SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA (BRAIN) — Interbike is opening its door to the public next September, but just a crack. Organizers are testing the concept of a restricted consumer day where consumers would pay $50 in advance and register through local dealers before getting a badge as a retail VIP guest.
Show director Pat Hus likens the invitation-only program to Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. “In year one, we want to make it feel exclusive and for retailers to feel like they’re part of the process,” Hus said. “We don’t want to just fling the doors open. Hopefully, retailers will take advantage of this.”
Hus has discussed the program with dozens of suppliers and distributors including Quality Bicycle Products, SRAM, Shimano, Scott Sports, Park Tool and Santa Cruz, among others. He also approached retailers in key markets as well as Bikes Belong and the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Both endorse the program.
There’s still some concern within the industry, mostly among retailers, Hus said, who worry that consumers will see new products before they become available. And retailers also fear losing face time with suppliers.
Ken Martin, CEO of Mike’s Bikes, a Northern California retailer with 11 stores, said Interbike is where the industry gathers to do business and doesn’t see a benefit to retailers like him from such a change. “I’m completely opposed,” he said.
Others like Nelson Gutierrez of Strictly Bicycles, in Fort Lee, New Jersey, said there’s no real downside. Gutierrez would even pay the $50 fee for the right customer. “It would have to be a diehard consumer willing to fly out there and drop several hundred dollars on the trip. I don’t think it will hurt us, as long as exhibitors are not trying to sell product that doesn’t go through us,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea.”
Interbike isn’t adding a full consumer day. Instead, it will open the last day of the show, Friday, to paying consumers and extend the show’s hours to 6 p.m.
Interbike is the only international show that holds back public access. And Hus said it’s time to pull the trigger. Annual trade shows including Eurobike, Taipei Cycle and China Cycle draw thousands of consumers each year. The lakeside town of Friedrichshafen overflows at the end of August as cycling fans stream in by car, bus, ferry and train. This year, more than 20,000 people paid 14 euros ($17) each, battling traffic to see the latest products.
North American shows traditionally have restricted entry to trade visitors only. But that’s changing. Canada’s ExpoCycle added a consumer day for the first time in 2011. And more recently, Lifeboat Events said it would add a public day to DealerCamp next July in Utah.
Hus is cautious in taking the first step. Interbike isn’t adding a full consumer day. Instead, it will open the last day of the show, Friday, to paying consumers and extend the show’s hours to 6 p.m. Interbike will move retail seminars from Friday to Tuesday and open the show earlier Wednesday and Thursday for retailers and exhibitors.
Each retailer who registers for the show will get a certain number of VIP passes based on geographic region. Consumers must visit their local retailer, ask for a VIP pass, and pay $50 in advance. Retailers will need to register the consumer through an Interbike portal.
Interbike exhibitors also will get a limited number of guest passes based on the number of 10x10 booths they book .
Additionally, Interbike will allow in riders who register for the Viva Bike Vegas Gran Fondo that follows the show on Saturday. Packet pick-up for the Fondo will be at the Mandalay Bay and access will be given to those registered with a portion of their event fee going to Interbike. Hus is in talks with organizers of CrossVegas to give promotional passes to race attendees.
Hus estimates that as many as 5,000 to 7,000 consumers will likely gain entry. And Interbike will bolster security both at the doors and in the aisles to prevent theft and will forbid purchases to take place on the floor.
SRAM was among the suppliers that pressed Interbike to make the move. Global marketing director David Zimberoff said it’s been a long time coming and it’s the right thing to do. He has heard the same from other exhibitors. “Interbike, waiting so long, was almost a disservice to American consumers who’ve seen everything on the Internet and want to see and touch product,” he said.
Most of SRAM’s business meetings are handled on the first two indoor show days so the last day’s traffic is light and staff starts heading home. “I already have the bodies there. There’s no extra cost to us,” he said. “But hopefully it will bring a rush of new potential buyers into the market.”
More information: Interbike's press release.