For all the excitement, education and networking traditionally available at the annual AAPEX Show, shop owners, technicians and other service professionals have told show owners they want more.
Beginning with this fall’s annual AAPEX Show, scheduled for Nov. 3-5 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, they’ll be able to find more of what they need, all in one place.
According to Mark Bogdansky, VP of meetings and events for the Auto Care Association, and Liz Goad, director of meetings and events with AASA, the concerted effort by AAPEX show owners over the past several years to attract more shop owners, technicians and other front-line service professionals to AAPEX has been fruitful. “They’ve told us ‘We love everything you’re doing,’” said Bogdansky. “They really have asked us to figure out a way to put their things in one area.”
Bogdansky explains that, unlike many trade shows, AAPEX has not traditionally been segmented by product category or discipline. However, with the development of the new Repair Shop HQ and Joe’s Garage, the chance to put training and education, including hands-on experiences, and target vendor exhibitors in one location has been made a reality.
“It’s a matter of developing the destination in Las Vegas for them to get everything that they want for their businesses, for their shops, for their technicians, and for themselves. So, all the education they need, all the training is going to be there. All the hands-on experiences we’re now providing are going to be there, as well as all of the vendors and the people they’re going to want to buy from are going to be in this one location as well,” he said.
Bogdansky and Goad explain that certain sections – the Tool and Equipment section, Mobile Heating and Air Conditioning section, the Alternative Fuel and Diagnostic/Telematics sections and the new Tires section – made sense to become part of Repair Shop HQ, now located on the first floor of the Sands Convention and Expo Center.
“This is not a one year and done kind of thing,” he explained. “This is a permanent directional shift that we have made, and over the next few years I think we’re going to see all of the companies that weren’t really ready to make that first-year move decide to make that shift. But somewhere between half to two thirds of our tool and equipment companies have moved downstairs, and I think over the next few years we’ll see more exhibitors wanting to make the move.”
In order to accommodate the creation of Repair Shop HQ and Joe’s Garage, AAPEX will expand into the brand-new Caesar’s Forum Conference Center, located directly behind the Sands Expo.
“This is a huge, beautiful facility that we are able to utilize, allowing us to relocate the majority of our exhibitors from what had been our Level One World Marketplace,” explained Goad. “Having that capability has been fantastic. AAPEX has been looking for a way to expand for a while just because we’ve been so landlocked. I would say that our exhibitor participation has really made this possible. We had been so limited for space that we couldn’t allow for any expansion.”
The expansion has allowed AAPEX to increase aisle space on both levels as well, which will present a more open environment, particularly important during these turbulent times.
“I will say that with everything going on with COVID, it impacted us in being able to launch everything that we would have liked to this year,” explains Bogdansky. “We’ve been able to do a lot of things that we wanted to with Repair Shop HQ and I will say quite honestly that I think the momentum we were gaining we’ll see pick up again over the next couple of years.”
“It just wound up that way that we’re able to continue on with Repair Shop HQ and all of these great things for the service professionals, but some of the things we wanted to do this year just unfortunately are not going to be able to happen,” Bogdansky explained.
“The industry itself has increasingly placed a focus on supporting the needs of technicians throughout the years, especially with the advancement of vehicle technologies and the need to address all the changes that are coming down the line. AAPEX exhibitors have asked to see more service professionals at the show. And we’re working to help do that by educating the shops, bringing them essential equipment, training, knowledge, and really helping them prepare for the changes coming down the line with the advanced technologies,” said Goad. “We’ve said to everybody, Las Vegas and Industry Week is a great destination. Come out to AAPEX, spend as much time as you can and make sure you hit SEMA as well. SEMA is a fantastic show as well. Most of these shop owners are huge car enthusiasts, they want to be able to see all the cool stuff that SEMA has to offer. But we think that they’re going to get a lot of things at AAPEX that they’re not able to necessarily get anywhere else, and they learn that as soon as they get there.”
The first floor has been completely transformed into an area where service professionals can find everything they need to be successful – including diagnostic tools, repair equipment, hand tools, CRM tools, software, telematics, even uniforms and protective equipment, explained Goad.
In addition to a comprehensive exhibition hall, visitors to AAPEX can experience Joe’s Garage, a six-bay fully operational repair facility, located right on the show floor. “It will have lifts and cars running, to show how the products work in a real shop setting,” explained Bogdansky. “We have a ventilation system in operation so they can run the cars and not worry about the exhaust system implications, functional shop management systems in the front will show visitors how they connect to the back, different bays will showcase different equipment. That’s really what our niche is – how this translates into your business.”
The hands-on nature of Joe’s Garage will be augmented by an enhanced training experience within Repair Shop HQ in 2020. This year, the AAPEX Show team “crowd-sourced” the educational programs through shop owners and technicians.
“We sent out a call to the shop coaches and top trainers in the country, asking them submit recommended sessions. A panel of about 15 shop owners and technicians who went through each of about 120 sessions submitted, and then they developed the schedule of technical training and business management sessions that they thought would be best for the year’s conference,” Bogdansky said.
“The whole idea is that this a training schedule that was done by technicians and by shop owners for technicians and for shop owners. The advantage, quite honestly, is that, for many of these trainers and coaches, you’d have to pay a lot of money at several other conferences to go hear and see them, and we’re offering it for free. It’s included in the $40 AAPEX and SEMA registration fee,” explained Goad.
The complete training schedule is available at https://www.aapexshow.com/schedule-at-a-glance.