GIE+EXPO breaks attendance and exhibitor records in 2016

The 2016 Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), which took place Oct. 19-21 at the Kentucky Expo Center (KEC) in Louisville, buzzed with business indoors and out, topping the last two year’s records for attendance and exhibitors. More than 22,600 people from around the world represented a 12-percent increase in registration over last year. Thirty-three percent of dealer and 44 percent of lawn and landscape attendees were first timers.

The annual industry event draws all segments of the outdoor power equipment and lawn & garden industry. GIE+EXPO is sponsored by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) and National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

High growth across the board

  • More than 900 exhibits in total at GIE+EXPO and Hardscape North America (HNA), and 230 new exhibitors were at the event.
  • The New Products Showcase sold out with a record number of companies (76) spotlighting more than 100 products that were introduced within the past year.
  • The indoor booths covered 676,000 net square feet (the size of 14 football fields); the indoor show floor was 80,000 square feet larger – a 17-percent increase over 2015.
  • The Outdoor Demonstration Area covered 20 acres, up from 19 acres last year.
  • HNA increased in size by more than 25 percent over 2015 and was moved to the North Wing this year to accommodate its growth.
  • More than 30 exhibitors hosted press conferences.

“Our experience exhibiting has been above and beyond everything we imagined it would be,” said Shelley Wald, president of WAC Lighting. “This is our first time exhibiting at the show, and it was a breath of fresh air – particularly the type of enthusiasm and the level of quality of the attendees walking the show. The people who are spending time at the booth are serious about their business, they’re asking thoughtful questions, and they’re curious about the new technologies we’ve introduced. They’re really the kind of people we want to be talking to.”

Social media buzz increased among trade media, exhibitors and attendees with hundreds of online postings of positive trade show floor reports, interviews and exhibitor activity. Many attendees posted on GIE+EXPO’s Facebook page about their favorite aspects of the show, and a crowd favorite was the Outdoor Demo Area. Jonathan Levan wrote, “Everything you can imagine for landscaping. Well worth the trip, and you get to test out products and are able to see stuff before making the decision to purchase.” Bill White posted: “The biggest, best and most comprehensive show in the U.S.A.”

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, the managing partner of GIE+EXPO, added, “Exhibitors and attendees alike were pleased with the expanded offerings this year.” A first-ever UTV University, with special education and offerings for the UTV market, drew 370 dealers and powersports retailers.

Opening the show: Dealer Day

GIE+EXPO opened on Wednesday, Oct. 19, with specially designed offerings for dealers. Dubbed Dealer Day, it provides focused education, as well as basic and advanced tech training, and it facilitates one-on-one time so exhibitors and dealers/distributors can network and discuss pricing and products.

Dealership consultant Bob Clements’ Wednesday seminar — the first of his five free sessions for dealers — drew more than 300 attendees who learned about the seven principles of a high-performance dealership. The Dealer Keynote event, sponsored by Gravely and Stihl, drew more than 500 participants to hear best-selling author Jason Dorsey, The Gen Y Guy, discuss how to sell across generations.

“This show is where I always receive motivation and direction for refocusing my business,” said Sam Stearns with Mr. Mower Man in Scottsburg, Ind. “The Dealer Resource Pavilion is where I’ve received the most benefit. The team there is unbelievably helpful, and I know they genuinely want to see me succeed. I love that the GIE+EXPO has an entire day devoted to dealers. For me, the most effective part of the show is the networking and all the advice I receive.”
During a reception on the show floor Wednesday evening, exhibitors held prize drawings and entertained dealers and retailers with music, food, beverages and games. Kurt Mechling with Performance Powersports in Seneca, S.C., won the 5,000 Stihl giveaway.

Pro education

On Wednesday, while retailers, distributors and dealers were busy at the KEC, lawn & landscape professionals gathered in downtown Louisville and took classes offered by the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) and National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). The sessions continued at the KEC on Thursday and Friday.

Contractor registrations were up 17 percent over last year’s 11-percent increase, and the GIE+EXPO Workshops for lawn & landscape pros were well attended. Keynote speaker John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s, addressed a sold-out crowd of landscape contractors and HNA attendees on Thursday morning.

Networking and relaxing

Free nightly concerts, sponsored by Dixie Chopper, offered many opportunities for additional relaxed networking. Entertainers included The Louisville Crashers on Wednesday evening, Brooke Eden and Joe Nichols on Thursday evening, and Kirby’s Dreamland and Wax Factory on Friday evening. The concerts were held in the downtown entertainment complex, 4th Street Live, on the Nissan Commercial Vehicles stage.

Partial listing of prize winners

The last day of the show was dubbed “Fabulous Friday” during which James Widdecombe with Ironwood Landscaping LLC in Wethersfield, Conn., won $10,000 in the Fabulous Friday Giveaway, sponsored by Belgard Hardscapes. Also on Friday, the highly competitive HNA Installer Championship concluded with Oak Leaf Landscaping, Danville, Ohio, emerging as the champion and winning $1,000, an iQ Power Tool, a Weber MT plate compactor, a plaque and bragging rights for a full year.

Looking ahead

The dates for the 2017 show in Louisville are set for Wednesday, Oct. 18, for dealers, distributors, retailers and media, as well as Thursday, Oct. 19, and Friday, Oct. 20, for everyone in the industry. The Outdoor Demo Area will be open Thursday and Friday. HNA, which first co-located with GIE+EXPO seven years ago, has an agreement to co-locate through 2018. Online registration will be available early in 2017.