January is not a forgiving month when it comes to weather, and this year was proof positive. Two days before the opening of the industry’s second-largest convention, The Pool & Spa Show powered by the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, historic snow storms had been forecast for the area, with thousands of flights experiencing delays and cancellations.
Management for the event, held Jan. 27-29 in Atlantic City, N.J., didn’t know what to expect.
“Forty-eight hours out, we were scrambling and fretting, and a ball of nerves, just living moment to moment, waiting to see what the latest news forecast and update was,” said show manager Trish McCormick.
In fact, on Monday, Jan. 26 — the day before the floor was set to open — nearly 200 of the smaller exhibitors hadn’t yet arrived at the Atlantic City Convention Center, McCormick said.
But, as it turns out, neither Atlantic City nor Philadelphia, home of the airport most frequently used by out-of-state exhibitors, was buried under the snow. Of the 430 exhibiting companies, only a few of the smaller ones didn’t make it later Monday.
“It’s overwhelming how committed the people in our industry are to support the show and support our industry — that they all got there,” McCormick said. “All in all, we had a long day Monday, but it was the busiest Monday we ever had [for setup].”
The storm’s timing worked well, with many attendees and exhibitors having driven in earlier, either to beat the storm, take pre-show conference courses or set up.
Exhibitors experienced their own ups and downs as the event progressed.
“Our hope was somebody would show up,” said Tom Tesselaar, president of Niagara Falls, Ontario-based Fix-A-Leak, which has exhibited at the show nearly 20 years. “I would have to say, for what they forecasted, [the show] still had a fairly good turnout.”
Traffic on the show floor, with more than 105,000 net square feet of exhibit space, was reportedly lighter, but business still was brisk, with 10,000 registered attendees.
“We probably did 2½ times what we did last year,” said Mark Schreiber, president of Mi-Way Inc., the Sarasota, Fla.-based producer of the Aqua Comb cartridge filter-cleaning device. “We took the most orders at the show that we’ve ever done.”
The weather didn’t discourage Shawn McConnell from driving four hours to attend the show’s last day. The owner of McConnell Pool, LLC, in White Plains, Md., has attended the event once every three or four years for about four decades. “I get to see a lot of my reps that I deal with in the industry,” McConnell said, adding “... it’s nice to put a face with a name.”
So the pre-show worry was for naught. “The show was amazing,” McCormick said.
This is the second year it has functioned as the The Pool & Spa Show powered by the Northeast Spa & Pool Association. At last year’s convention, NESPA announced it had changed the name from the moniker that defined it for years: the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show.
This year’s show marked the first promoted with the new name, and the look was carried throughout the floor and registration area with updated signage and colors.
“What made me really happy was that it was actually catching on,” McCormick said. “The first year was really difficult. Everyone was still calling us the Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show.”