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Industry leaders say AAPEX will forge ahead in the fall

AAPEX partners AASA and The Auto Care Association have ‘cautious optimism’ for the event as exhibitor registrations tick higher than last year

Editor’s note: During an Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) media briefing on Tuesday, Aftermarket Matters Weekly asked Paul McCarthy, AASA president and COO, if Industry Week in Las Vegas in November is still scheduled and what, if any, contingency plans are being considered in light of the coronavirus.

“AAPEX and SEMA are a definite ‘Go.’ The intention is to follow all safety, health and government procedures. The health of our attendees is a key priority,” McCarthy said.

“Nobody really knows what is going to happen over the summer, so we’re trying to buy some time for Industry Week and see how everything develops. We have hope. We need the aftermarket to return to its growth trajectory and AAPEX plays such an important role in driving that growth and making industry connections. AAPEX will revitalize, reinvigorate and re-energize our industry — at the end of the day, we are a relationship industry and we need that time together.

“A lot of companies’ expenditures, costs and deadlines to attend Industry Week and have booth space have been pushed back. We’ve heard some very creative and clever ways to reduce costs from our members and exhibitor committee. People are taking a cost-conscious approach this year and we’re doing everything we can to ‘de-risk’ investments in attending.”

Chris Gardner, AASA senior vice president of operations, added that many AAPEX exhibitors are modifying expenses in order to meet new budget constraints.

During an AAPEX Exhibitor Town Hall, also on Tuesday, Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of The Auto Care Association, which is partners with AASA for AAPEX, joined McCarthy in discussing this year’s Industry Week forecast.

“It’s a very fluid situation,” Hanvey said, when asked if AAPEX is still scheduled, will be modified, or take place on a different date and location. “We’re monitoring both state and federal mandates, and unless we hear otherwise, we’re moving forward with AAPEX and AWDA [Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association] Conference.

“If we do have to cancel due to a government mandate, then we’ll provide a 50-percent exhibitor refund and the remaining 50 percent will go toward AAPEX 2021.”

McCarthy added that Las Vegas doesn’t have alternative dates for AAPEX due to its size and scope, if the event were to be delayed. “Our partners in Industry Week — SEMA — are very positive about holding their show and are committed to having it.

“We certainly understand attendee concerns as they relate to the coronavirus. We’re in the heart of stay-at-home orders and in the trough of sales, but we don’t know where we’ll be in the fall. Health and safety are our primary concern.”

Hanvey noted that exhibitor numbers so far for AAPEX 2020 is slightly ahead of last year’s, though the cancellation deadline has been extended to Sept. 1. “We know that some people are indecisive right now, but we expect those numbers to hold and we’re seeing the same optimism from buyers.”

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