CES attendance falls off a cliff in 2009

In today’s press release announcing he audited attendance figures from the January 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Association tried to put a brave face on the numbers. But the reality is that they were truly terrible. Will 2010 be any better?

In today’s press release announcing audited attendance figures from the January 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Consumer Electronics Association tried to put a brave face on the numbers. But the reality is that they were truly terrible. Attendance at this year’s CES was down almost 20%, to a level lower than any year since 2002. CES officially overtook Comdex as the preferred technology tradeshow in 2003, with Comdex throwing in the towel in 2004. Attendance climbed steadily until 2006, fell slightly in 2007 and 2008, and plunged this year.

See for yourself:

Official attendance at the 2002 CES, which took place only four months after 9/11, was 99,438. Will the 2010 show drop back to those numbers or lower? In this economy, it’s hard to imagine any significant growth.

Two things will work in favor of CES next year: The Macworld Expo, which had overlapped with CES in recent years, is moving to February in 2010. Also, Windows 7 will be officially released before the end of 2009, and a new crop of PCs and peripherals taking advantage of the Windows 7 feature set should be available to show off at CES.

I skipped CES in 2009 but plan to attend next year’s show, primarily to see what I hope will be a large crop of new Windows 7-ready toys. Anyone else planning to be there?

Source data: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.

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