double-digit increases in supplier brands joining the program over the past year.

On the government affairs front, the SEMA Show once again represented an opportunity to increase awareness and participation in the SEMA Action Network, the nationwide partnership between enthusiast clubs, members and the association that brings a powerful grassroots voice to SEMA’s legislative and regulatory efforts. Sign-ups increased exponentially this year, likely indicating that the industry feels increasing urgency when it comes to efforts to affect laws and regulations to protect the industry. Actual donations to the SEMA Political Action Committee exceeded goals as well.

SEMA Show events were another area where transactional data showed an increase in participation. For example, the New Products Breakfast yielded the highest total attendance in the last five years.

Speaking of new products, it’s also a good sign that three of the 16 New Products Showcase award winners were first-time exhibitors—manufacturers who are bringing new ideas and the possibility of new synergies to our industry.

If you’re looking for tip-of-the-iceberg trends, we think it’s significant that more exhibitors have signaled their participation in vehicle electrification. It’s true that penetration of electric vehicles in the marketplace is statistically minor so far, and there are still relatively few companies working in that sector, but there are already 17 electric vehicles available on the market, with projections that there will be 60 by the end of 2020. That is a development that bears watching as known brands offering exciting high-performance electric cars, trucks, SUVs and race cars become more common.

We think there will opportunities for entrepreneurs who can master electric propulsion and provide powertrain kits for retromod customization, off-roading and racing in the foreseeable future, and we have already seen early sprouts of those opportunities at the 2019 Show.

In the months ahead, we’ll have more conventional and complete data from our annual SEMA Show survey—a project that, thankfully, many Show participants help us complete. We’ll be able to identify more trends, opportunities and areas to improve the Show based on that input. But at this stage, we see data which suggests that the 2019 Show was another outstanding business gathering for the specialty products industry, bearing trends of growth and positive things to come.

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