LAS VEGAS, NV (BRAIN)—Coming into Interbike, Thule’s Peter Pell didn’t know what to expect. But in the midst of tough times, he certainly didn’t expect this.
“It’s the busiest show that Thule has had in five or six years,” Pell said Thursday. “Yesterday was nuts. And I haven’t had that ‘nuts’ feeling at OR [Outdoor Retailer] or anywhere else for a long time.”
“Summer OR was pretty snoozy compared to the activity that we’ve seen here,” Pell added.
Up and down the clogged aisles, other industry veterans sounded a similar theme.
“I think it’s one of the busiest shows I’ve ever attended,” said Gene Smith of Kool-Stop, who has seen more than a few Interbikes. “I haven’t heard any negatives.”
Park Tool’s Erik Hawkins said, “I don’t remember us being as busy as we were yesterday.”
Interbike officials also were surprised—and relieved—by the turnout.
Before the doors opened, Show Director Andy Tompkins said he had anticipated attendance to drop by about 5 percent. But following a solid Outdoor Demo, where attendance eked out an increase over last year’s event, the first day of the floor show saw a 3 percent increase in the number of buyers to 9,200.
Day One is typically the show’s busiest day, but Tompkins said he now expects Interbike attendance to at worst be at least level with last year when the numbers are all counted.
“All indications are that we’ll be at the same level as where we were last year and possibly up,” he said. That would make Interbike a standout among trade shows in the sporting goods industry.
More gratifying was the boost in the number of retail stores, Tompkins said. That number rose nearly 10 percent, to 3,593 shops on Day One.
The strong show was welcome at bag maker Timbuk2, which returned to Interbike after an absence of several years.
“I don’t know if we’ve turned a corner, but I think overall the vibe is good, the energy level’s high, the people who are coming by the booth are excited. Everybody’s like ‘buzz, buzz, buzz,’” said Patty Lenz, Timbuk2’s national accounts manager.
Response to Timbuk2’s new line of bicycle panniers was so strong that Lenz said the company is planning to begin production two months earlier than planned so the line will be in stores in time for the winter holiday season, instead of early January.
Chuck Hooper of Seattle Bike Supply said he worried before the show whether the absence of big names like Giant and Trek would depress buyer numbers.
“I went into this with a little bit of an upset stomach, thinking it was going to be a bowling alley show, but it hasn’t been that way for us,” Hooper said.