After two delays, a successful industry-wide virtual event and several months of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Roofing Expo (IRE) 2021 is set to open doors at 11 a.m. today and welcome roofing contractors and other industry stakeholders — in-person — to a very familiar place that may not look all that familiar.
North America’s largest roofing show returns to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, but some scenery and practices will certainly be different. One change attendees will notice right away is the absence of any registration lines. Faced with lengthy registration processes at both expos in Dallas and Nashville — and a renewed commitment to sustainability — show planners did away with paper badges and introduced a fully-digital process that’s been tested with other conventions.
Eliminating lines addressed a pain point and also limited the amount of time attendees congregate together. It’s also why the show is skipping a keynote address and implementing spacing requirements on the show floor and in educational sessions. Don’t think you’re missing out on anything, however, as the IRE will showcase hundreds of brands displaying their latest products, services and technologies in the roofing space. And there are nearly four dozen educational sessions presented by some of the leading minds in the business.
Careful planning and consideration for health and safety concerns were top of mind for organizers when it came to spacing on the show floor, as well as some of the IRE’s signature social events. Starting off, this year’s welcome party will be outdoors at the Daylight Beach at Mandalay Bay from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 10. It’s poolside, so swimsuits will be allowed.
“We think it’s going to be a ton of fun to be outdoors in a whole new environment,” said Shelby Snelson, IRE show manager with Informa Markets. “We’ll just make the most of being together in the heat.”
While ensuring safety was the top priority for pulling off a successful IRE, not far behind was solidifying business opportunities. The past year presented so many challenges for roofing contractors and the companies that supply them that people are eager to get back in front of others and continue to build on relationships that seem even more important now.
“We're planning to be there with a big booth and we're looking forward to get out there and talk with our contractors and display in our next generation of products,” said Dave Feitl, vice president Global Roofing, Huntsman Building Solutions. “There's a lot of things that have been going on behind the scenes that we're really looking forward to rolling out to our contractors and contractors of the future.”
Some appeared somewhat nostalgic about returning to Las Vegas as the entire roofing industry for the first time since 2017. That year roofing was booming. The strength of the economy was based on historically-low unemployment, modest interest rates and improving consumer confidence in many sectors, including roofing. Timely storms like hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria also had a major impact on the roofing industry. But even before the first shingles buckled under hurricane winds, or hail impact caused any leaks, there was a lot of industrywide momentum that started at the 2017 IRE in Las Vegas.
At the time, the more than 11,200 attendees at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center set a show record — soon eclipsed by Nashville in 2019 (14,325), then shattered by Dallas in 2020 (17,060).
There may be several factors why Las Vegas won’t draw a record crowd as the show returns Aug. 10-12 at the Mandalay Bay. But those roofing pros that will be there — perhaps for the first time since that IRE — are likely to notice something new.
On the Floor
The show floor itself will be busy, and relatively close in size to Dallas in 2020. One change will be the education centers that typically held closed-door environments and filled up fast in recent shows. While attendees can expect free educational sessions and some demos, proper spacing and safety protocols will be enforced to reduce congregating crowds. Organizers are also asking exhibitors to limit transferable swag and show-floor takeaways, or eliminate them entirely this year.
There are two other noticeably different items this year than in past IREs: First, there will be no aisle carpeting between exhibitors, in an effort to reduce waste. Second, attendees looking to diversify their roofing business can experience the new Windows & Siding Pavilion, which was added this year to traditional featured spots like Metal Marketplace and Business & Technology Pavilion.
Among the highest-trafficked spots on the floor is the Product Showcase Pavilion, where some of the best products and services the industry has to offer will be all in one convenient location. Like last IRE, attendees can cast a ballot and vote for the Best New Product in both residential and commercial sectors, and the Best in Show from the same categories. Winners will be announced on the final day of the show.