2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show Revs Up to a Record-breaking Showfloor

November 11, 2013

"Zombie Apocalypse" and "Jesus is Lord" custom vehicles next to each other. That pretty much captures the spirit of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show that took over the Las Vegas Convention Center Nov. 5-8.  

From a 2,000-horsepower '68 Charger to a SpongeBob Square Pants Highlander, with a whole aquarium in the back, the most outrageous rides challenged the limits of imagination and drove the business of customization at what looked like a swirling mass of people, cars and parts.

The anchor of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, 2013 SEMA featured about 2,400 exhibitors, spanned a million net square feet (up 4 percent from last year) and attracted approximately 130,000 attendees.

"In our 47-year history, this is the largest show we've ever had," said Peter MacGillivray, SEMA vice president of events and communications.

The 2012 SEMA Show was ranked No. 7 on the TSNN Top 250.

A show loaded with self-expression, it's only fitting that SEMA would get new branding and signage that creates an artistic, yet cohesive look.

Show management discovered artist Max Grundy when he was exhibiting at the last year's show, was impressed with his edgy and power-driven designs and commissioned five prints that were to become the icons for each hall.

"People come to SEMA for an adventure, and I want my artwork to take them on a ride," Grundy said.

The concept of wind in your hair and an equalizer on your windshield also translated to high sales at the new apparel stores.

"We've moved away from having a counter with a bunch of shirts in the back," said Tim Sousamian in charge of SEMA gear, who took the tag line "Trade Only" and turned it into a fashion statement on leather jackets.

Now, people get to shop at an actual pop-up store that feels like a jean boutique, or at five other locations, including a branded truck.

Adding new show space also created new challenges in terms of driving traffic to the frontiers. Registration was moved to the LVH Hotel, which helped with exposure for exhibitors at the newly added space at the LVH and also at the North Hall of the LVCC.

Exhibitors in the meeting rooms at the South Hall benefited from traffic being diverted through their space, instead of the usual hallway.

One of the most effective drivers at the show remains celebrity action. The courtyard between LVCC and LVH was converted into a West Coast Customs shop of the reality show “Pimp My Ride” fame.

Attendees had a rare chance to meet Ryan Friedlinghaus, the celebrity customizer and to "wrench with the best" at the make-shift paint, interior and design areas as the next episode of the show was being filmed. "If it were up to Peter, he'd put me on the roof next time," Friedlinghaus said, noting that space was full even on the last day.

It is for these kinds of experiences, as well as to research new products, that attendee David James with Offroad Arsenal comes to the show. "We found great new vinyl and truck accessories," he said. "Our business is starting to pick, and we're looking to expand. The show is helping us see what direction to go."

Going through their leads, Austria-based exhibitor Knut Wagner with Remus Innovation said that this show has been "more dynamic than the past two years."

His company took a break from attending in 2008, but since then decided to come back every other year and now every year.

 "We had a few slow summer months because people now mostly shop at work and not when they're on vacation," Wagner said. "But the overall trend is upward."

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