Major January Trade Shows Hit Dazzling Highs

February 13, 2024

The New Year started with a bang in January as some of the nation’s largest trade shows expanded in terms of exhibitors, attendees, show floor size or some combination of those metrics. 

Following three years of lackluster or canceled events in COVID’s wake, the growth demonstrated the importance of face-to-face trade shows, and how much they’re valued by audiences. As one exhibitor put it, “There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with associates and customers.” 

NRF ’24: Retail’s Big Show

NRF Big Show 

What, When & Where: NRF ’24: Retail’s Big Show, Jan. 14-16, Javits Center, New York 

Show Size: Nearly 40,000 attendees, 1,030 exhibitors covering more than 329,000 square feet (sf)

Looking Back: In 2023, the show comprised 35,500 attendees, 1,000 exhibitors spanning 302,000 sf 

“We’re shifting to the post-COVID norm,” said Susan Newman, senior vice president, events, National Retail Federation. “People are getting back to their regular schedules.” 

Best new features and products: NRF’s innovation pavilion featured food technology. “We are hearing more about retailers considering adding food service and what it can do to customer spend and dwell time,” Newman said. There were full-service restaurants using robots and a vending section because the latter offering “enables retailers to offer fresh, qualify food quickly with limited space,” she added. 

AI tools and loss prevention technology also were on display, including some self-serving locked cabinets. “They allow customers to get their toothpaste and deodorant without waiting for an employee,” Newman explained.

Beyond the show floor: NRF tapped several celebrities now in retail as speakers, including Drew Barrymore, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Martha Stewart and more.

Photo caption: Martha Stewart and Adyen Chief Commercial Officer Roelant Prins on the stage at NRF 24: Retail’s Big Show at Javits Center in New York. 

World of Concrete

World of Concrete

What, When & Where: World of Concrete (WOC) produced by Informa Markets, Jan. 23-25, Las Vegas Convention Center 

Show Size: Nearly 60,000 registered professionals visited 1,432 exhibitors across more than 700,000 sf 

Looking Back: In 2023, WOC featured 48,009 registered professionals, 1,145 exhibitors and 587,000 sf

Best new features and products: A milestone 325 first-time exhibitors participated and more than 450 exhibitors came from abroad for the show, which celebrated its 50th year. Exhibitors displayed a wide variety of construction equipment at WOC. For example, Bosch demonstrated an assortment of cordless power tools, Milwaukee Tool showed new submersible pumps and DeWalt highlighted cordless technology and concrete sensors. 

Quirkiest happening: Long-time WOC attendee James Estrada married his sweetheart, Patricia, on-site and was gifted a lifetime membership to the show. “I’ve been married to concrete for 30 years, so it was finally time I married Patricia,” Estrada quipped. Another couple, who met on a construction site, came to WOC from Australia and decided while at the show to tie the knot. 

Beyond the show floor: An all-time high of 185 education sessions were delivered. In honor of the show’s anniversary, WOC donated 50 trees to the Las Vegas Tree Initiative.


SHOT Show 

What, When & Where: The Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show (owned and operated by NSSF — The Firearm Industry Trade Association), Jan. 17-20, The Venetian Expo and CAESARS FORUM in Las Vegas. 

Show Size: 55,443 attendees (including exhibitors) and 2,619 exhibits covering 821,000 sf 

Looking Back: In 2023, the show comprised 52,320 attendees, 2,488 exhibitors and 816,000 sf. SHOT Show returned to pre-pandemic levels this year, eclipsing the 55,138 attendees at its last pre-pandemic show in 2020. 

Inside Scoop: The 45th SHOT Show featured more exhibits and events than ever before. The newly added archery pavilion was described by show officials as a “growth point.”

Beyond the show floor: Attendees questioned legislators and heard about the industry’s economic impact, during the third annual Governors Forum. For the second year, attendees were offered “SHOT After Dark,” evening programming comprising two networking receptions, a concert and VIP nightclub experiences. “All of this was in response to exhibitors and attendees saying they would like more after-hours networking opportunities,” said NSSF Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Chris Dolnack.

Surf Expo

Surf Expo

What, When & Where: Surf Expo, Jan. 10-12, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla. 

Show Size: Show organizer Emerald declined to share attendee numbers but said the show’s number of visitors had grown from 2023. The January 2024 show featured 794 exhibitors across more than 177,300 sf 

Looking Back: January 2023 comprised 756 exhibitors spanning 174,000 sf. 

Signs of Growth: “The surf category on the show floor included more hard goods brands than any show since COVID,” said Senior Vice President of Emerald Expositions Roy Turner. Exhibitors had filled appointment books while retailers took in numerous surfboard brands, he added.

Revamped Exhibitors: Reef returned after a multi-year absence, and many larger brands opted for open footprint booths, giving buyers multiple points of entry and glimpses of products without appointments. 

Beyond the show floor: Combined with the surfboard uptick, Turner said, “The Florida Shape Off competition [where carvers compete at crafting surfboards] and the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame ceremony made for a high energy vibe that resonated across the show.” 


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