Late last year, I attended two industry trade shows within a span of three weeks - the International Tile & Stone Show (ITSS) in Las Vegas, NV, and StonExpo in Atlanta, GA. And while I appreciate the face-to-face meetings with members of the stone industry, I have to admit that I wondered how many faces I would actually see at these events - particularly with the holidays rapidly approaching. To my pleasant surprise, both of these shows fared quite admirably.

The first stop of my “Holiday Season Trade Show Tour” was in Las Vegas for ITSS. This show debuted in 2002 and was welcomed by many on the West Coast, but attendance was less than spectacular at that time. Even so, organizers and exhibitors remained undaunted, as they keenly pointed out that you cannot judge a trade show after its first edition. They had high expectations for the 2003 edition.

As it turns out, the optimists were correct. The 2003 version of ITSS was well attended, and there was brisk activity on the show floor throughout much of the event. Exhibitors hailed the quality of attendance, and many proudly told me that they wrote a solid amount of business on the show floor.

Upon my brief return to the office between ITSS and StonExpo, I wondered how the success of the Las Vegas show would affect the Atlanta show. Would a successful ITSS showing take away from StonExpo's potential visitors? Would we now see a quiet show in Atlanta?

This question was answered for me on the very first day of StonExpo. The show floor was as busy as ever, and organizers of the event report that the show received its highest level of attendee and exhibitor participation ever. Again, exhibitors were pleased with the quality of attendance on the show floor, and companies saw their participation at StonExpo translate into actual sales. Educational opportunities were also abound, with high-quality seminars and programs in collaboration with the Marble Institute of America.

So what does all of this mean? One theory is that growth in the American stone industry - particularly among fabricators - has been so solid over the past few years that there is room for multiple stone-related trade shows in the U.S. To be certain, the demand for knowledge and information among stone professionals in the U.S. market is at an all-time high. New stone fabricators are being established every day, and they are eager to expand their understanding of the industry. These shows also effectively serve well-established fabricators, as they are sources of new technology, methods and stone materials in the marketplace.

And while we have all heard the grumblings that there are “too many trade shows out there,” there is also something to be gained from each of these shows. I am not saying that every member of the industry needs to attend every trade show, but participation at these events helps the industry continue to grow.