Post Con

‘Sleeper Surprise’ Redux for Mattress Show

ISPA (International Sleep Products Association) EXPO 2012, March 14–17 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. ISPA serves the mattress-manufacturing industry, and its biennial expo exists to introduce buyers to new machinery, components, and services used in producing mattresses.


In the run-up to this year’s expo, ISPA Senior Vice President Catherine Lyons told Convene that attendance and exhibitor numbers at the trade show have fluctuated over the past decade, due to a volatile real-estate market, regulatory changes, and consolidation in the mattress industry. (Read our Pre Con profile at But this year, expo was on the upswing, with a show floor that was 11 percent larger than in Charlotte in 2010, with 17-percent growth in exhibitors. Attendance was up, too, albeit not as dramatically, with 3,200 attendees this year, compared to 3,100 in Charlotte. Lyons said: “That’s pretty equivalent to what we’ve had the past couple of shows.”

That said, expo also experienced a 7-percent growth in its buyer base – as opposed to other categories of attendee, including other suppliers, retailers, and tangential industries – which means that average attendee quality was better. “The last couple of shows, people were looking and coming, but not making buying decisions,” Lyons said. “But now at this point they are looking at machinery and components to upgrade their product lines.”

Lyons also attributes some of expo’s success to its location, because Indianapolis is easy to reach by car for a large number of people. ISPA first went to Indianapolis in 2004 – when the city was somewhat of a “sleeper surprise” to attendees and exhibitors. “Nobody had really been there in 2004,” Lyons said. “We all realized it was a pretty easy city to get around, pretty walkable – so there was a little bit of excitement in returning to that.”


Two new attendance-boosting efforts debuted this year. For one of them, ISPA worked with a company called Exhibitor Invites, which allows exhibitors to submit their own customer lists and send show invites to them. Seventeen percent of expo exhibitors took advantage of the new program – and Lyons thinks that even those that didn’t were prompted by their awareness of it to take a more active role in promoting their participation in the show. “For the first time out,” Lyons said, “I was very pleased with it.” ISPA will be repeating the Exhibitor Invites program in 2014.

The second new initiative was advertising in global industry publications, in an effort to increase international attendance. About 25 percent of ISPA attendance typically hails from overseas, and this year it was up 3 percent, to 28 percent. ISPA also held a “global summit” at the show with other similar trade associations, including the European Bedding Industries’ Association (EBIA), the UK-based National Bed Federation, and a Chinese furniture association. “We were able to get those groups together to talk about how we can work together,” Lyons said, “and how we can grow the mattress industry globally.”

2010 Charlotte

  • 3,100 Attendees
  •  167 Exhibitors

2012 Indianapolis

  • 3,200 Attendees
  • 195 Exhibitors

For more information:

Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.

Hunter R. Slaton

Contributing Editor Hunter R. Slaton is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn.