EVERY OTHER YEAR
Ann Kale, Principal
Ann Kale Associates
With the exception of the workshops, my experience is that Lightfair has gotten weaker over the years. I understand this is due to the IALD's insistence that we have a convention every year, despite the fact that manufacturers have a difficult time launching new products on an annual basis. Although the IALD relies heavily on the revenues from Lightfair, I must admit, I empathize with the manufacturers' struggle to make the significant annual investment without seeing the benefits of a well-attended fair. In fact I am always confused by the IALD reporting that Lightfair has more attendees each year, while manufacturers comment to me that they are disappointed by the low turnout of specifiers. More importantly, I fear that if a compromise is not struck, Lightfair will fall to the rising attraction of the smaller regional fairs happening in New York-sponsored by the larger rep agencies-and in Los Angeles-sponsored by the IES just three weeks before Lightfair. Whether held every year or every other year, Lightfair may be threatened by the smaller regional shows.
Glenn Heinmiller, Associate
As a lighting designer, there are at least four events that are relevant to my practice: Lightfair, Light + Build, the IALD conference, and the IES conference. It is not practical for most of us to attend them all. It would surely be preferred to have one event that combined all of the features of each of these shows that are useful to lighting designers. LightFair, at least the trade show portion, should be ever other year. At this year's show, in spite of the large number of booths, the lack of exhibitors of interest to lighting designers was striking. And those few companies of interest mostly had scaled-back booths with little or no new products to show. The educational portion of Lightfair is important, but there is a scarcity of programs for the experienced designer. This is the first time that I am considering whether it will be worth my while to attend Lightfair again. Lightfair is trying too hard to be everything to everyone in the lighting world and I think it ends up being not enough for anyone. I'd like to see a show specifically for lighting designers, perhaps an expanded IALD conference. It would be a smaller show than Lightfair, but exhibitors would have a high quality, 100 percent specifier audience on the floor.
Jack Mashel, VP, Marketing and Sales
Speaking as someone who has been in the commercial lighting industry for 25 years, attended every Lightfair, and every Lighting World before that, and been both a lighting designer and a manufacturer, Lightfair should be every other year. Lightfair used to be an exciting show, but its importance to the industry has been watered down. Lightfair used to be about what lighting designers do and about what lighting manufacturers do. It had fewer educational seminars, but more specific ones on the finer points of lighting design. Attendees and speakers included leading architects and lighting designers with national and international reputations. And virtually all of the leading U.S. fixture and lamp manufacturers used to exhibit.
Now, Lightfair is less about designers and manufacturers and more about the show maximizing annual revenue. While the number of seminars has increased, the quality and continuing education a designer can expect to receive has diminished. Yet, there are so many seminars, that the show floor is often left to manufacturers' sales agents, more than specifiers (even in New York City). As any manufacturer will attest, reps roam the floor, looking for additional lines. There is less opportunity for exhibitors to show and demonstrate their new lines to specifiers. In the specified products end of the business, connecting manufacturers with specifiers is the primary function of any trade show. Any manufacturer who seeks new reps, and we all do for at least a few of our territories at any given time, knows how to find them, communicate with them and go visit them, outside of the show. We do not need more reasons to not see specifiers during Lightfair.
It is also a well-known fact that lighting fixture and lamp technology does not significantly advance from year to year. Genuine product breakthroughs or material improvements occur rather erratically, generally only every few years.
While I am in favour of fair freemarket competition, what is the benefit to the specifiers who remain if the number of large or otherwise significant niche manufacturers in the industry who exhibit at Lightfair declines every year, only to be 'replaced' by unknown Chinese companies whose biggest breakthroughs is that they now also make LEDs-cheap!
Brian Stacy, Senior Lighting Designer
This is a very timely topic. There seems to have been a significant increase in the number of events in the last five to ten years. This trend seems to correlate to the ability to access information on the Internet. In recent years, the lighting community has seen small trade shows or conferences emerge in addition to the major shows and conferences. In New York City, as well as other markets, regional shows or sponsor shows have started to become a mainstay. In addition, the major shows have added more expansive (in time and depth) 'workshop' sessions at the beginning of the conference. For me, this means the same information and products are repeatedly displayed. Or not. This also puts a major strain on the specification community and manufacturers.
Instead, I look at how the European market functions. The whole procurement process is different, and the show structure plays a major part in this. Light + Build, Europe's major trade show, is every two years with small events in between. I can think of four major conferences/shows a year for the US market, not including regional events. The number of displaying manufactures is reducing, and it seems difficult to keep the seminar topics fresh.
