As wholesalers, manufacturers and reps gather this month in San Antonio for the ASA show, we can catch up on what we've done and where we've been since the last time many of us saw one another - at the Kitchen and Bath Show last spring in Orlando.

The ASA show will provide some value. A few new products will be introduced and wholesalers will get a chance to meet with their vendors. But having multiple plumbing shows continues to be an inefficient use of time and resources. We've long advocated a consolidated show as one obvious way to squeeze costs out of the distribution channel.

You would think that since this is an "off" year for the ASA show, exhibitors at least would be spared the expense of the more elaborate displays they roll out for the biennial NEX event. While that's true, the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute contends that the cost of booth space is not nearly the largest expense for exhibitors. The bills for plane tickets, hotel rooms, meals and other refreshments all take their toll.

These are the same costs, of course, that wholesalers have to pay to attend a show, even during off years. Just going to a trade show is expensive, which is why the wholesalers who do attend often leave their purchasing agents and branch managers at home.

PMI recently convened a Trade Show Consolidation Committee, which could be a signal that manufacturers are getting tougher on the issue. As we have pointed out previously, manufacturers hold the strongest hand in forcing show consolidation because they foot the bills. Only when more of them sit out a few shows will event sponsors get serious about combining their efforts.

An apparent pothole on the road to combining the Kitchen and Bath Show with NEX is the role of industrial piping companies. Kitchen-and-bath dealers don't want chunky pipe, valves and fittings amongst their high-end faucets, lavs and accessories. And some industrial piping distributors and vendors are equally vehement about not wishing to attend a decorative plumbing show.

This is an obstacle that can be overcome. We just have to look at the familiar role model of Germany's ISH show, where huge boiler exhibits co-exist - in separate pavilions - with decorative plumbing booths. Enough common ground can be found between the plumbing and piping people to make one show work here.

Incoming ASA President Harold Williams says he hopes that the goal of a consolidated trade show can be achieved during his term of office. We too believe that this can be accomplished, but it will require man- ufacturers to use more muscle to lean on show sponsors.