Why do markets occur twice a year?
August 13, 2009 - 2:02pm

At the risk of opening a can of worms, I’m going to ask the rhetorical question that is all-too-often asked of me: Why are there two shows a year at [fill in the name of any market center]? Perhaps I’ve heard it more often or more emphatically in the current recession, but it’s a familiar refrain from happier times, too.

I attribute this phenomenon to a formula I’ll call Kvetcher’s Theorem: The incremental business achieved by the second event is less than the expense of hosting said event, and the presence of the second event actually detracts from the gravitational pull of the first event. Compound that data with the New Product Postulate, which demands that each edition of each show feature introductions compelling enough to sell on the spot, multiply that by the number of shows where a company exhibits — more than ever before, nowadays — divide by shrinking showroom open-to-buys and it’s no wonder that it just doesn’t add up for the average vendor.

Under normal circumstances, anything that gives buyers a choice seems like a good thing: being able to shop a range of venues with a variety of offerings, and being able to do it at the time of year most in sync with a store’s schedule. The market will decide what doesn’t work and patterns will shift accordingly. Only they haven’t shifted (yet?), and we’re left with too much of a “good thing.”

I don’t have the answer to my own question, but I do know that the busiest show I attended this year was Lightfair, which is an annual event. It’s also a temporary show and not geared to the showroom market, so is it too different to garner any wisdom from? Does a year-round lease throw out the theorems and require a Tim Gunn-style proclamation to just “make it work”?

As long as a market center is being proactive to draw more buyers to its weaker dates, and as long as the stronger dates are strong enough to justify the overall investment to exhibitors, an event is still viable even if it remains imbalanced between two editions. In theory, anyway.

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