The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which opened on Thursday in Las Vegas, is expected to draw fewer visitors as the shadow of economic recession was hanging over the industry.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which is hosting the CES, predicted about 130,000 attendees at this year's show, based on the number of people who have registered for the event. Last year, 142,000 people came to the show.
Some 2,700 exhibitors will tout their latest innovations at the four-day show, down from 3,000 last year. "The show is not going to be our largest one. It will be our third-largest in history, with 1.7 million net square feet," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CEA.
"Last year was 1.8 million. We are down 6 or 7 percent in terms of the size of the exhibit area," he added.
A number of major companies have cut back their presence at the show, the largest one in the United States and the world as well.
The Internet search giant Yahoo Inc., which hosted a large tent last year, will not even have a booth this time. Instead, Yahoo officials will hold press conferences and give speeches at the event.
Seagate Technology LLC, a leading manufacturer of hard drives, and Belkin International Inc., producer of cables and electronic accessories, have made similar moves, according to the U.S. media.
Zink Imaging Inc. of Bedford won't have a booth at the show, either. Instead, chief marketing officer Scott Wicker said, company officials will meet with business partners in a private hotel suite.
"It's a very affordable way for us to talk to a variety of partners in a single setting," said Wicker.
"I'm talking to the companies who are sending people, and they're sending two instead of 10," said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. "It's going to be a shadow of itself."
"We have strong pre-registrations. But I can't imagine we are going to hit last year's 142,000 people," said Shapiro, adding that "the number of personnel that exhibitors are sending is down significantly."
Hit by the financial crisis, U.S. sales of electronics and appliances fell almost 27 percent from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, according to SpendingPulse, a division of MasterCard Advisors, though appliances probably saw a greater decline than electronics.
The whole consumer electronics industry is projected to generate 171 billion dollars in U.S. shipment revenues in 2009, a decrease of 0.6 percent over 2008, according to the semi-annual industry forecast released by the CEA on Thursday.
But the CES continues to attract new companies. Shapiro said about 300 new exhibitors will appear this year.
"It's still an important industry event," said Colin Angle, chief executive of iRobot Corp. of Bedford, maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.
"I think that the ones who feel they can afford to show up, be aggressive, and generate a buzz are the ones who are going to be selling products next year," he said.
Angle's words were echoed by Shapiro. "Our view of the word is that frankly the recession is a fundamental part of the business circle," he said.
"The CE industry is certainly down but we are down by an insignificant amount compared to any other industry," he noted, adding that the industry "is the one that is going to get the economy through this recession."