WASHINGTON -- Food Marketing Institute here is scheduled to hold a series of meetings this month with major exhibitors that will include representatives of a trade-show management firm that is under consideration to run or acquire FMI's spring convention in Chicago, trade sources told SN.
FMI could not be reached for comment last week, and representatives from the management firm, dmg world media, declined comment when contacted by SN.
San Francisco-based dmg world media is an exhibition and publishing company that produces more than 300 trade and consumer shows around the world and produces 45 related publications.
FMI said in May it was considering partnering with an outside investor to run the Chicago show because of dwindling attendance and the struggle to sell exhibit space. "Our primary mission isn't running trade shows," Karen Brown, senior vice president at FMI, told SN at the time.
She said a partner might be able to add capital resources FMI lacks and identify new ways to develop the show.
Observers said a growing number of trade groups have turned to outsourcing for all or part of their operations, given the expertise of third parties to control costs based on their experience running other trade shows.
The observers told SN in May they believe FMI's annual convention is profitable, though they said volume from attendees and exhibitors has been waning in recent years. FMI has attempted to resolve those issues by combining its convention with other trade shows, including -- at May's event -- United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, the Organic Trade Association, the National Association of Specialty Food Trade and the U.S. Export Product Showcase.
FMI set up the meetings throughout August with approximately 15 manufacturers, industry sources told SN last week. Present at each meeting will be executives of dmg, or possibly third parties representing its interests, along with one of three FMI executives: either Tim Hammonds, FMI president and chief executive officer; Michael Sansolo, senior vice president; or Brian Tully, senior vice president.
The meetings are reportedly part of dmg's due diligence before deciding whether to involve itself with FMI's annual show. The meetings were apparently requested by dmg as a final step in the negotiation process.
Trade observers told SN last week the meetings could also serve as a forum for FMI to reassure exhibitors that a show run by a third party would not alter the nature of the show floor. Some exhibitors told SN in May that they might need to rethink their commitment to the show if a third party was involved.
According to one observer, "FMI obviously has to get reactions from exhibitors, some of whom have expressed reservations about sharing show revenues with a third party because they believe money from the show goes to support FMI's programs and services."
FMI also has to let exhibitors know how its actions will affect other trade associations that have shared the show floor with FMI's convention for the last few years. "Among the questions that must be answered is how will any change in show management affect them, and whether they will be able to run their own shows if a financial partner joins FMI," the observer said.
Founded in 1989, dmg world media is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daily Mail & General Trust, a media company based in London. For the year that ended in September, dmg reported sales of $298.5 million and net income of $57.7 million.
The company relocated its base of operations from London to Larkspur, Calif., a San Francisco suburb, earlier this year. It also maintains offices in the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, France, China, Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.