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Outdoor Demo East Gets Mixed Reviews

Published October 11, 2009

PROVIDENCE, RI (BRAIN)—Late Sunday afternoon Nikita Dorcinvil, an independent rep for Marin, was stacking bikes in his trailer in hopes of leaving Rhode Island in time to catch the last ferry to Long Island, New York, where he lives.

Dorcinvil, like most exhibitors at Outdoor Demo East, was eager to pack up and leave after two days at a trade-only expo followed by a weekend at the center—literally—of the Providence Cyclo-Cross Festival.

So the question is: Was Outdoor Demo East worth the investment? After talking with at least a dozen exhibitors the answer is a qualified “yes.” No one said, “never again.” But it’s clear Interbike will need to re-examine the format if it wants to build a successful New England event, acknowledged Andy Tompkins, Interbike’s show director.

This is the first time Interbike has tied a trade expo to a consumer event, Tompkins pointed out. For a first-time effort, he was both pleased and relieved. Weather, always a concern in New England, was favorable, except for light rain Friday. And weekend weather was excellent.

While attendance numbers have yet to be finalized, Tompkins said some 2,500 people visited the expo and race the first three days. Approximately 225 retail stores registered, accounting for some 700 owners, managers and retail staff. “We had a lot of repeat stores from last year, and one couple came again from Michigan,” Tompkins said.

Still, exhibitors said cost versus attendance was high. Some, who said they would likely return next year, plan to reduce space and personnel costs. A 10-by-10 booth costs $1,000. Thule, for example, had a tent, a cargo trailer and a truck on site. The Seymour, Connecticut, company spent $4,200 for the space.

Part of Interbike’s problem are the fees it faced to secure the venue at Roger Williams Park—a 427-acre park and zoo with sufficient space to host retail seminars, an expo and the race. And Interbike won’t know its final tab until sometime next spring when park officials assess the cost of restoring grass torn up during the two-day race. (The cyclo-cross nationals were held there in 2005 and 2006.)

While most exhibitors appreciate the sport of cyclocross, as a major spectator draw—it didn’t happen. Racers got a free pass for one person with their $33 entry fee. Spectators had to pay $10 each to gain entry to the expo area. About 250 people paid the fee Saturday.

Dorcinvil, like others, questioned whether tying a race to a trade event made sense. “I’m really, really torn as to whether it was worth it,” said Dorcinvil. “I think charging spectators $10 apiece is a mistake. Providence isn’t exactly a hub of wealth."

Another issue that emerged was the difficulty consumers had in testing demo bikes. The racecourse, marked by ribbons of plastic tape meandering around a section of the park, completely encircled the expo area. Consumers had to find marked crossings to get to where they could ride. While crossing, they also had to keep an eye out for racers barreling around the course.

Joe Breeze, working at the Fuji booth, said it was “disappointing” that it was difficult for consumers to get out and test bikes. “It’s just difficult to get them out of here with the race going on,” Breeze said.

Roy Hough, Fuji’s national sales manager, said on Saturday only 18 consumers took test rides out of a fleet of 36 bikes. But he plans to return next year, he said.

Tim Jackson, brand manager for Masi, said he met with a lot of dealers the first trade day, held Thursday. Dealers were attracted to the event—at least in part—by a series of all-day seminars sponsored by the National Bicycle Dealers Association, Jackson said.

Last year the NBDA held two days of seminars, but had to cut back to one because The Casino, an historic building near the expo and race site, had been booked for another event. That cut into dealer attendance the second day, Jackson said. “You could hear the crickets chirping Friday,” he quipped.

But Chris Zigmont, president of Pedro’s, supports the event and said Interbike can learn from this year’s show. “This is what a trade show should be,” he said. “It should be held in comfortable place where you can talk at length with retailers.”

(PHOTO by CHIP SMITH): Joe Breeze talks with Providence, Rhode Island's, mayor, David Cicilline, at Saturday's cyclo-cross race. The mayor is a cyclist who supports improving the city's cycling infrastructure.

—Marc Sani

Topics associated with this article: Tradeshows and conferences

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