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Eric Sedletzky

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After giving this a bit of thought, here is my take as a buyer on attending the 2021 DEMA Show exhibit hall. Almost none of the major full line SCUBA equipment vendors were in attendance. Notably absent were most of the majors like Aqualung, Dive Rite, Huish Brands (Atomic, Bare, Hollis, Oceanic, Zeagle), Mares, Poseidon, ScubaPro, and XS Scuba. Almost none of the offshore OEM manufacturer representatives attended either; although most do not ever use exhibit booths for marketing directly to retailers, they are very important part of the business regardless. I had an impression that several of the equipment exhibitors that did attend had scaled back considerably, instead of a 20x10 or larger space, they had the smallest 10x10 space. For example, OMS, which previously had a large space of their own, just had a very small display inside the DUI booth. One of the most notable was Innovative Scuba, that in the past typically had a large space displaying practically their entire product line, literally had nothing but some signage and table with some printed catalogs but no visible product at all. There were also quite a few non-industry exhibitors selling vibrating chairs, cosmetics, aroma therapy, fashion accessories, etc. I'm not interested in the trips and travel exhibitors, but those spaces seemed to overwhelm the show floor, even if somewhat scaled back in size. The fact is, attending this years show was not justified in terms of the expense and had I not already had non-refundable air tickets purchased in May I would not have attended.

Overall, my impression is total floor space was about two thirds smaller or said in another way the show was roughly a third of its normal physical size. Even that is perhaps overly optimistic because the trend of trips and travel exhibitors representing an ever-increasing proportion of the show was very apparent this year. If netted out to just equipment, I think the reduction in exhibitors is even more substantial. If the attendance claimed by DEMA is to be believed, then attendance was over 70% lower than normal. I know some insiders who believe the attendance numbers for past shows have been inflated. One insider told me that this year’s pre-registrations were less than 1K and after the show another just laughed at the idea that prior year attendance was anywhere near the numbers claimed. There were a few success stories, and most of the exhibitors I spoke with did put the circumstances in the best light; saying while the total numbers were low there was a better proportion of "actual buyers" (as opposed to the entourage of non-buyer shop staff and family aimlessly wandering the exhibits). Although, with a longer discussion it seems the actual open-to-buys was not-so-much. Several exhibitors expressed some concern about the routine DEMA practice of requiring exhibitors to sign contracts now for next year’s show.

IMO, the DEMA Show faces far more headwind than just the global pandemic. The education and exhibit show business model has been less and less relevant for years, and all that the pandemic has done is accelerate the process. Historically for our industry, the business model was the retailer brought a team to attend vendor training clinics and product education, while their buyer spent significant time placing substantial "booking orders" with their major suppliers for deliveries during the upcoming season. But modern retail in the dive industry just really cannot function like that anymore. Add to that the radical changes in business travel due to the expense, the week of disruption to the industry that is operating as lean as possible, and the ever-increasing costs to exhibitors of transporting and setup for display booths. Finally, vendors have realized alternative methods of education perfected during the lockdown in most cases are working better for less expense than the traditional methods of seminars held at DEMA. The result is that DEMA will likely struggle to recover. That’s not to say DEMA itself doesn’t have a role in the dive industry, but the DEMA Show probably isn’t going to continue as a major source of income to support the DEMA mission. Like our dysfunctional industry itself, DEMA will survive, but only by virtue of substantial changes required to adapt to the future of retail.
I do not understand the political structure of DEMA and what influence it has on the dive industry, or how the entity is even relevant anymore. Maybe somebody can explain it to me.
I do understand the original reason for the DEMA shows back before the Internet and websites, back when there was a lot of new products developing and no way to spread the word or see everything without a massive trade show where shop owners would go to see everything in one spot.
Now all a dive shop has to do is go to the manufacturers website and see their product line combined with the reps coming around showing merchandise. I fail to see the point of everybody spending huge money to go to one spot on Earth to see stuff when there really isn’t much to see.
Like I said, I’m not sure of the point of the whole DEMA organization now in modern times, but I suspect they are just desperately trying to hang onto their jobs and justify themselves.
I have a close friend who attends DEMA every year. He represents a prominent dive shop in SoCal and they have a booth. He said the way things are going now he gives it another five years max and it will be gone, kaput, finis, done, see ya.
 

tridacna

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I presume that BTS is history after Zig's passing. That used to be a fun day to look forward to...
 

cerich

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Like I said, I’m not sure of the point of the whole DEMA organization now in modern times, but I suspect they are just desperately trying to hang onto their jobs and justify themselves.
It has been a almost textbook example of Williamson's theory of managerial utility maximization for ages
 

TravisD

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I presume that BTS is history after Zig's passing. That used to be a fun day to look forward to...
2nd hand word that I got from someone who is goof friends with the BTS folks is that they're planning to return in 2023... Obviously that's aspirational and subject to the realities of things.
 

Marie13

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Our World Underwater in Chicago seems to be done.
 

Dan

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There were also quite a few non-industry exhibitors selling vibrating chairs,..
That’s one thing about such trade show. I would not know how good such a massage chair until I tried it after an all day wandering around the show. I got a chance to test it. They offered me a DEMA deal. I bought one. It’s now sitting in my study room. I tell you it’s incredibly relaxing and refreshing after sitting on it for 30 minutes, turning off the light, turning on a soft music. What a power nap I had. Highly recommended!

C11E4A03-4623-427B-BCCE-2232E9DA8764.jpeg
 

tridacna

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Always wondered if they sold any. Did you get new "wonder gutters" at the same time? :wink:
 
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Dan

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Always wondered if they sold any. Did you get new "wonder gutters" at the same time? :wink:
I didn’t know such thing exist. So you got one of those “wonder gutter” at your house? How do you like it?

Apparently Daiwa sold the chairs quite a few. I had to wait for the delivery after Thanksgiving. The delivery guy just delivered & installed 70 of them in the past few weeks.
 

tridacna

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I didn’t know such thing exist. So you got one of those “wonder gutter” at your house? How do you like it?

Apparently Daiwa sold the chairs quite a few. I had to wait for the delivery after Thanksgiving. The delivery guy just delivered & installed 70 of them in the past few weeks.

At over $10,000 per chair, that's a huge industry. Those vendors are like parasites - they're on call for all tradeshows. They take unused space at pennies on the dollar. The organizers get a dollar or two and they make the show look busier than it actually is.
 
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Dan

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At over $10,000 per chair, that's a huge industry. Those vendors are like parasites - they're on call for all tradeshows. They take unused space at pennies on the dollar. The organizers get a dollar or two and they make the show look busier than it actually is.
The advantage of the tradeshow is I get discounted price of $7,400 (50% off) with 48 month equal payment no interest of $154.17/mo.

I may be a fool for buying it, but I’m very much enjoying such a massage at home, after a long day of work. :wink:

How much do you spend for a massage, how often do you do it, and how far do you have to go to get one?
 
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