It’s still four months short of a year, but an email I received last week from the PGA Merchandise Show made it seem as if coronavirus has come full circle.
It was coming home from last year’s show in Orlando that I first started to see evidence of the soon–to–be pandemic, with surgical masks on at least half the people in the arrivals area at Pearson International in Toronto.
What a strange sight that was, but I remembered hearing bits and pieces about coronavirus before leaving for the show a week earlier.
Even at that point in the airport, I was more surprised than alarmed by the masks, but in the following days, there was more on the news about coronavirus, enough to make it the subject of a GNN Poll, which asked if readers thought it might affect their businesses in 2020.
A couple of readers accused me of painting an end–of–world scenario, even though it was just a question. Well, we all know what’s happened since then.
On that lengthy list of cancellations/postponements are the RBC Canadian Open, the CP Women’s Open, the Open Championship across the ocean, Canadian buying shows, PGA of Canada national events and the PGA Fashion and Demo Experience that was to be held in Las Vegas in mid–August.
PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions cancelled that last one in May, about three months before it was to be held in Vegas, but continues to hold out hope for the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando in January, just over four months from now,.
As we began to realize what this pandemic meant to society, I wasn’t the only one who had been at the 2020 show who contemplated how easily coronavirus could have spread in the massive Orange County Convention Center, or Demo Day or hotels, restaurants etc., especially with no emphasis on social distancing, hand sanitizing or any other precaution at the time.
That won’t be the case at the 2021 show, if it’s held or if it’s scaled down. If you go by the three months before show dates that organizers announced that the Vegas show would be a no–go, a similar announcement for the Orlando show would come next month.
However, the show has announced new protocols for this year’s event, which is still being planned as a modified, in–person event, with a significant integrated virtual component.
Planned enhancements include health and wellness measures such as enhanced cleaning and sanitation, medical screening and PPE, physical distancing and density measures
Demo Day will be expanded with additional outdoor options for all product types, extended hours and capacity controls to promote distancing,
Also, each of the show’s aisles will be one–way and wider. Booth layouts will be revised and turn–key exhibit options are available. There will also be caps on how many people can be in a booth, but show organizers say a focus will be placed on limiting exhibitor expense and personnel needs, while maximizing brand exposure and buyer connections.
A virtual platform is available for brands/products, featuring tools for new lead generation and analytics and the capability for exhibitors to host product education sessions and schedule buyer/media appointments.
Show organizers say they will change to an all–virtual event if developments warrant, which appears at this point to be the most likely case. The only “development” that would prevent a virtual event is the introduction of a proven vaccine followed by widespread distribution.
In four months?
The last I looked at the Florida coronavirus numbers last week, they showed 633,060 residents who had tested positive, with 7,151 non–residents for a total of 640,211 cases. On that day, there were 3,259 new cases in the state. The United States, at that point,was averaging about 40,000 new cases per day,
There’s no doubt that show organizers will do everything possible to make it a safe environment, but there are plenty of Canadians – I suspect Americans too – who are hesitant about going to Florida in January and, in particular, the Orange County Convention Center.
Besides, as it stands, the border remains closed to all but essential travel. That is set to expire on Sept. 21, but will likely continue to be extended as long as coronavirus persists and medical officials here are increasingly concerned with a second wave on the horizon that could lead to another potential lockdown.
At this point, what is usually a one week trip down south would be a three week odyssey, considering a 14–day quarantine is mandatory coming home. Even if a company decides to exhibit in Orlando, chances are there will be few, if any Canadians reps, in the booths.
The odds against the PGA Merchandise Show being an in–person affair are stacking against it in the current environment and a final call will come soon. I suspect it will be the virtual option.
It’s tough to admit for me, as I’m sure it is for everybody who has been a regular in Orlando. Personally, the show has been an annual trek for over a third of my life and having just turned 65 years old, the 2021 show could be one of my last, whenever retirement may come, but even if that is the case, I’d be tempted to be in Orlando just out of interest.
Sure, business got done, but it’s fun and filled with memories, even with people no longer with us such as Dan Halldorson, Dawn Coe–Jones and Byron Nelson, to name a few.
It also offered me the chance after the show to head over to Tampa to see a buddy of mine for a couple of days and fly home from there.
Last year, I arrived home to find people wearing masks, something that has become an all–too–familiar sight in this pandemic that has led to so many cancellations, postponements and changes, including the PGA Merchandise Show as we know it.
There’s a big part of me that hopes I’m wrong.