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Snowstorm stops in time for CABDA start

Published February 13, 2018
Two-day show starts Wednesday in new venue.

CHICAGO (BRAIN) — After nine straight days of a winter storm that delivered record snowfall in the Windy City and caused nearly 500 flight cancellations at Chicago O'Hare and Midway airports over the weekend, the weather took a turn for the better as the industry descended into Chicago for the start the Chicagoland Area Bicycle Dealers Association show.

CABDA show director Jim Kersten said the next couple of days look good for weather as he hastily walked up and down the aisles of the Rennaissance Convention Center in Schaumberg, Illinois, on Tuesday afternoon. He said some 2,450 retailers had pre-registered to attend the two-day, midweek show. He expected to draw staff from 500 to 600 stores.

Larry Black, owner of College Park Bicycle and Mt. Airy Bicycle in Maryland, said, "It's the only domestic show we attend due to venue, timing and size ... Flights are affordable from all over. It still feels a bit regional but that's no problem — we like the cozier feel. The show is sized right for those of us who don't medicate but are affected by anxiety due to over-stimulation whether inside or outside the hall. We've met quite a few regionally located suppliers with whom we have been staying in contact."

This year, CABDA moved to mid-February and to a new venue. After being held at the Pheasant Run Resort on the outskirts of Chicago for its first three years, the show relocated to the Renaissance, which is closer to the city and the airport, and directly off the highway.

The larger convention space is a welcome change. In addition to wider aisles, Kersten said the new hall will house two indoor demo areas. E-bikes have become one of the show's biggest areas of growth with about 15 companies exhibiting this year, up from three last year. More than 200 exhibitors were busy setting up booths Tuesday afternoon.

In addition, Kersten greatly expanded the education offerings at the show, partnering with the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association, which organized and scheduled the speakers, presentations and tech clinics. Forty-five sessions are planned over two days.

"They've tripled our seminar offerings," said Kersten about the PBMA. "One of the problems last year was that all the rooms I had were tiny and people were standing in doorways. Now we have banquet halls, and we'll be holding a lot more at the same time."

The list of speakers include longtime industry consultant Jay Townley, retail trainer Ray Keener (also BPSA executive director), veteran wheelbuilder Bill Mould and longtime service manager Brett Flemming, among others, who will cover a range of topics such as the future of bike shops, the business of fit, Amazon, wheelbuilding as a profit center, customer satisfaction training, challenges and opportunities in the bike market, online ratings and reviews, and more.

Brands including SRAM, Zipp, RockShox, Bosch, Shimano, Boyd Cycling, SR Suntour, Rotor, Stan's NoTubes and FSA will hold tech clinics on products, and the PBMA will provide an overview of its certification program.

Kersten said CABDA typically draws in shops from the Midwest. But he expects to see attendance grow from the Rust Belt. Over the past months he has promoted heavily with direct mail to 35 states and print and web advertising in Bicycle Retailer. And while the CABDA show has grown significantly every year, Kersten still runs it out of his home's living room, in addition to working retail and being a U.S. Army Reserve officer. His plate is full especially as the show begins to ramp up in the fall and winter.

Most exhibitors build simple pipe-and-drape booths, but several now bring the same booth they have at Interbike, including bigger and better displays.

Last year, CABDA introduced badges that could be scanned to provide some lead data to exhibitors. This year, the show is launching a phone app to help attendees navigate the floor and plan their visit.

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