Larger events such as the International Builders’ Show have gone virtual, but some smaller, local events are moving forward with in-person shows using enhanced safety precautions. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI) Milwaukee chapter will host its 30th annual NARI Home & Remodeling Show at the Wisconsin Products Pavilion at Wisconsin State Fair Park from October 16 to 18.
"By hosting a safe and accessible show, we’re helping reopen the economy and support the area's small businesses,” says Diane Welhouse, CKBR, executive director of NARI Milwaukee, which has over 700 members. “Nearly 80% of our members are small businesses with fewer than 10 employees so the annual show is important to them.”
Masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer in indoor facility
The show generally draws over 100 exhibitors, but the exhibition center it usually occupies is currently an alternative health facility. To stay on the fairgrounds, NARI moved to the Wisconsin Products Pavilion, and Welhouse says they have to accommodate less people this year, around 70 exhibitors. Consumer-education presentations and demonstrations will be scaled back to make space for members.
“We weighed all of our options and looked into taking it virtual. For us, one of the things that we firmly believe is that this is a great way to bring homeowners and contractors together on neutral terms,” Welhouse says. “Especially in this environment, instead of bringing a contractor to your home who you’ve never met, you actually get to meet these individuals in person, start a conversation, and have an intelligent opportunity to decide on who you want to bring into your home.” Welhouse says that by attending the show, homeowners can limit the number of contractors they let in their house by deciding on one at the show.
Safety procedures include mandatory masks, hand sanitizer, one-way aisles, and socially distanced space markers. The pavilion will only be at 25% capacity, and every attendee will be given a notice of waiver stating that by purchasing a ticket the attendee understands, and takes responsibity, for any personal risk. Staff will use clickers to keep track of the number of attendees on the floor. Masks will be required except for individuals with certain medical conditions.
“Running a show isn’t the issue here,” Welhouse says. “Running a show that’s going to be safe for everyone and a good experience was the new challenge this year, and we feel very confident that we can do that.”
A focus on exterior remodeling aligns with trending sectors during pandemic
Though the show will include content from design-build remodelers, its focus is on exterior upgrades such as window, roofing, siding, and doors, which is perfect for featuring the breakout star of 2020: exterior upgrades and outdoor living spaces. Welhouse doesn’t have official numbers, but she says that local remodelers and contractors have experienced an extremely strong season thus far based on feedback from NARI Milwaukee members who are booking projects well into 2021.
“This year’s peak has been outdoor areas,” Welhouse says. “Those have spiked tremendously in the past few months because families are using their homes as staycations so the exterior has really been booming: pools, spas, saunas, and decking have been really big.” Though aesthetics remain a large factor in the projects, function is the main driving force now to accommodate the new reality of working and living mostly from home.
For those who do not wish to attend the show in-person, NARI Milwaukee will host virtual Facebook Live events so people can attend online and interact with exhibitors. In a way, Welhouse says that these Facebook Lives will help alleviate the loss of some of the staged educational components due to the space constraints. One exhibition that she says they are sure to cover is a decking area because that is such a hot product right now.
NARI Milwaukee plans to host its Spring Home Show in-person as well, in accordance with local and state guidelines at the time.