Industry faces off with RSNA over increased cost of exhibitor space

June 19, 1996

Charges for aisle space raise ire of vendorsThere is a line that, when crossed, spurs the compliant but dissatisfiedto action. The Radiological Society of North America may havecrossed that line. The Chicago-based association has bumped up the

Charges for aisle space raise ire of vendors

There is a line that, when crossed, spurs the compliant but dissatisfiedto action. The Radiological Society of North America may havecrossed that line.

The Chicago-based association has bumped up the charges forvendors to exhibit at its annual meeting in December. The increasesinclude 5% for exhibit space; 16% for headquarters suite space;and 17% for drayage, the fees paid to union workers to transportequipment from the back door of McCormick Place to the booth location.

But what has especially upset some exhibitors is the RSNA'sdecision to begin charging $11.50 per square foot for aisles --not technically part of an exhibitor's booth -- that divide anexhibitor's display.

Other issues have angered vendors in the past, leading someto talk privately about pulling back on exhibit space purchasedat the meeting. But few have ever followed through, due to fearsof angering the society that puts on the world's premier showcasefor medical imaging equipment. Indeed, many industry executivesdeclined to speak on the record about the charges. The recentincreases may change the industry's complaisance, however, accordingto one industry source.

"This may push some people over the edge," the sourcesaid.

The first sign of the vendor community's disenchantment wasa letter written by Picker International president Cary Nolan.Nolan has lodged a protest with the RSNA and has encouraged colleaguesat about 30 other radiology vendors -- those occupying the mostexhibit space at the convention -- to send similar protests tothe society.

At least several have done so, either following Nolan's leador acting on their own initiative. They have requested that theassociation freeze charges at 1995 levels and repudiate the aislecharge.

"We're going on the record with the RSNA that we are againstthis (increase)," said John Ariatti, vice president of marketingat Toshiba America Medical Systems in Tustin, CA. "We'd likethem to reconsider it."

Industry representatives are questioning the need for increasesat a time when the industry has suffered years of slumping revenuesand declining profits. While recognizing that the associationhas increased its services to exhibitors over the years, Ariattiquestions the timing and size of this latest fee hike.

"You look at what's happening in the industry economicallyand you see all of us looking to be more efficient and to useour dollars more wisely. Then you see these increases that totalas much as 17%," Ariatti said. "An increase of thatsize is not the right thing."

According to Michael O'Connell, director of meetings and conventionservices for the RSNA, the issue will be addressed by the society'sboard of directors at a meeting scheduled for June 20, and atexhibitor meetings June 24 and 25. O'Connell deferred commenton the increases until the board has had a chance to completeits discussions.

In the past, attendance by vendors at these exhibitor meetingshas been sparse, but this year's is expected to be different.

"We think it will be relatively heavily attended,"said Thomas Colucci, communications director at film and PACSvendor Agfa of Ridgefield Park, NJ.

Colucci is hoping that the RSNA will change its position regardingthe additional charges.

"I am looking for at least some form of good-faith gesture,"he said.

If no such gesture appears, the industry may take action. Fewvendors are willing to abandon the RSNA meeting, but they neednot have booths as large as they have had in the past.

"We have a budget, so we will reduce our booth space accordingto that budget," Colucci said.

Staying within budget is one of today's harsh realities, Ariattisaid.

"You cut back on the space, reconfigure the booth (tocut out aisle charges), or cut out other activities," hesaid. "Those are all the options that you've got to lookat."