The In-Person SEMA Show Is Back!
SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso Talks Show Plans, a New Hall and the Excitement to Come
By Mike Imlay
With just five months to go, SEMA is on track to again deliver an exciting in-person SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), November 2–5. In addition, the LVCC’s newly constructed West Hall will ensure ample space for new Show features and enhancements.
The hall was completed in January amid the COVID-19 shutdown and boasts 1.4 million sq. ft., which SEMA announced will now encompass exhibitors from the Restyling & Car Care Accessories, Powersports & Utility Vehicles, and Truck, SUV & Off-Road sections.
The realignment is one element in a comprehensive plan to optimize the attendee experience and connect exhibitors and buyers with engaging and interactive features throughout the four-day trade event. Details about additional resources—including a new online component that focuses on manufacturers, new products, feature vehicles and educational opportunities—were still being finalized as of this writing. However, Show organizers promised a series of exciting announcements set for the weeks leading up to the Show.
For a look at all the planning, along with hints at what’s to come, SEMA News turned to SEMA Vice President of Events Tom Gattuso. The following are highlights of our Q&A discussion, edited for clarity and conciseness.
SEMA News: This past spring, SEMA announced the return of the live SEMA Show for 2021. With registration well underway, how are plans shaping up?
Tom Gattuso: There is a lot of industry excitement—and certainly we’re excited—that the in-person SEMA Show is returning to the LVCC this November. There have been a lot of positive developments with both the city and the convention center that are making this possible. The state of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas are on course for a safe return of live events beginning in June. Their plans have support from the tradeshow and other industries, and we’re all working together to ensure that SEMA Show participants have a successful event in a safe and robust business environment come November.
SN: SEMA also announced that the Show footprint is expanding into the LVCC’s new West Hall. How will that impact the Show?
TG: The West Hall was a big announcement. We’re looking forward to deploying our industry Show throughout the entire LVCC campus, including the brand-new hall, which was part of a 1.4-million-sq.-ft. construction project. We’re thrilled, because the expansion will make our Show easier for exhibitors and attendees to experience. Plus, we’ll be able to showcase the industry in new and even more exciting ways this year. We can also plan for wider aisles and increased traffic flow so that people can move about more efficiently as they experience more than 2,000 world-class aftermarket companies in our new environment.
It’s also a great step for our future. The West Hall will now hold the Restyling & Car Care Accessories, Powersports & Utility Vehicles, and Truck, SUV & Off-Road sections. The Collision Repair & Refinish and Tools & Equipment sections will move from the North Hall into the Upper South Hall. The Lower South Hall mainstays, the TIA Global Tire Expo and our Wheel & Tire Accessories section as well as Racing & Performance, Hot Rod Alley and the Restoration Marketplace will remain in their traditional positions, but we’ll now have new adjacent overflow space allowing those sections to grow into the future.
SN: What do you think the return of the SEMA Show means for the industry?
TG: It’s interesting, because the industry has been doing well in many respects, so we’re excited to promote that resilience found in the aftermarket. In the 54-year history of the SEMA Show, we’ve never canceled an event until the situation that emerged in 2020, so we’re anticipating that the demand among people to return to this business opportunity will be very high. The SEMA Show has always been a huge draw for people eager to do business, network, experience first-rate education, and see thousands of new products and feature vehicles. We’re looking forward to creating a 2021 SEMA Show reflecting the industry’s passion.
SN: Along those lines, is SEMA offering any encouragements or incentives to Show exhibitors for 2021?
TG: From an exhibitor standpoint, SEMA has gone to great lengths to lower the risk of participation in the Show. Similar to last year, we’re giving manufacturers the ability to reserve their spaces with confidence by extending the refund policy to September 2, 2021. That enables them to reserve their space, make sure the marketplace is returning to the levels they anticipate, and know that they’ll have a great opportunity to reconnect with the industry and see the return on investment they’ve long been used to when they come to the Show in November.
SN: Beyond the Show’s return and expansion into the new West Hall, are there other new and exciting features planned?
TG: With a larger canvas on which to create opportunities, we’re seeing more companies wanting to participate. That means there will be more feature and demonstration areas and more education opportunities than we’ve ever had. We’ll be announcing many of those plans as they’re finalized in the lead-up to the Show.
SN: Last year, SEMA360 was created as an online alternative when the live SEMA Show was cancelled. Will the returning Show also have an online component?
TG: Yes, it will. Along with our in-person event, we’re planning a digital resource to accompany the exhibitor showcases directly from the Show floor. That resource will also become available throughout the year to extend the Show’s reach. We have four goals for the digital tool: to continue showcasing our manufacturers’ new products; to feature our industry’s great vehicle builds; to recognize their builders; and to make the education that takes place in and around our Show in November even more accessible to the industry.
SN: These have obviously been eventful times for SEMA members, the association and the SEMA Show team. Before we end this interview, would you like to share any personal thoughts on all that’s taken place?
TG: Looking at things positively, I think we can say that what we experienced since the 2019 SEMA Show has been an accelerated learning opportunity. We’re seeing many changes in the way the marketplace is doing business. That goes for everything from how audiences are consuming media to the relationships distributors, retailers and consumers have with our industry’s manufacturers and the ability to congregate and network at industry events. So, we’ve been evolving over the past two years, and the SEMA Show will leverage those market changes and continue to evolve to reflect our industry and anticipate its needs.
In addition, for 2021, we’ll have a Show that welcomes participants into an ideal environment where they can conduct the business they have come to expect from our in-person, trade-only events, so we’re excited at what’s coming this November.
We have a positive vision for a Show that will truly benefit our SEMA members. As we build it and see the growing participant support, a lot of new concepts and opportunities are going to manifest themselves. From a trade association perspective, even though there will be challenges, the benefits for the industry of getting together again at a live SEMA Show are second to none.
Plan Now to Attend
The SEMA Show offers an in-person attendee experience like no other trade show on the planet. It’s a pure business-to-business event and the best place to see the newest automotive performance products, discover the latest product and vehicle trends, and develop essential skills by attending any of the free education sessions, all of which are led by top industry professionals.
For attendee and media registration information, go to www.SEMAShow.com.