While LightFair 2021 was much smaller than previous events — which typically drew more than 20,000 attendees — the trade show and conference held last week in New York still offered attendees opportunities to learn about the latest in lighting and reconnect with industry contacts at a live event.
The event once again offered a robust educational program, and the LightFair Innovation Awards highlighted the monstrous amount of new product development that has been underway in the lighting business, with advances in color selection technology, programmable drivers and new form factors for lighting fixtures that pack the capabilities of several different lighting fixtures into one SKU (stock-keeping unit).
Unfortunately, the bigger story at this year’s event was the drastically smaller number of exhibitors and attendees. Although the final attendance figures are not yet publicly available, there were significantly fewer lighting designers, architects, reps, manufacturers, distributors, contractors and other lighting professionals in attendance and far fewer booths than in the past. Several attendees said LightFair 2021 felt like a regional show, and many others commented on absence of many regular exhibitors on the show floor, including Acuity, Lutron, Leviton, Nicor, Maxlite, Dialight and Bulbrite. Also of note were the smaller booths of many of the larger players who were there, including Signify, its Cooper Lighting unit and GE Current.
There was a huge difference in booth activity at the show, too. The lighting manufacturers with booths that had little or no product on display did not attract many visitors, while the companies that did demonstrate their lighting products had far more activity. These companies included PureEdge Lighting, which won the Most Innovative Product of the Year for its Lazer Line product, and the Technical Innovation Award for TruTrack; Samsung; WAC Lighting; LEDVANCE; and Keystone Lighting. Keystone drove one of its mobile lighting demo trucks into the Javits Center and had a steady stream of visitors throughout the show.
Attendees pointed to the vaccine and mask mandate at the event as a significant factor for the lower attendance, but one would also have to wonder if the New York venue is not as popular as it once was because of the continuing logistical challenges of doing business there. Despite the fact that the Javits Center recently underwent a $1.5-billion renovation and expansion and the fascinating nearby Hudson Yards mega-development has reshaped the local neighborhood, there’s still a dearth of hotel rooms or restaurants within easy walking distance of the convention hall. And even with the renovation, the section of the convention center where LightFair took place looked surprisingly similar to past years, and it still had the same lousy WiFi reception as in the past.
The show organizer, High Point, NC-based International Market Center IMC, which according to the Edison Report purchased AMC’s stake in LightFair in 2018, is placing a big bet on New York as a regular location for the event and will be alternating it with Las Vegas over the next few years. IMC is committed to New York because of its leading position in the lighting design community and the number of lighting colleges and universities with major lighting design programs in the city, including Parsons and New York University.
The LightFair 2022 trade show and conference will be held in Las Vegas on June 19-22.