Organizers says AWFS is in a ‘regrowth stage’

awfsAWFS attendees, exhibitors and show officials shared mostly optimistic thoughts about the recent event, held July 24-27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The show’s executive vice president Angelo Gangone reported a 10 percent increase in attendance.

“We’re very pleased with the overall feel, not only of our exhibitors, but also with attendance and our outlook for the 2015 fair. We’re excited because we think the show is finally starting to enter a regrowth stage. Obviously we’ve had a few difficult years in our industry and it’s wonderful to see it starting to rebound,” says Gangone.

Philip Bibeau, executive director of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association, says he noticed a number of attendees focused on finalizing equipment purchases.

“In speaking with many of the attendees, I heard that business was down slightly for the year, but they did have orders. The overall consensus was that few businesses are making any money. The WPMA continues to add programs and services that help companies improve their bottom line. The new website development/maintenance program and service to reduce monthly credit card processing fees were extremely well-received.”

“The economy has really hurt this sector, so it was nice to see a better turnout this year,” says Kevin White, principal of Kevin White Designs in San Diego. “Being in this industry for the past 35 years, there isn’t much in the equipment area I look for because I make custom furniture, yet it is always good to see a lot of the newest hardware and especially the new water-based finishes that are being produced. California has gotten really stringent on the VOC issue, so I came to the show specifically to search out the latest finishing products.”

Scott Nelson, president of the Woodwork Career Alliance, commented on the group’s progress with its skill standards initiative. The ongoing project was implemented to certify woodworkers on various skill sets to help them find and maintain gainful employment in the field. He and other WCA members sought to certify new program evaluators at the show.

“Progress has been made over the course of the past year. It’s starting to move forward, not only on the education side, but on the industry side as well. We’ve added 18 trained evaluators from Maine to California, adding to our current count of roughly 70,” says Nelson.

What was missing

Bob Schendorf of Huntington Station, N.Y., made his third visit to the show and says he found many solutions to the challenges designers bring to him. But he was disappointed at the limited number of portable power tool companies exhibiting.

“The companies that make a lot of the smaller power tools that we use daily are still conspicuously absent from not only this show, but others. I think it’s time for them to come back because I know that I certainly consider whether they come out to support the industry when I consider making a new tool purchase,” Schendorf says.

“Being a middle-aged man, I long for the days when you could go to a store, find what you were looking for and buy it. This show is like the old days only better. Having all of the solutions we need now as well as getting a glimpse of what we need and where we hope to go in the future is worth every dollar spent on the show.”

James Fox of Fox Woodworking in Kimberton, Pa., says his strategy was to focus on a number of key suppliers with whom he’s either currently doing business with or might in the near future.

“The best part of these shows is the ability to bring along all the little questions and concerns that have built up over the year since the last show and get answers directly from factory representatives. Perhaps my only complaint is that it is always in Las Vegas. I would like these shows to move around a bit since I use them as vacation time and would like to see other parts of the country, too,” Fox says.

Not all reviews were quite so positive, however. Dennis Schmidt of Phoenix says he got very little out of the show and is unlikely to return.

“The only reason I went to this one was that I was already in Vegas for a pool tournament and the AWFS just happened to be going on at the same time. Nothing much is ever new at these shows. Table saws haven’t changed in 100 years. Lamello had some new fastening systems on display that I found interesting, but most of the stuff was the same-old same-old.”

Looking ahead

Gangone says show officials anticipate further growth in 2015 and are already putting ideas into place to make that happen. He acknowledges that a number of attendees were disappointed with the lack of power tool exhibitors.

“We still have a lot of small shops coming here and some of the smaller power tool companies missed out on that. With them not being here did a disservice to the small shops, so something that we will be doing is try our best to bring these guys back in and give them a platform that will hopefully give them a lot more exposure.”

Additionally, he indicated that attendees showed a strong interest in the educational seminars, a number of which were sold out. 

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue.

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