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Attendance, Attitudes Up At CEDIA Expo

9/15/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Attendance and attitudes were up at CEDIA's 14th annual Expo, where suppliers and installers said the custom industry — including the core audio business — turned a corner in recent months in lockstep with the economy and the stock market.

More than 22,000 people showed up for the event, up about 13 percent from the previous year's 19,500, CEDIA announced. The show also posted a 7 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in education classes.

To make room for more exhibitor booths, CEDIA canceled its Garden of High Definition Delights and Home of Electronic Lifestyles exhibits, said Expo chairman Randy Wilson. CEDIA also set aside exhibit space in hallways and in rooms previously used for seminars, and it put caps on booth size, he added.

In 2006, the show moves to larger facilities in Denver, but in the meantime, the organization will try to utilize more space at the Indianapolis convention center. Wilson said it was premature, however, to discuss the potential to expand exhibit space to include hotels connected by walkways to the convention center.

Physical expansion is likely given the turnaround in attitudes at this year's show. CEDIA VP Ray Lepper said industry growth might hit 7 or 8 percent this year, based on conversations with other installers.

"Anecdotally, very few are enjoying double-digit growth. Most say mid-single-digit growth," he pointed out. That's still down from the double-digit gains enjoyed in the 1990s through 2001, but it's better than 2002's flat to down sales, Lepper said.

Post-9/11, the number and size of new projects fell, said Elan sales and marketing VP Paul Starkey, but during the past two to three months, installers began signing contracts for more projects at higher prices. "I don't know if 2003 will be as good as it was two years ago, but we're headed in the right direction," he said.

The growth has attracted people from the depressed IT industry, said CEDIA president Jeff Hoover. "A lot of IT guys are looking for work," he said. "There's a big rush of people wanting to get involved [on the supplier and installer sides]."

In part, the custom business is getting a lift from the stock market, which is putting "mad money" back into the pockets of potential custom customers and causing some consumers to re-commit to projects they previously put on hold, installers and suppliers said. Growing demand for retrofit installs is also helping, installers said. Now that the industry is no longer a new industry, said Lepper, installers are getting "more and more business with past clients who want to upgrade."

The upgrade trend led to the introduction here of more retrofit-friendly products, including products that use wireless technology rather than wires to transport control signals.

Custom suppliers also used the Expo to promote a variety of agendas, from making distributed-audio and home-control systems more affordable to developing more elaborate systems for the highest income brackets.

Select suppliers also diversified their product selections to become one-stop shopping resources for their dealers.

See p. 20-23 for more audio and video product developments at the show.