BY NICOLE FORMOSA
TAIPEI, Taiwan—The Taipei Cycle Show remains a key venue as its international business grows, as companies wrap up final spec on 2011, and as manufacturers get feedback on next year’s aftermarket products.
Exhibitors who packed the Nangang Exhibition Hall for four days said they were pleased with the show and touted its continued importance for international customers.
“In general, the Taiwan show is more international and more successful,” said Erik Kimble, general manager of Colmax International, a Taiwan distributor of high-value brands such as Campagnolo, Selle Italia, Finish Line and others.
“This year we had 15 international brands come to us, asking us to carry their brands. That’s never happened before,” he said.
Portland Design Works, a new exhibitor and relatively new company that’s just over a year old, was at the show to find new international distributors for its aftermarket line of commuter accessories, said co-founder Erik Olson.
The company has U.S. distributors and partners in Japan and Australia. Olson has his eye on the UK next. “We’ve had good interest from all sorts of places,” he said.
Despite his small, 10x10-size booth tucked in a far corner of the fourth-floor hall, Olson said the show was well worth the time and expense. “Next year I think we’ll up it to a 10x20 just because the prices are so reasonable,” he said.
With 894 exhibitors in 3,018 booths, Taipei Cycle was the largest in more than 30 years. International visits were up 7.6 percent to 4,930 visitors drawing the largest crowds from Japan, Korea, the U.S., China, Hong Kong and Germany, said Moses Yen, executive director of TAITRA’s exhibition department.
Show-goers were generally optimistic about the year, although the industry contends with inventory issues, rising freight and labor costs and unfavorable exchange rates, particularly for Japanese manufacturers.
“Currency is killing us right now,” said Panaracer’s Jeff Zell, noting the company has taken a 35 percent hit over the last 18 months because of the weak dollar against the yen.
The exchange rate is a far bigger problem than rising raw material costs for Panaracer, which manufactures all its tires in Japan. The company raised its prices before the economy started to sink. Fortunately consumers have accepted the price increases since its larger competitors raised prices to make up for a drop in OE business last year, Zell said.
Regarding inventory, the consensus is that most brands have worked through the inventory backlog that plagued 2009 and that 2010 will be a short model year due to a pullback in production. The push will be to release 2011 bikes earlier to make up for a lack of available 2010 models.
Advanced Sports Inc., parent company of Fuji, Kestrel, SE and Breezer, introduced select 2011 models at Taipei when it would typically wait until August or September, said Steve Parke, global sales manager.
“2010 is a clean-up year,” he said, noting that this summer could be the first time dealers have had four model years on the floor at once, due to old 2008 and 2009 stock, as well as limited 2010 and 2011 bikes.
Rob Aguero, international sales manager for BH and Pivot Cycles, said his brands are poised to take advantage of potential product shortfalls from its larger competitors. Both brands grew in the high double digits in 2009, and company president Chris Cocalis prioritized investments in R&D and marketing.
“We feel when other people are trying to be close to the chest we want to keep pushing to make sure we have something in the market,” Aguero said. Taipei Cycle is a good opportunity to tie up loose ends such as finalizing paint colors, and meeting face-to-face with international distributors, he added.
Exhibitors always discuss the relevance of Taipei Cycle’s dates since the show falls after many product managers have wrapped up spec decisions for the following year. But TAITRA’s Yen said the show would continue in March at least for next year. In 2011, Taipei Cycle will be March 16-19.
Another issue is one of space. The show moved from the convention center downtown to Nangang three years ago, but it’s already at capacity with a waiting list of about 200 companies.
Initially TAITRA had discussed using the old convention center next door to the Hyatt in 2011 to accommodate more exhibitors, but Yen canceled that plan because no major companies were willing to move to anchor the expansion. “If we can convince some big houses [to move] it might be a possibility, but at the moment it’s not very likely,” Yen said.
TAITRA managed to squeeze 200 more exhibitors in by assigning booth space on the lightly trafficked 5th and 6th floors of the hall. To drive visitors upstairs, TAITRA served 4,000 free meals and asked diners to check out the off-the-beaten-track booths.
Long-term plans are to construct phase two of Nangang across the street from the existing facility, Yen said. Demolition has begun to clear the site for construction later this year. The second building will add space for 2,350 booths when completed at the end of 2012. A second mass transit rail line connecting downtown Taipei to Nangang should be completed by 2012.