MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN)—Amidst the eventual sunny skies and swirling winds, many vendors echoed the same sentiments when asked about how they were faring during this down economy as the Sea Otter Classic opened yesterday.
"Of course, flat is the new up," said Brett Hahn, North American brand manager for Continental Tires. "We had an all time record for the brand in North America for 2008. We’re pacing right along with that. I feel like the accessory market is a little more insulated than the rest. It’s not a big ticket buy, and tires are consumable. They might not be buying new $10,000 bikes, but they’re certainly going to freshen up the tires.”
Light & Motion salesperson Andreas Mikulus agreed with Hahn's analogy.
“We do most of our business two quarters ago with daylight savings," Mikulus said. "We’re still forecasting some new growth.”
SRAM road and PR manager Michael Zellmann said SRAM, like many bike companies, is taking a more conservative approach to spending in 2009, prioritizing accordingly.
"Sea Otter’s the same meaningful event. Did everybody need to come here that came here last year? Maybe not. Maybe there’s 10 percent of staff that isn’t here, but it’s all about being efficient and being a little bit lean, but we’re not shortchanging the consumer that comes to this event," Zellmann said.
Foot traffic is traditionally a bit slow on Thursday, but many vendors said the first day crowds seemed bigger than last year and they looked forward to the numbers increasing over the weekend.
"It's not raining, the wind isn't too bad. Relative to the last three years of Sea Otter, it's fantastic, " said Matt VanEnkevort, managing director of FSA.
Sea Otter president and chief executive officer Frank Yohannan thought the first day went well, and said he was proud of the way his staff and contractors managed to get everything in shape after winds earlier in the week gusted to 50 miles per hour, wreaking havoc on hospatility and vendor tents.
"I also heard the criterium race went very smooth with good rider feedback," Yohannan said.
"I was encouraged by Thursday's turnout, and with the amount of same day sign ups," Yohannan added.
Click on link to see BRAIN blog coverage of this year's Sea Otter Classic.
—Jason Norman and Nicole Formosa