It’s nearly like old times. Though the sequence has been adjusted somewhat, we are again living that familiar experience: one car wash show following another as the year progresses, albeit at irregular intervals.
The Southwest Car Wash Association got the ball rolling with its Convention and Car Wash Expo in June. Although six months into 2021, it was still the first car wash show of the year, a distinction it has made its own. It was also the first car wash show since the start of the pandemic. It was the attendance — an all-time record at just more than 2,400 — that drove the message home: car washers are serious about getting back to the business of learning and searching out the latest innovations.
The American Car Wash Expo, presented by the Southeastern Car Wash Association, followed in September while October saw the return to Atlantic City of the Northeast Regional Carwash Convention. Any reservations there might have been about enthusiasm for this show due to the mask requirement inside the Atlantic City Convention Center proved to be unfounded as the 2021 NRCC was another record-setting event with turnout two souls short of 1,000 in addition to the exhibitors.
Now it’s November, and we are at The Car Wash Show, which has quite a high bar to best — a high bar it set itself. The last time the event took place in Las Vegas, in 2018, it drew 8,788 attendees. However, the following year, in Nashville, 9,500 car washers gathered for the show. How many will show up this year? Will COVID-19 jitters keep the numbers down? The organizers have gone to some lengths to assure a safe event, from allowing social distancing by providing wider aisles on the exhibit floor to providing preregistration and badge mailing to eliminate registration lines on site. Might the requirement to wear masks moderate turnout? We’ll know the final attendee count a few days after the show ends but, if the SCWA show and NRCC are any indication, the numbers should clearly say “we’re back.”
While we appear to be well on our way back to “normalcy,” the need for caution continues. Despite all the progress that has been made in addressing the pandemic and the availability of vaccines, COVID-19 still makes its presence felt, and tradeshows are not immune. For example, in mid-September the National Association of Broadcasters canceled its October convention in Las Vegas. This is one of the city’s biggest tradeshows drawing roughly 100,000 attendees every year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the show relies heavily on overseas participation and that international travel has yet to fully recover — a plausible factor in the decision to cancel.
Consumers, too, remain cautious. Prosper Insights & Analytics included an assessment of COVID-19’s impact on shopping behaviors in its just-published October survey. The survey found that 56.3 percent of adults were very or extremely concerned about the virus. That might seem high, but it’s an improvement over the 62.1 percent who felt that way one year ago. Of the adults surveyed, 43.3 percent were shopping less in stores compared to 58.2 percent who did so last October.
We are able to gather at The Car Wash Show to visit with exhibitors, and to learn from and network with our peers without concerns because of safety measures put in place by the organizers. We should likewise accommodate our car wash customers’ apprehensions.