May 26, 2023
The Definitive LightFair 2023 Recap and Review
LightFair is under a microscope as lighting people gauge the new-look event and anticipate the future
Blockbuster and Tower Records went out of business many years ago because the world changed while the companies clung to the fundamental ways they did business for decades.
The world has not only changed for LightFair, but it changed quickly. And that is also the case for many B2B trade shows across a variety of industries. But unlike the entertainment retailers of yesteryear, LightFair show organizers and show owners, which includes the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), have been working tirelessly to pivot and adapt to the way lighting people want to experience lighting trade shows, and their collective hard work was evident this week in New York.
While the show was notably smaller than pre-pandemic events, it was larger than LightFair 2022, which was larger than LightFair 2021. So things are trending positively, and New York City area lighting professional, JP Bedell, seems to agree:
“I think that everyone really responded to the criticism around LightFair. It’s headed in the right direction and you can see glimmers of what the show is going to be in the next few years and I think that’s really exciting”
– JP Bedell, SDA Lighting & Controls
Clarifying Registration and Actual Attendance
Another lighting news outlet reported that over 11,000 people attended the trade show on Tuesday. That is not accurate.
Inside.lighting and other media receive the same numbers from LightFair and it is imperative to discern event registrations from actual attendance numbers. LightFair communicated that (since registration opened for LightFair 2023 months ago) over 11,000 individuals had registered for the event as of Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean that every single one of them walked through the Javits Center doors on Tuesday. Further, it doesn’t guarantee that all of them attended even one of the five days of the conference and trade show.
As of Wednesday 5:58pm, LightFair reported 11,450 registered. So it's possible that the entire event drew over 11,000 total attendees during the five days of conference and trade show activities. The true attendee turnout numbers remain to be seen until the official numbers, if released by LightFair, cite the actual data.
“Walking the Show”: One Day vs. Two Days
LightFair was once a two-day expedition for many attendees, but significant shrinkage in the square footage and the count of exhibitors has transformed LightFair into a one-day event for many attendees. The inaugural day of the LightFair 2023 trade show, Tuesday, observed the most bustling foot traffic, with a mild downturn witnessed on Wednesday morning and afternoon. As per tradition, the final day of the trade show saw further reduction in the crowd size.
A Mixed Bag of Exhibitor Sentiments
Consensus feedback from our unscientific and limited exhibitor poll ranged from contentment to slight dissatisfaction, with some expressing considerable dissatisfaction. Lehigh Electric Products was so dissatisfied with booth traffic, the team packed up its 10' x 20' booth and left New York after Day 2 of the 3-day trade show.
A number of exhibitors, however, had a very positive experience. Architectural brand, Lumenture, expressed immense satisfaction with the quality and quantity of architectural lighting designers who stopped by their booth. Casambi, who plays to both a specifier audience and an OEM audience, was enthusiastic about the LightFair 2023 trade show.
Silver Linings: Pockets of Positivity
Despite the varying feedback, glimmers of positivity peek through. Legrand's Plug and Pour Lounge, featuring five popular lighting specification architectural brands and a happy hour, emerged as a crowd favorite.
On the architectural lighting designer front, Teal Brogden, Senior Principal and President of HLB Lighting, shared her exceeded expectations of the show, a heartening vote of confidence from a leading design firm.
Most attendees with whom we spoke were satisfied or pleased. Smaller lighting agents seeking to enhance their line cards seemed to have a productive show compared to the larger, more established agents whose major lines may not have been exhibiting.
The impact of Big Brands on LightFair
Legrand and Lutron kept being mentioned by various attendees as two of the most important companies exhibiting at LightFair 2023. Honorable mentions to Crestron, LEDVANCE and Keystone Technologies came from other lighting people in various industry roles.
After Lightfair 2022, we wondered what would happen if Signify, Cooper Lighting and Current™ didn’t return for LightFair 2023. We found out. There seemed to be fewer large contingencies of agents and their accompanying customers coming from far away places to visit LightFair. Acuity Brands hasn't exhibited at LightFair since 2019.
Thankfully, Lutron and Legrand came back into the fold this year, adding to the appeal of LightFair 2023. Each company took a measured approach, with 600-800 square foot booths, a sign that the “go big or go home” booth strategy isn’t necessary to have a positive LightFair experience.
LightFair may not need huge collection 1500-2500 square foot mega-booths to return to LightFair, but we believe that having a good number of well-known anchor brands will help draw crowds to the events in the future. And without them, it will create further challenges for the event.
We loved what Focal Point President, Jimalee Beno, stated about Legrand’s decision to exhibit this year. She explained, “We’ve always been a strong partner with the IES and IALD.” She described how the five architectural lighting brands of Legrand stacked hands and said “We’re doing this!” and commited to exhibiting at LightFair. Beno went on to explain that “in the end, it’s really helping us, so we’re thankful for that.”
Jimalee Beno, President, Focal Point
Warm Reception to Immersive Lighting Installations
LightFair's innovative move to introduce immersive lighting installations paid off, with seven exhibits proving to be a hit among attendees. These exhibits showcased the result of unique collaborations between manufacturers and lighting design firms. The team of Traxon and Tillotson Design Associates reaped the top honors, cementing the success of this trade show feature that allowed attendees to experience light in a unique and enjoyable way.
Above: "Seeds of Light" utilizes Traxon products in an application designed by Tillotson Design Associates
Education Conference Strikes the Right Note
The event's education conference, arguably the most comprehensive LightFair has yet offered, received consistently high accolades from attendees. We only heard a couple anecdotes of disappointments stemming from the conference, but the comments were minimal. The conference topics ranged from technical subjects to business development, catering to an array of lighting enthusiasts' curiosities.
Casting Light on the Future - LightFair 2025
As we reported on Thursday, the location of LightFair 2025 (originally committed to New York, then mistakenly announced as Las Vegas) is still to be determined.
LightFair show director, Dan Darby told us on Thursday, “The date and location of LightFair 2025 has yet to be officially determined. Attendee and exhibitor surveys will be issued following the 2023 LightFair Trade Show and Conference, with results guiding our decision about future locations and dates that best suits industry needs,”
LightFair is listening to stakeholders across the industry, then they are going to collaborate and make decisions that best serve those stakeholders. Making everyone happy is an unattainable goal, but LightFair has proven to adapt quickly to the changing landscape of lighting, and that adaptable mindset continues to permeate throughout their actions.
Everyone’s got an Idea for LightFair
It seems fashionable for lighting people to offer their wisdom on how to make LightFair a better show. We heard dozens of such opinions this week. It seems impossible to please all stakeholders of a large and diverse event like LightFair, but show organizers have shown that they continue to listen to feedback, tweak features, overhaul others and add new features in order to offer its fragmented audience of lighting people many different fulfilling reasons to invest in attending North America’s largest lighting event.
When Macy’s and Nordstrom pull out of the local mall, the mall will eventually fail if it doesn’t pivot and adapt to the new reality. LightFair owners have demonstrated that they are listening to the industry and implementing change to make the event attractive and worthwhile for lighting people from all parts of the industry.
We are nostalgic and we are fans of LightFair, but trying to be as objective as possible, we are also believers in the event and the people behind it. We look forward to an even better LightFair 2025, wherever it may be.