By  on November 21, 2007

SYDNEY — Currently enjoying its 16th year of uninterrupted economic growth, Australia's economy is going gangbusters. And the business sector is feeling jittery.

To try to cool the growth, earlier this month the Reserve Bank raised interest rates for the 10th time since 2001 — with more on the horizon. Adding to that are a drought, which continues to push up food prices, and concerns about the potential for a change in government after this weekend's federal election, following 11 years under the John Howard administration.

The jobless rate is at its lowest in three decades, and though Australia might simultaneously be experiencing its highest birth rate in more than thirty years, that's little comfort for what is rapidly emerging as a critical labor shortage.

"We've got all these shows we want to do and we can't find the staff," said Marie Kinsella, managing director of Melbourne-based Australian Exhibitions and Conferences.

Over the past three years AEC has spun off successful components of its Fashion Exposed juggernaut into a series of smaller satellite shows.

The company is not launching any new fashion shows this year, but for the first half of 2008 will both tweak its offerings and value-add to the Fashion Exposed experience by making the show the anchor event of an entire fashion festival called Fashion State, which will comprise up to nine different events in venues across Sydney, from business seminars to exhibitions.

The new Leather Bags and Accessories Fair, launched in February 2006, is being extricated from the two-year-old Australian Shoe Fair and attached to Fashion Exposed, which will run from March 9 to 11 at the Sydney Convention Centre, and to which more than 10,000 attendees are expected, a 10 percent increase from March 2006. At almost 54,000 square feet, the March LBA will nevertheless be double the size of the inaugural LBA show in February 2006.

The Australian Shoe Fair, which runs from Feb. 15 to 17 at the Sydney Convention Centre, will be the same size as February 2006, nearly 81,000 square feet, with roughly the same exhibitor (150) and attendance (3,000) numbers anticipated.

At 242,000 square feet, Fashion Exposed and its high-end Preview component won't be any bigger than in March 2006. Of the approximately 500 exhibitors that are expected, AEC has cut middle- to lower-end exhibitor numbers by 50 percent to maintain the quality of the event.

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