While the sun rises in the east, all eyes were squarely fixed on the west; looking forward to Vegas, the site for IBS 2013. By the second day of IBS 2012, stationed in Orlando, talk was of the future after another difficult year in the housing market.

Most expressed guarded optimism for a better 2012 but, as all of the platitudes of an uptick, incremental growth or staving off the doldrums due to an unseasonably warm winter, all of the conversations lacked conviction. And for good reason; this is the third year in a row that attendees and exhibitors alike have been trying to reassure each other that a recovery is here.

Attendance has been in a downward spiral coinciding with the housing market bottoming out. This year was no exception. After an Orlando high of 105,000 attendees in 2006, fast forward four years where the hot topic was the under/over of 50,000 attendees. Final figures have not been released but consensus was that it would fall short of projected attendance.

One of the biggest changes that was not evidenced on the show floor:  the unprecedented use of social media by exhibitors. News of products and pleas to visit show booths were flying with flurry and appropriately tagged with #ibs2012. Twitter again proved to be the medium of choice for breaking news while Facebook hosted more images and videos for those who were taking a more leisurely tour of the show from afar.

As manufacturers and business owners struggle to adapt to the economic changes and how to run operations more efficiently, it seems as though the show itself has remained
the same in spite of decreasing attendance from both exhibitors and attendees. The cost of entry, setup, lead scanners, etc. have not adapted to economic realities. Without a fundamental change in the cost structure and without added resources to integrate exhibitors into the show programming, it will be more and more difficult for manufacturers to continue to justify this expense.