More coordination between the major events could possibly resolve this repetitiveness. Certain topics do not require yearly updates. For example, daylighting is an important topic as sustainable design becomes more mainstream. It is an area of lighting that will not have drastic advancements every year, but the coordination of daylighting systems with other disciplines will.
Michael Imparato, President
Lightfair should be held at the very least annually, and perhaps more frequently, regionally. From any perspective-manufacturer, designer, architectural specifier, vendor, or maintenance manager-the world of lighting is shrinking and moving faster. Yesterday's lighting technology, as in computers, makes today's ideas outdated tomorrow. Every year we at Beacon incorporate the ideas that we harvest at Lightfair into our designs, technology and processes. A new lamp we saw at Lightfair solved a problem for the City of Las Vegas, in specifying our fixtures. Several specifiers not seen in New York met with us and specified our products from meeting at Lightfair. A new ballast was found for a new line Beacon has coming out next year. We so need knowledge and technology that many of us go to the Light + Build Show in Frankfurt for yet more. For all of the suppliers and specifiers in the United States, exhibiting is not essential annually, but attending is.
Scott Oldner Lighting Design
Trade Show Syndrome(TSS) is a condition that includes the following complaints:
Designer-need more quality manufacturers, seminars that are what they say they are.
Manufacturer-other manufacturers just trying to knock off my products, need more specifiers.
Reps-other reps trying to steal my lines, need more specifiers.
Due to starting the company and hiring two guys, I had not been in a couple years. My new hires had not ever been, so this was perfect timing for all of us to go. I found the expense totally worth it. It was a chance for young designers to start to understand the depth of the lighting community, and build relationships, and a chance for me to look at the profession through their eyes. I realized that Lightfair or any trade show is not for everyone, every year. Whether you design, manufacture or sell, if you are looking for a direct return on your investment is your bottom line, you are missing the point. I respect the manufacturers and designers that put forth the effort to have a booth or prepare a seminar. They show a level of commitment to their passion and provide the glue that holds together a worldwide community. We want to go to Lightfair every year and go to other shows when we can.
C. Joseph Incrocci, CEO
Lightfair should be every year. It is the attendees, exhibitors and visitors who must make the decision whether to attend or not. There are at least 1,200 lighting fixture and lamp manufacturers in the United States alone. Each year some of us need the stage that Lightfair provides, because we have what we believe are important new products, new reps, a new company or division, a desire to make particular contacts at the show, and a desire to 'see and be seen.'
What I question is not that it should be held annually, but the venue. New York is the center of the architectural, lighting design and interior design universe and Lightfair must be there. Las Vegas, in the broader sense, despite all the ever-larger casino-hotels and restaurants, is neither a center for architecture and design, nor the geographic center of United States. It is a fun party, but that is not the purpose of LightFair. Perhaps Dallas, a growing city 'center,' major metropolitan area and rising demographic market, should be considered as the alternate with New York.
Sam Gumins, President
Interestingly, this was a question I heard discussed several times walking through the exhibit hall and once walking past a blackjack table. For Luxo, exhibiting at Lightfair 2004 was a 'coming home' after a three-year hiatus. Given the fantastic 'welcome back' reception we received, it is difficult to consider forgoing this excitement annually.
We genuinely like the concept of an annual Lightfair; it provides us with the opportunity to meet face-to-face and get valuable feedback from customers, reps and other partners. However, we would vote to somewhat de-emphasize the show's seemingly all-encompassing, new product orientation. In our ideal world, Lightfair would serve as a New Product Showcase every other year only. The other years, exhibitors would be free to introduce new products, but this would not be the over riding focus. New products showcases could be replaced by 'best of show' events honoring companies and products for outstanding contributions in ergonomics, efficiencies, design, communications and more.
Perry Romano, President
Lightfair should be held every year. Lightfair has become one of the few ways to keep the lighting industry 'intact' between manufacturers, suppliers, representatives and design specifiers. Having been to all 15 Lightfairs, and to Lighting World before that, in the past I have had reservations about the value of taking a booth at Lightfair. My comment was always the same, 'It's a rep show.'
Just a rep show? The representative is the bridge between our products and the end customer. It is our independent professional lighting sales representatives that we train, who promote our products to their customers, the specifiers, corporate clients and distributor or dealers of lighting fixtures. Lightfair gives us a once-a-year opportunity to meet, train and entertain our true customer, the representative.
Lightfair is more than a rep show. It is an opportunity for manufacturers to promote products to specifiers, meet existing and new suppliers, and keep up to date on the latest products and technologies available.