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MAATS and IBEX are rolled into one

While MAATS had been slated to return to Las Vegas in 2010 after being held in Orlando, Fla., this year, the National Marine Manufacturers Association says it¹s clear the event had run its course. MAATS was formed nine years ago out of the demise of IMTEC, the International Marine Trades Exhibition and Conference, says Ben Wold, executive vice president of the NMMA, co-producer of IBEX. For a number of years, he says, the MAATS format — with buyer-supplier meetings in the morning and a trade show in the afternoon — was a success.

"[But] the buying community, in terms of number of people, is relatively small, and there's still a classic trade-show mindset among some that expects lots of people, heavy aisle density on the show floor," Wold says. "And yet the key to MAATS was really the buyer-supplier meetings, as well as the show floor.

"The critical mass of the show, in terms of number of exhibitors as well as number of buyers, shrunk and shrunk and shrunk," Wold continues. "And it got down to the point where you say 'Is this really still viable?' The show had gotten to a point where it was questionable in its financial viability."

MAATS had seen a steady decline in attendees and exhibitors in the last couple years, with 1,345 badges distributed this year and 211 exhibitors.

Its discontinuation means the National Marine Distributors Association's Sales, Training, Education & Purchasing conference won¹t return to Las Vegas next year, but instead will likely be held somewhere in the middle of the country to make it easier for members to attend.

S.T.E.P. predates MAATS by more than 10 years, says NMDA executive director Nancy Cueroni, and will continue — though her members are disappointed about the discontinuation of MAATS. Distributors generally don¹t attend IBEX, as it tends to be held somewhat late in the year to be a buying event for NMDA members, Cueroni says. However, she notes, it's possible more will attend the show now that it has been folded into IBEX. And, she says, the NMDA is looking at ways to incorporate some of the benefits of MAATS into S.T.E.P.

Wold says he expects this year's accessories pavilion to host about 100 companies, with that number likely to grow in the coming years. Also, he says, there¹s a possibility of adding buyer-supplier meetings as a preshow to IBEX, though that would take place in 2010 at the earliest.

"It's a start," Wold says. "I think you'll see a much bigger program in play for next year."

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