A bash for 2,000 people at Chicago's Hotel Nikko has been the traditional event hosted by Toshiba America Medical Systems at the Radiological Society of North America's trade show.
This year, the company instead fed pheasant to 10 customers and their guests at a private dinner with Toshiba executives. The change saved Toshiba thousands of dollars and achieved its end-bonding with customers-much better than the giant party, said Ravi Sharma, vice president of marketing at the Tustin, Calif.-based firm.
"Extravagance is not part of the equation anymore," said Mr. Sharma. "There used to be a time when if you weren't extravagant, you weren't a player. That has changed."
Such conservatism reflects the need of radiology equipment companies to control costs and to show price-sensitive customers that they're doing so.
Several companies bought less space for their exhibits and brought fewer salespeople to the RSNA meeting last week in Chicago. The trade show is one of the nation's largest, with more than 600 exhibitors. It drew about 54,000 people, a 2% increase over 1993 attendance.
Sluggish sales are behind vendors' frugal ways. Sales of all imaging equipment slowed significantly last year when federal healthcare reform legisla-tion appeared imminent. Today, hospitals still are buying radiology equipment more cautiously as they continue to grapple with the growth of managed care and other cost pressures.
"I'd be surprised if we don't have another year or two of softness," said Donald Southard, vice president of sales and marketing at Hackensack, N.J.-based Elscint. "(Computed tomography) and mammography are the only markets we see as growing."
Unit sales of computed tomography equipment might grow by 5% next year because of a recent technological advance, called helical or spiral scanning, Mr. Southard said. Unit sales of mammography equipment will grow more rapidly-perhaps by 20%-because of new federal quality standards, he said.
Nevertheless, Elscint cut its RSNA budget by about $1 million, or 25%, this year. Included among its cost-control measures: cheap flights, shorter hotel stays and a $20-per-day limit on expense accounts for food.
Elscint's spending on RSNA likely will shrink further in 1995 to suit the mood of the market, Mr. Southard said. Administrators and physicians are growing more sophisticated about their costs and more concerned about patients'. "Three doctors asked me, `What is the life-cycle cost of this thing?'*" Mr. Southard said.
Toshiba, meanwhile, expected additional savings of as much as $150,000 on the show because it cut its booth size by about 12% and brought fewer people and less equipment.
Other imaging giants, such as Cleveland-based Picker International, also said they spent less this year.