The B2B Trade Show Market Looks Like It’ll Need At Least Another 5 Years to Reach Pre-Pandemic Levels

July 22, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

B2B | Cross-Media & Traditional | Industries | Magazines | Trade Shows & Events

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the B2B trade show market, with the segment’s value plummeting from $15.55 billion in 2019 to just $3.855 billion in 2020. And while things have quickly turned around in the past year or so, a new forecast from PwC (subscription required) indicates that even by 2026, the market won’t have reached its pre-pandemic levels.

In its analysis of the US B2B market, PwC examined the following areas: Business Information; Trade Shows; Professional Books; and Trade Magazines.

Although PwC predicts that this year the B2B trade show market will grow by 54.7% over last year, climbing from roughly $6.6 billion to almost $10.2 billion, that still sets it well below the $15.55 billion recorded in 2019.

And despite a 17.64% 2021-2026 compound annual growth rate (CAGR) projection that would make it easily the fastest-growing segment of the broader B2B market, the trade show segment’s forecast value in 2026 of $14.844 billion will continue to trail the 2019 figure (and by a small amount, the 2018 total, also).

Business Information Market to Continue Expansion

The B2B information segment was not nearly as affected by the pandemic as the trade show segment, with just a 5.7% decline between 2019 and 2020. With its rebound last year (to account for almost 76% of overall US B2B market revenue), the segment almost returned to its pre-pandemic level, and is set to exceed it by almost 8.7% this year, as it reaches $66.16 billion in value. The business information market is expected to keep growing throughout the forecast period, ending at almost $72.2 billion in 2026. PwC notes that “although demand for business information has proven resilient through lockdowns, providers have had to adapt as customer bases and information-gathering methods have undergone significant shifts.”

Trade Magazine Ad Market At A Virtual Standstill

The US trade magazine advertising market had been on the decline prior to the pandemic, and the arrival of the virus simply precipitated a more sizable drop. Since then the ad market has recovered somewhat, with an 11.7% year-over-year increase last year and a forecast 6.8% rise this year. There is some further growth predicted for next year, but after that it will be almost at a standstill, as PwC forecasts the trade magazine advertising market to be at $3.670 billion in 2023, $3.671 billion in 2024, $3.673 billion in 2025, and $3.674 billion in 2026.

There are diverging trends here, as trade magazine digital advertising will grow by a CAGR of 4.6% during the 2021-2026 period, an increase just enough to offset the projected 3.21% decrease in the print advertising market.

The same trends are apparent when looking at trade magazine circulation, though in this case the gains in the digital side of things are more than enough to offset the losses in the print circulation market, leading to an overall CAGR of 4.31%.

The Overall US B2B Market Returns to Growth

Overall, the US B2B market suffered an 18.8% drop between 2019 and 2020. While that was significant, it was obviously not at the extreme level seen by its trade show segment, allowing it to recover to pre-pandemic levels a lot faster, with this year’s forecast value of $89.415 billion almost matching the 2019 total ($89.823 billion). With a predicted CAGR of almost 5% (4.99%, to be specific) between 2021 and 2026, this segment is expected to exceed $100 billion for the first time in 2026 ($100.365 billion).

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