Late last month, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released the 2019 CEIR Index Report. The CEIR Index analyzes the 2018 exhibition industry and provides an economic and exhibition industry outlook for the next three years.
The U.S. economy accelerated in 2018, rising from 2.2% growth in 2017 to 2.9% in 2018, representing eight consecutive years of growth. Nonresidential investment led the economy, with personal consumption and federal defense expenditures providing support. The widening trade gap partially offset GDP growth. GDP expansion in the next few years will be driven by moderate growth in personal consumption expenditures and private investment spending; higher spending levels of both are helped by recent tax cuts. Moderate increases of government expenditures will provide an additional boost. Nonetheless, personal and business spending growth will soften as the impact of tax cuts diminishes, and a widening trade gap will limit potential overall expansion. According to CEIR’s current projection, real GDP growth will ebb to around 2.5% in 2019 before decelerating further to 2.0% in 2020 and 1.8% in 2021.
In 2018, the exhibition industry's performance finally surpassed its last peak and is now anticipated to break new ground performance-wise through 2021. The Total Index, a measure of overall exhibition industry performance, increased by a moderate 1.9%, just slightly lower than the 2.0% gain in 2017. All four metrics rose in 2018, with real revenues leading at 3.6% above 2017 levels. Both attendees and net square feet (NSF) rose 1.7%, whereas exhibitors gained 0.5%.
Exhibition developments in 2018 varied widely by industry. The leading sector was Government (GV), surging 7.8%. Food (FD) and Discretionary Consumer Goods and Services (CS) also had strong showings, rising by 5.4% and 3.6%, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, the sector most challenged was Financial, Legal and Real Estate (FN), for which the index declined by 2.6%. Consumer Goods and Retail Trade (CG) was the second most challenged sector, dropping 1.8%.
“Moderate economic, job and personal disposable income growth should continue to drive exhibitions,” noted CEIR Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., Chief Economist for Global Economic Consulting Associates, Inc. “However, the downward secular trend in FN, CG and Education (ED) will exert a drag on the overall performance of the exhibition industry. CEIR expects the Total Index growth to slow to 1.4%, 0.5 percentage points lower than the 2018 rate and 1.0 percentage point behind real GDP growth. Exhibition performance will further slow modestly to 1.1% in 2020 and 0.8% in 2021 as the economy settles into a slower but more sustainable growth path.
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