The economy took its toll on the International Consumer Electronics Show, but its organizers found a bright side. They said the more modest attendance pleased exhibitors.
In previous years, CES has been the largest trade show in the country, with 140,000 attendees. This year, the Consumer Electronics Association expected more than 130,000, based on registrations. But now the association says there were at least 110,000 at this year's event in Las Vegas, pending a final, audited count.
Even with the lower attendance, CES will maintain its title as the largest trade show in the U.S., according to The Association for Exhibit and Event Professionals.
Jason Oxman, senior vice president of industry affairs at CEA, said the economy was in part to blame for the smaller turnout, because exhibiting companies brought fewer people to staff their booths. The association also consciously limited attendance by introducing a $100 fee for people pre-registering late and a $200 fee for those registering at the door.
That kept out "trick-or-treaters" — people who visit the booths just to grab promotional products — and others who don't go to the industry event to do business, Oxman said.
"The quality of attendees was higher than any year anyone could remember," he said. The CEA's board unanimously asked the staff to keep attendance at the same level in the future, he said.
The press and analyst corps was out in force, with about 6,000 showing up, similar to or slightly higher than last year, Oxman said.
The technology industry is reeling from a weak holiday season. Predictions that spending in that category would hold up well in the face of a recession have turned out to be wrong. NPD Group said that holiday sales of electronics and computers declined 5.7 percent in the U.S. compared to last year.