Pivoting to Survive in a Pandemic
I have been in the events and exhibits industry for almost 20 years now. We survived 9/11 and the dot.com bubble recession in 2001, the 2008 global financial crisis with the banks, and now the 2020 economic crisis due to the pandemic, which according to BBC News is the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression in the 1930s. According to a study by Go LIVE Together, a new association that advocates for legislation to assist in the events industry recovery, our industry represents about 6.6 million jobs and approximately $885 billion of business sales.
Due to the pandemic, many in the industry have had to pause their businesses and unfortunately some have had to close their doors. Some were able to move quickly and pivot their businesses to survive these last three months. At Plus Studios, we have had to focus our business on permanent builds. We worked with hotels on the strip to create hygiene and social distance barriers. Luckily, as an essential business, we were able to also provide interior build outs for major construction jobs on the strip. We are optimistic that tradeshows will be back by the fourth quarter, and we look forward to getting back to creating experiences and building exhibits. Moving forward we will continue to be nimble and provide build support to all industries.
I asked three Las Vegas industry business owners how the pandemic has affected their business, what they did in the last 90 days to sustain their business, and will it be sustainable for their business moving forward. Here are their replies:
Rethink Fabrics, a sustainable apparel company, creates branded and private label T-shirts made from 100 percent recycled plastic water bottles for exhibitors at tradeshows and events. “As tradeshows were being canceled, we were able to quickly repurpose our fabrics from producing shirts to masks very early in the pandemic stage and sold hundreds of custom masks in the first week,” says Terence Jackson, principal. “Due to the fact that our fabric is already anti-microbial and water-wicking, it was a logical progression to make masks for our customers. Moving forward we will continue to sell masks and other travel accessories that will protect travelers, tourists and tradeshow attendees while diverting plastic from oceans and landfills.”
Las Vegas Mannequins is the source for quality mannequins in Las Vegas since 2004, servicing tradeshow exhibitors, events and retailers. “Prior COVID about half of our sales were event related and the rest were retail,” says Alison Wainwright, CEO/founder. “We saw a 100 percent drop in event-related sales. During the shutdown we pushed online sales. We did a large amount of rack rentals for retail remodels and provided them with labor services for removing and packing clothing. I personally did curbside deliveries and pick up, boxed and shipped mannequins nationwide, and weeded my parking lot weekly. That kept me very busy. To keep sales going I have been selling items from our “exclusive collection” which consists of museum figures that were never previously in the market for sale. There are a lot of new retail stores opening and current stores revamping, so hopefully we will continue to see this business.”
OS Photo Booths (the sister company to Orion Star Events) strives to provide a unique experience and an incredibly fun-filled addition to parties. “It has been tough on my business because I do events, and I provide photo booths at events,” says Bianca Cimino, owner. “All my events have been pushed back to the end of the year or early 2021. I am accommodating all my clients with any questions or concerns and updated my contracts to include a COVID clause. Fortunately, I have been in touch with all my clients throughout the entire COVID situation. To sustain my business, I offered additional time to their events, or up to two years to reschedule when we resume. In the future, we will provide sanitizer and wipes and ask clients to pick up their own photos and wipe everything down every 10 to 15 minutes. For now, we will do away with having the hats and masks but will give our clients options.”
Li Jackson is an 18-year-veteran of the events and exhibits industry. She is the President & Director of Rethink Worldwide a non-profit organization focused on ending single-use plastic; the Co-founder & Co-host of Coffeetechtalk.show a technology podcast, and sales & marketing service company; as well as the Editor of Tradeshowlife, an online educational and media outlet.
This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Exhibit City News, p. 24. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_july-august_2020