Industry Trade Shows Take Cautious Approach to Coronavirus

Written by Rob Stott

March 5, 2020

We’re just over a month removed from the World Health Organization declaring a “public health emergency of international concern” over the outbreak and spreading of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). And while debates rage on over the seriousness of the disease itself and how concerned the wider American public should be for their personal safety, one thing COVID-19 has done is force organizations to respond.

Associations and businesses in the healthcare industry, alongside retail and tech companies, have published countless statements and updates in response to the disease. Some have begun issuing travel bans for employees while others face the reality that their key industry trade shows must either shutter or postpone until later this year.

Even the NCAA is being asked questions with regard to the upcoming NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. The National College Players Association — a trade organization that represents the interests of collegiate student athletes — has presented the possibility that March Madness Tournament events and other competitions should be held without an audience present.

The furniture, appliance, bedding and consumer electronics businesses are among those that have issued statements around their trade shows and other events. Here’s a running list that Nationwide Marketing Group will look to keep as updated as new announcements are made.

Mobile World Congress. One of the first major trade shows to be cancelled, this annual gathering of smartphone and communications firms was scheduled to run February 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain. “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment … the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020. … Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” organizers said in a statement.

Inspired Home Show. The International Housewares Association made the difficult decision to cancel its annual marquee event, The Inspired Home Show, a Chicago-based event set for March 14-17 at McCormick Place. IHA previously announced that the International Sourcing Expo — a portion of the show that primarily housed Chinese-based suppliers — would not open because of travel restrictions. “For the last several weeks, we have been watching this situation very carefully, with our primary concern being the safety and well-being of the home + housewares industry,” Derek Miller, IHA president, said in a statement. “The IHA Board of Directors made this decision after consulting with industry constituents including exhibitors and retailers.”

Game Developers Conference. The annual San Francisco-based show for some 30,000 interactive industry professionals was canceled just two weeks before it was scheduled to open in mid-March. A number of major tech brands — including Sony, Electronic Arts and Microsoft — regularly attend but had already pulled out of this year’s show ahead of GDC organizers pulling the plug, according to a report by the LA Times.

ISC West. Scheduled for March 17-20 at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas (the home for NMG PrimeTime this August), ISC West will continue as planned, according to organizers. In a letter posted on its website, ISC West said it will continue to monitor the situation in Las Vegas and take extra precautions in helping attendees maintain a safe and healthy environment, “including, but not limited to, enhanced cleaning and sanitization across all public areas and customer touchpoints in the show and we are constantly reviewing our health protection activities, public health messaging, hygiene and medical control measures with the aim of strengthening our COVID-19 response.”

ISPA Expo. The International Sleep Products Association plans to move forward with its annual show, scheduled for March 18-20 in New Orleans. “To date, a number of Chinese exhibitors have canceled their participation at EXPO due to the travel ban. Those remaining are making arrangements for staff from outside mainland China to support their booth,” ISPA said in a statement. “ISPA will be working with the New Orleans Morial Convention Center to create a safe and successful event for all attendees and exhibitors.” UPDATE: According to a Furniture Today report, ISPA has decided to cancel its Expo. It is possible that the organization will look to move the show to a date later this year. “We recognize the hard work that our exhibitors have put into preparing for ISPA Expo,” Ryan Trainer, president of ISPA, said via Furniture Today. “The decision to cancel expo was the result of a thorough and thoughtful process. The impact of the virus on corporate and individual travel plans have caused a growing number of exhibitors and attendees to drop out of expo.”

Salone del Mobile. Perhaps one of the largest international furniture fairs, Salone del Mobile — a Milan, Italy-based show — has been postponed until June 16-21. The show typically opens in late April, but organizers have decided to push the show back a few months to allow the coronavirus to run its course. Outside of the Asian continent, Italy has seen the most confirmed cases of COVID-19.

High Point Market. As of March 2, organizers for the High Point Spring Market have said they plan to open the show as scheduled on April 25. “We are prepared to take any precautions necessary to keep all of our guests safe, as safety is our top priority,” Market organizers said in a statement. “Currently, we are in conversation with the coalition of local health professionals who regularly assist us in providing medical services for every Market.”


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