BLOOMINGTON, MN (BRAIN)—The focus quickly shifted from bikes to weather at Frostbike this past weekend as a harsh winter storm wreaked havoc on the roadways and canceled air travel in and out of Minnesota.
Exhibitors and retailers attending QBP’s annual open house at its Bloomington headquarters began scrambling for a way home on Saturday afternoon as soon as airlines started canceling flights. By Sunday afternoon with more than six inches of snow on the ground whipped into whiteout conditions by a fierce wind, it became evident anyone still at the show wasn’t going far.
Adam Williams, general manager of Golden Bike Shop in Golden, Colorado, banded together with a group of a half-dozen Front Range retailers to rent a van for the drive home after Frontier Airlines told them they wouldn’t be rebooked until Saturday.
The group planned to brave the roads for the 16-hour (in good weather) drive to Colorado first thing this morning.
Despite the wintry conditions, Williams said he didn’t expect a white-knuckle drive the whole way home.
“Two hours east of here it’s not as big of a deal. We checked the weather and it’s not too bad,” Williams said while waiting for a shuttle back to the hotel in QBP’s lobby.
QBP responded to the chaos by putting up some stranded retailers for additional nights in the local hotel and opening its annual vendor dinner Sunday night to anyone left behind.
Even though the weather likely kept local retailers away on Sunday, QBP reported an at-capacity show with 909 dealers from 320 shops and 114 brands attending.
Retailers praised the business seminars offered at the event, which covered a wide range of topics including social media, advocacy and succession plans for selling a shop, as well as the networking opportunity provided by Frostbike’s relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s great for meeting and talking to other bike shop owners about what they’re doing right and wrong,” said David Luppino, owner of Lithia, Florida’s, Just Ride Bicycles. “We want to talk about finding a way to communicate more than two or three times a year like setting up a forum to communicate with each other. It’s a great way to learn from each other.”
Exhibitors were mostly pleased with traffic at the expo portion of the event, although some said they think the growing itinerary of seminars and other ancillary events for dealers has taken away some emphasis away from the expo.
Still, most agree the investment to be at Frostbike is well worth the one on one time with QBP’s top dealers.
Sigma’s James Keller said it costs his company less than $2,000 to exhibit at Frostbike, including travel and lodging for employees, versus about $65,000 for a mainstream tradeshow like Interbike.
“We see more dealers at Interbike, but we get more bang for the buck here,” Keller said.
This year, QBP used Frostbike as a venue to announce plans for a third warehouse to allow for faster delivery to the east coast. Q East is slated to open in May 2012, likely near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said Steve Flagg, QBP’s founder as he spoke to retailers and vendors at dinner on Friday night.
“That’s located one day away from 40 percent of the population so it’s hard to walk away from that one,” Flagg said. With the third warehouse, QBP has also scheduled a third open house for Oct. 1 in the new location. Its second open house and demo will debut at Q West, QBP's new Ogden, Utah, facility this summer.
For photos from the weekend event, click on the link to BRAIN’s Facebook page.