Meet New Norm. No, he's not a guy planted at the end of the bar who swigs beer all day. New Norm is the slimmed down version of the Golf Industry Show, and it looks like he's here to stay for a while, so you might want to get acquainted. In fact, New Norm is forcing just about everyone in the golf industry to find new and better ways of doing business, or risk going the way of New Orleans' chances of regaining a slot on the Golf Industry Show rotation.
By John Reitman •
Meet New Norm
A few years ago, 2009 to be exact, declining GIS attendance was blamed in part on an environment of apathy created by the pros and cons of spending a week in New Orleans vs. a week on the job at the golf course. For many superintendents, staying at work won out. At first glance, that was bad news for a show one year removed from record attendance. In reality, it was no more than a sign of the times that now pervades just about every industry, not just golf.
Detractors of GIS New Orleans fell into two camps: the city was too dirty and too dangerous for such a trade show, causing many to take a pass on the Big Easy; and too many of those who did attend couldn't seem to find their way from the French Quarter to the Morial Convention Center. Either way, many show vendors and GCSAA members decided it was time for a change, and New Orleans' slot on the GIS rotation was officially up for grabs.
The early prognosis was simply to move the show from New Orleans and hope that New Norm might disappear before anyone had a chance to meet him. No one told New Norm.
What so many failed to recognize then was that a dragging economy created largely by the real estate boom and bust - which was closely tied to golf course construction - was creating before our very eyes a long-term demand for a smaller version of the Golf Industry Show. Golf courses began closing, taking jobs with them. Clubs quit paying for travel and more vendors than you might realize began finding it difficult to justify the expense of exhibiting at a national trade show, all conspiring to give New Norm an invitation for an extended stay. Although New Norm might have been born in New Orleans, he has become a seasoned traveler since 2009.
According to the GCSAA, attendance at this year's Golf Industry Show in San Diego was 13,192 with 6,018 qualified buyers, and 517 vendors occupying 172,900 square feet in the San Diego Convention Center. That's 1,514 fewer attendees than attended last year's show in Las Vegas. It's also 1,050 fewer qualified buyers and 24 fewer vendors occupying 4,400 less square feet of exhibit space.
Did we mention New Norm loves Vegas?
Three years ago, the last time the show was in San Diego, attendance was 16,156 with 7,029 qualified buyers - defined as those who possess a checkbook and the authority to use it for on-the-spot purchases on the trade show floor. A total of 665 vendors rented 204,300 square feet of exhibit space at that edition of GIS. That means 3,264 fewer people, and 1011 fewer qualified buyers, attended the 2013 show in San Diego compared with the 2010 version. A total of 148 fewer vendors showed up this year as well. And they rented booth space that was 31,400 square feet smaller than in 2010.
New Norm is so SoCal.
Although he should have been long gone by now, New Norm likely will be looking forward to a mid-winter trip to Orlando next year and San Antonio in 2015. He's hard to miss, so you'll recognize him when you see him.
The reality of the Golf Industry Show is that while the trade show pays the bills, the education is the draw for superintendents. But you can't have one without the other. This complex dilemma is why floor traffic typically is brisk in the morning and lags in the afternoon. It was that way in the days of New Norm's predecessor, Old Norm. You remember him. He was bloated and inefficient and was easy to spot with what seemed at the time to be an endless supply of cash spilling out of the pockets of his ill-fitting trousers. But at least the compressed two-day schedule ensures some decent morning floor traffic before attendees check out to play golf. Anyone who laments afternoon traffic, or lack of it, hasn't been paying attention or is suffering from memory loss. Remember Saturdays during Old Norm's three-day format? No one wants that again, especially New Norm.
New Norm was a phrase GCSAA chief executive officer Rhett Evans used during a GIS news conference to describe the status of the show, noting that the trimmed down version allows the association to consider venues it never could have with the older, fatter, bloated version of Norm. In fact, there was a time when taking Old Norm anywhere outside Orlando, where record attendance in 2008 topped 25,000, was like trying to stuff a watermelon into a banana peel. No matter how much you tried, he just didn't fit in anywhere else.
Although attendance has dropped by nearly 50 percent since the days of Old Norm, the presence of New Norm is a reminder that success in business requires changing with the times, and the times most definitely are changing.That means casting off the mindset of doing things a certain way "because that's the way we've always done it." New Norm means everyone in the business must find new revenue streams and seek out new ways to be competitive. That includes private clubs, daily fee facilities, industry vendors and those of us who report on all of the above.
When you meet New Norm, you might want to introduce yourself. After all, he's going to be here for a while.