Contractors at Expo: big numbers, but where were they?

March 30, 2000
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DALLAS, TX — An estimated 7,640 hvacr contractors of all types — residential, commercial, refrigeration — showed up in Dallas for the IAHR Expo to kick the tires on equipment, check out the many services offered, and even attend some ASHRAE technical sessions.

They represented about 30% of the 25,300 attendees, and that is the single largest category, according to show manager Clay Stevens.

Contractor representation has held steady at the 30% level for the past five expositions, according to the International Expo Co. Non-exhibiting manufacturers’ representatives accounted for about 16% of attendees, followed by manufacturers’ representatives (15%) and wholesale-distributors (10%).

Despite these figures, among the crowds of Expo visitors, contractors seemed hard to find.

An informal survey at a popular hvac website, Area51hvac.com, asked what contractors would need to be interested in attending a show. Their answers included:

  • Technical and educational sessions for contractors;
  • More localized shows, to reduce travel and time-off expenses; and
  • Booth personnel who could discuss products’ technical aspects.

Contractors are among the primary targets of the exhibitors, acting as direct or indirect buyers of a range of products.

Other buyers include building owners, system designers, facilities managers, and systems designers. Another purchasing group is utilities, whose entry into the contracting and service business has grown.

Local contractors: who attended?

Nancy Jones, who runs the dozen Texas ACCA chapters, said at least 100 Dallas-area dealers attended. And that figure can be magnified when you add in the additional employees — service techs, engineers, managers — who attended.

On the flip side, a spokesperson for the Houston MCA chapter said few representatives attended. Likewise, the combined MCA-SMACNA chapter in San Antonio had “one or two” attendees, according to executive director Rudy Klein.

One factor that may have dampened overall ACCA member attendance was that its own national meeting was held one week later in Albuquerque NM, meaning additional travel expense. (See related story, page 12.)

Manufacturer no-shows

Many major manufacturers also decided to give the show a pass.

Equipment manufacturers at the show represented less than 50% of the output of heating-cooling equipment. Also absent were big controls manufacturers, like Honeywell and Johnson Controls.

Many manufacturers made a cost-benefit analysis, and have decided on alternative ways to reach their distributor and dealer customers. These venues include mini-trade shows in conjunction with their distributors.

A last-minute entry at Dallas, York International has conducted a series of such product exhibitions at its distributor locations around the country.

Carrier, which has been converting some of its distributors into outlets for big-system chillers, like Mingledorff’s in Atlanta GA, also has been sponsoring meetings with sophisticated audio-visual presentations on-site.

“I was in Dallas the weekend before, but I didn’t bother to stay around,” said Darren Parsons, an Ontario contractor who also does consulting work.

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