Reflections on how our most important event marks times that the industry has boomed, busted, and rebounded.
The last time the SGIA Expo was held in Atlanta, in 2008, the housing market had collapsed and the economy was on the brink of catastrophe. The mood at the show was pretty grim. I went home to Vancouver Island thinking the economy was only tanking in the US; then my business revenue dropped by almost half in 2009, and I watched the value of a friend’s house do almost the same as he spent two years trying to sell it. Worldwide, things went into a tailspin. Many companies went bankrupt. People lost their jobs. Specialty printers weren’t “favorite sons” like the automobile and banking industries – there was no bailout for us. Every business cut back; some failed.
Now, seven years later, things are finally improving. It’s an interesting time to be in this crazy business.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the SGIA show has become a sort of marker in my life, like a birthday. Day to day, month to month, I sometimes lose track of progress. Even on a yearly basis, it’s a bit hard to see trends develop. But thinking about the dates and location of the expo helps me track fundamental changes, including some radical shifts that really stand out in hindsight.
Example #1 (an important one for Canadians and hockey fans everywhere): The last time SGIA was in Atlanta, you could see NHL hockey in an arena kitty-corner to the convention center – for $10! Now, you’d have to jet off to Winnipeg to see the former Thrashers play.
Example #2: The New Orleans SGIA shows demonstrate how our industry and world events collide. When we were in the Big Easy in 1993, it was full speed ahead. I remember attending a Sericol event at the Superdome. They rented the whole stadium, brought in a bunch of screen printers, plied them with beer and food, and let them throw and kick footballs around where the Saints and other teams do battle every Sunday on national television. That says something about the business and advertising budgets at the time.
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