BY DOUG MCCLELLAN
TAICHUNG, Taiwan—To understand why the Taichung “mini-shows” keep growing every year, consider Masi brand manager Tim Jackson.
Jackson and two colleagues made their first trip to the Taichung shows in early December for a simple reason: they were under pressure to finish all of Masi’s 2010 spec by Dec. 15.
“That’s the earliest we’ve ever delivered spec,” Jackson said. For Masi, which is owned by Haro, the deadline was six weeks earlier than last year’s.
Scores of product managers made the trek to Taichung last month to check out product from some 67 suppliers, who set up no-frills displays in conference rooms and hotel suites.
As the spec’ing process gets earlier and earlier, the early December mini-shows are taking on more importance. The big Taipei Cycle show, which continues to take place in March, is much too late for OEM brands to think about spec’ing product.
“Three to five years ago, you did go to Taipei and make your final choices,” Jackson said. Now, he said, “I use Taipei to show my finished lines to our distributors.”
What has been a disorganized affiliation of brands and independent suppliers now may get a little love from the city of Taichung. The city hopes to capitalize on the event by offering to hire an organizer and providing other financial and logistical help to the mini-shows, which are becoming known collectively as Taichung Bike Week.
Taichung Mayor Jason Hu sponsored a dinner for some 120 Bike Week participants where he gave his enthusiastic support for the event.
“The fact that you’re already here is amazing, because nobody organized you,” Anna Wang, director of the city’s industrial development committee, told Bike Week participants who met to discuss the event’s future.
Wang said the city’s goal is to have one place where exhibitors and participants can register. The city also can help put together discounted air and hotel packages, and provide shuttle service between the airport and high speed rail stations and hotels.
Wang said the city would consider keeping Bike Week events at four Taichung hotels: the Tempus (formerly the Landis), which has been the traditional home of the mini-shows; the Evergreen; the Splendor and the One. All but the One are within a five-minute walk of one another.
The next Taichung Bike Week has been scheduled for Dec. 5-13, 2009.
Supporting the mini-shows is a natural for Taichung, which has a population of more than 1 million and sits at the hub of Taiwan’s bicycle industry.
Working behind the scenes have been Steve Fenton, the Taichung-based founder of Pro-Lite; and Katarina Rejchrtova, president of WTB Europe.
Fenton said he has been frustrated by the haphazard nature of the mini-shows. Groups of companies have organized under different banners, while others come by themselves, rent a room or a suite and put out a sign in the lobby.
“It’s been very fragmented,” Fenton said. “It can’t continue like that. It’s in danger of self-destructing.”
WTB was one of the first companies to start a mini-show in Taichung and created the Taichung Bike Week name. Rejchrtova said WTB gave the name to Taichung so that it could be used for a city-sponsored event.
“If all of us can agree to join forces to create one informal OEM show, let’s do it,” Rejchrtova said.
While some organization is welcome, participants said the last thing they want is another trade show.
“I’ve been at the Landis for four years. It’s cheap, it’s efficient, and it’s casual,” said Morgan Nicol of Oval Concepts. “Part of that efficiency is being able to move from your room to the display room. You can have breakfast meetings and lunch meetings.
“It couldn’t be more efficient than it is, except for maybe knowing who’s here and who’s where,” Nicol added.
Matt VanEnkevort, managing director of FSA, agreed.
“We don’t want to see it turn into a typical trade show format, because we’ve got some of those,” he said.
Taichung is considering hiring Mike Johnston as Bike Week organizer. Johnston organizes Ride On Taiwan, which takes place during the mini-shows, and an annual Ride On event in Europe.
Johnston said he has discussed working with former Interbike director Lance Camisasca on Taichung Bike Week. Camisasca said he is interested but has had only preliminary discussions.
Another question is whether Taipei Cycle will perceive Taichung Bike Week as a threat to its long established show. Taichung officials downplayed any sense of competition with Taipei.
“It’s not about creating another Taipei show,” Johnston said. “If Taipei were to move into January, it’s still too late for these guys to finalize their spec.”