JOHN Lerdahl emerged from Ernest N Morial Convention Center in New Orleans with mixed feelings.
On one hand, the applications specialist for EPG Companies Inc in Maple Grove, Minnesota, knew he had done what he needed to do by attending Waste Expo, the largest trade show in North America serving the $43-billion solid waste and recycling market. On the other, he wished more people had felt the same.
“The idea is to see and be seen,” said Lerdahl. “You want to be here for your existing customer base, answer questions for new customers, talk to other exhibitors, meet some design consultants, increase your education, and spread the gospel. If you want to be seen as a credible player within the industry, you pretty much have to have a presence.
“But in this particular year, it wasn't as productive. Foot traffic seemed to be way down.”
His observations were typical of those who were interviewed. Nobody was blaming show management or the decision to take the event to New Orleans for the first time in over 10 years.
“It's the economy,” said Nancy Warrenfeltz of American Waste Digest in a familiar lament.
Show director Rita Ugianskis said the number of exhibitors increased — from 418 last year in Las Vegas to 444, including 116 new companies — but she did not have any figures on attendees as Trailer/Body Builders went to press.
While some companies obviously were retreating into a cautionary mode, RDK Truck Sales and Service Inc of Tampa, Florida, was charging full speed ahead.
Owner Richard Kemner said he spent $163,000 on this year's show, including travel expenses for 25 customers, hotel rooms and expenses for employees, thousands of caps, T-shirts and carry bags, and of course, the popular cash giveaways every half hour.
RDK's booth, centrally located on the floor, was a raucous gathering spot that created a palpable buzz during the three-day show.
“What's RDK sell?” yelled employee Karry Keller, waving a fistful of cash.
“New trucks! Used trucks! Rental trucks!” the crowd chanted.
Kemner estimated that he gave away between $18,000 and $20,000 in cash to winners who were randomly picked from a bin of registration cards filled out at the booth.
“We actually let vendors play,” Kemner said, “and before major drawings, they actually bring their own customers, so they have a chance to win and let their customers have a chance, too.
“Some companies will come to the Expo and spend $150,000 to $200,000 for a nice booth. I buy a smaller booth and get more bang for my buck. My people get excited, and it gets the crowd excited. They remember it. On the first day of the show, we did more business than we did in any one show we've ever gone to.”
Kemner will head to Dallas next year with a similar game plan for the May 18-20 show.
Here's an overview of the products displayed in New Orleans: