While doing a bit of “summer cleaning” at the office, I
unearthed the September 1988 issue of the APAA Report, featuring the
20th Annual APAA Show. Hmmmm. Twenty-three years later, I wondered
what had changed with “show biz.” The answer is “a lot” and “only a little.”
That anniversary APAA show
boasted “over 1,000” exhibitors. This year’s AAPEX show
has 1,825 so far. Those exhibitors met buyers in the aisles of
Chicago’s McCormick Place. Today we have Vegas, baby! Then, there were special
sections featuring products for performance, vans, light trucks, retails
support services and international products. Today, international exhibitors
are a huge percentage of AAPEX. The buyer target then was chains, jobbers and warehouse
distributors. Ditto now. Legendary coach Pat Riley spoke at the opening
breakfast, today AAIA will feature legendary stock picker Mario Gabelli.
In 1988, “The Temptations” rocked the industry-wide dinner. Today, many, many
attendees don’t take the time for dinner.
Then, the biggest symposium topic
was mergers and acquisitions. Ditto. APAA was offering members special
prices on fax equipment and fax paper (remember those weird cactus on the back
of that paper and the very dark color the paper turned if left on an in-house
heating unit?). The unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. Industrial production
was way up. New car sales were blazing hot.
Then, the Coalition for Auto
Repair Choice (CARC) parked its locked hood car in the thick of APAA Show
traffic. Stationed next to the car was a “special delivery” mailbox for
aftermarket messages to Congress. And, as attendees left McCormick Place, they
were reminded that the 41st Annual Pacific Automotive Show was only five months
away, in February, in Reno. Whew.