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Participation 'Dropping Daily'

Samsung, Sony, Others Confirm CEDIA Expo Pullout as Exodus Widens

With just two weeks before education and certification classes are due to begin at CEDIA Expo 2021, with exhibits to follow Sept. 1-3, Samsung and Sony cemented their withdrawal from the show Monday. "The health and safety of our employees and the public is our top priority," emailed Samsung Monday. "Due to the recent rise of infection rates, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting in-person at this year’s CEDIA Expo." The company will connect with industry partners directly in coming weeks to share its latest products and programs for the channel, it said.

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Due to "unprecedented and unexpected circumstances," Sony won't participate in person at this year’s CEDIA event, emailed Jeff Goldstein, head of sales-Sony CI channel. The decision encompasses the company's participation on the show floor and all Sony-sponsored events planned in conjunction with the show, he said.

"As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and businesses adopt digital alternatives and online opportunities to prevent the spread of the virus, Sony Electronics will continue to communicate with our customers and partners in ways that allow us to safely deliver exciting product news and updates to a wider audience and our broader Sony community," Goldstein said. It will broadcast a “Sony CEDIA Live!” event from its San Diego headquarters, with invitations to go out this week, he said.

Legrand also joined the ranks of exhibitors bowing out of the custom electronics channel’s main event in Indianapolis. “Given the recent reports on the spread of the Delta variant, it’s with great disappointment that we are announcing Legrand AV will no longer be attending the show,” Legrand President Steve Durkee and Vice President Amy Hahne emailed dealers Monday.

AudioQuest followed Monday afternoon, telling dealers it had been looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues in person at CEDIA 2021, but “the rising tide of positive cases has necessitated a re-evaluation of the risks vs. benefits of a major trade show.” The health and safety of employees, dealers, industry partners, friends, and families “must always come first,” said Isaac Markowitz, ambassador. “We’re looking forward to staying connected in safe and productive ways -- whether via Zoom, over the phone, or at smaller targeted events,” he said.

Other exhibitors to publicly withdraw from the show over the past week started with Savant and included Snap One, Sonos and Sound United. Legrand’s brands include Chief, Da-Lite, Luxul, Middle Atlantic Products, Nuvo, On-Q, QMotion, Sanus and Vantage. The executives told dealers to “be on the lookout” in coming weeks for updates on the latest company news and product introductions.

Reports swirled about other prominent brands. A survey sent to dealers last week by Rick Huggins, western district manager for ProSource, cited Sony, Savant, Sound United, LG, Samsung, Harman and Snap One as companies no longer exhibiting at CEDIA 2021. LG didn’t respond to questions on Monday; Sony dealers told us they had received calls last week that the company isn't going to Expo.

ProSource CEO David Workman told us Monday that Nortek pulled out of CEDIA, too, along with its extended list of brands including Elan, SpeakerCraft, Furman, Panamax, Niles and Proficient, though a Nortek spokesperson told us the company hadn’t communicated that and is still “evaluating.” ProSource is officially out of CEDIA Expo, along with Expert Warehouse, Workman said.

Blustream, RTI and Just Add Power also withdrew from the show, a spokesperson told us. Another large vendor was “very close to pulling,” a source told us, but “they hope CEDIA does the right thing here.”

About 15% of Azione Unlimited dealers will attend CEDIA Expo, and that number is “dropping daily,” President Richard Glikes told us Monday. “The domino effect has put a pall over the event," said Glikes, envisioning "hollow halls of zombie booths." Azione scheduled a cocktail party for its dealer and vendor members but will decide Tuesday whether to cancel it, he said.

Various sources told us they hope show owner Emerald “does the right thing” and cancels Expo. Vendors reportedly have until Thursday when second payments are due to pull the plug on the show. Emerald didn’t respond to questions Monday.

Audio Video Systems, Plainview, New York, had planned to take five people to Expo, Chief Marketing Officer Franklin Karp told us, but the departure of big and small vendors and the rise of the delta variant in Indiana make not going “the only logical safe choice,” Karp said, though the decision hasn’t been formalized. The Indy Star reported Monday that more than 1,400 positive COVID-19 tests for students were reported to the Indiana State Department of Health last week, four times as many as the previous week’s dashboard update.

Canceling the show could bring relief to some vendors who have been hammered by dealers recently over product shortfalls due to supply chain issues, Karp noted. As much as vendors were excited to go and wanted to see their customers, they're likely relieved, too, he said: “If I’m a vendor, as much as I want to see my customers, I’m not looking forward to answering the same question hundreds of times,” he said: “The new stuff looks nice, but when will I have the stuff you owe me?”

David Young, president of The Sound Room, Chesterfield, Missouri, planned to take 10 employees to CEDIA, starting with the education and certification classes that begin Aug. 31, he told us. “Now, I’m kinda on the fence seeing what others are doing,” he said. If Emerald cancels the show, he said, “then everybody gets their money back. If they don’t, then everybody loses out. I don’t know how they’re going to treat the dealers that all paid $500 per employee for classes.” Young will be able to get a refund for the house rental, and travel expenses are minimal with an easy drive from St. Louis, he said.

Young sends his technicians to CEDIA Expo for classes, while he meets with vendors. “If my vendors aren’t there, for me, it’s going to be a really short show,” he said. He also cited uncertainty and anxiety about COVID-19, plus misinformation about vaccines, saying the chances of attendance at Expo are now "50-50. It’s evolving daily,” as more cancellations come in. If none of The Sound Room’s key vendors attend, and since Sony canceled a dinner for Diamond dealers, there’s little reason for Young to go, he said. “It’s going to be a different kind of show, if it happens.”

David Wexler, sales manager at EOC Audio, Lisle, Illinois, was “90-10” going to CEDIA Expo before last week, he told us Monday. Now, there’s a 60% chance he will go, making the 2.5-hour drive for a day and skipping dinners. He will make a final decision next week based on “the overall health of the state and where the virus is at.” He will also monitor which other vendors pull out. “With Sony not there, Snap not there and Savant not there … who’s next?”

Wexler’s “gut instinct" is to not go, he said. "That’s in my head, but I also don’t want to overreact and miss an opportunity,” said the dealer. He attended the ProSource summer meeting in San Antonio this month and met with most of his vendors there, so CEDIA Expo “is less necessary to me.” For the companies he does business with that weren’t at ProSource, “there’s still something to be accomplished, if enough people are going to be there.”

Lewis Audio Video, Newberg, Oregon, wasn’t planning to attend the CEDIA Expo this year even before the recent vendor exodus, owner Dennis Lewis told us Monday. Like other dealers who have benefited from stay-at-home trends during the pandemic, “We are so slammed," he said. "We can’t pull away from what we’re doing; there’s too much going on. It’s hard to pull people away from the tasks that are important to our business.”

Emerald’s latest health and safety requirements say attendees who aren't fully vaccinated must wear a face mask at all times, while fully vaccinated attendees are encouraged but not required to wear masks. Masks will be provided at the registration counter if needed.