I’m slowly coming down from the high that was last week’s 2010 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition at McCormick Place West in Chicago. There is much involved in putting on a show of this scale; it consumes about a dozen employees at Vertical Web Media, the 34-employee company that owns the show, for a solid six months before the event. And when it all comes off the way it did last week in Chicago, well let me tell you, it’s a rush.
I’d been projecting big numbers for many weeks and promoting that the show’s attendance would exceed 6,000. That proved too conservative. We hit 6,432, up 33% from last year’s show. That includes exhibit staff, speakers, sponsors, and press, of course. The paid attendee count grew even more, fully 42% to 4,333. Since we had 417 exhibiting companies, the ratio of paid attendees to exhibitors was slightly better than 10 to one. To say that these results greatly exceeded our budget and expectations of just a few months ago is to understate just how excited everyone at Internet Retailer is about IRCE 2010.
The numbers tell only part of the story. Everybody at Vertical Web Media works the show, and every one of us heard nothing but positive comments and many raves. So many people, some I recognized and some not, came up to me to express what a great show this event was for them. It was gratifying to hear such unsolicited praise for our conference.
That praise extended to our new web site, which I enjoyed introducing in my opening remarks. I told attendees how the new site pulls together all of our e-commerce content (news coverage, feature articles, tons of data, proprietary research, conference content, blogs and commentary and more) which now resides on one easily navigable web site. Our stories can be linked to charts, conference sessions, related articles, Top 500 and e-commerce vendor profiles, and many other Internet Retailer information assets. And we can update it lightning fast any time of day. We were posting stories and pictures from notable conference sessions immediately after they were completed. Our hats are off to Alexander Interactive for designing such a splendid site.
The growth that IRCE enjoyed this year runs counter to the experience of many trade shows, which remain in the doldrums. In my view, this is the result of two principal factors. The first, of course, is the e-commerce economy, which has rebounded from the recession of the last year and a half with double-digit growth since the fall of last year. The operators of retail web sites, who reduced investments in technology last year, are keenly aware that they need to reinvest in their online operations right now in order to remain competitive throughout the recovery. As a result, demand for expert information about e-commerce strategies and access to the very latest in e-commerce technology is running high. IRCE 2010 was designed to meet that demand.
The other reason for this growth, I believe, is the growing recognition of the Internet Retailer and IRCE brands in e-commerce markets that extend well beyond e-retailing, our historic and still primary market. This year, we made a point to refer to IRCE as an e-commerce show, because it drew from so many non-retail web-based industries. Our brand is gaining recognition outside the U.S. as well, as is reflected in the 5% of IRCE attendees who came from 33 foreign countries.
I want to thank the entire staff of Internet Retailer for the fabulous work they did in putting this show together. I am grateful, too, to the many vendors we rely on year after year to make IRCE a successful enterprise. And I want to thank our subscribers, attendees and clients for supporting this show. Their commitment to IRCE grows each year, as does ours.