BY Marc Sani
TAIPEI, Taiwan—Many U.S. and European accessory brands have long had a presence in Asian markets. But those same brands are now enjoying a fundamental shift in sales as newly affluent Asian consumers clamor for quality brand names.
That shift in consumption directly benefits the Taipei Cycle Show. And its importance in the Asian market is now on par with that of Eurobike in Europe. The show, like Eurobike, has become a center for international business and here are few reasons why:
• As a premier manufacturer of bicycles and accessories, Taiwan makes many of the products bearing U.S. and European brand names that Asian distributors want to see.
• Taiwan’s location near China, South Korea and Japan, as well as other developing Asian-Pacific nations, makes it relatively convenient for visitors to reach by air.
• Distributors can easily visit factories in Taichung, Tainan and other cities before, during or after the show via its high-speed train.
• With the Taipei subway system now complete, visitors can stay at dozens of hotels throughout the city and easily get to the Nangang Exhibition Hall.
As a result, Asian-Pacific nations like Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and others are changing the show’s complexion.
John Nedeau, SRAM’s vice president of OEM sales, said the show has grown in importance for Asian markets. “The Taipei show fulfills a real need and it remains a very important show on the calendar,” he said.
SRAM hosted 31 customers from countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and others the day before the show opened to walk them through its 2012 line. “We did it at the Agora Gardens (in Taipei). Last year we took some to our factory in Taichung, but it was just easier this year to do it in Taipei,” he said.
Another major Taiwanese manufacturer, Tien Hsin Industries, maker of FSA-branded components, took a dozen or so international visitors to visit its Taichung factory during the show.
As Asia’s fast-emerging economies—bolstered by a more affluent middle class, rediscovers cycling as a recreational activity—it offers companies like Finish Line and others an opportunity to expand sales.
Dan Rowe, Finish Line’s international sales director, said the Asian-Pacific market is on a spending spree. “I definitely think, by and large, that it’s growing and it has been for us for several years,” he said.
And for brands like Finish Line, the Taipei show is as important as Eurobike in reaching international markets, finding new distributors, and renewing customer contacts. Rowe also met with his newest distributor, Shaban Poor General, a trading company with offices in Dubai. “If we can sell oil to the most oil rich region in the world, then we must be doing something right,” he said.
“Without a doubt the show is another opportunity for us to see all our international distributors. And it’s the same quality as Eurobike, but on a much more relaxed scale—Eurobike can be just plain craziness,” Rowe quipped. Finish Line is a consumable product and developing demand for it bodes well for the future, Rowe added.
Roger Olson, Park Tool’s international sales manager, agrees. “The Taipei Show gives us an opportunity to support our Taiwan distributor, Colmax International. It also allows us to meet with other international distributors, some of whom we don’t see at other shows,” he said.
This year the Taipei show attracted a record number of Chinese distributors and retailers. The Chinese now comprise the single largest contingent of foreign attendees, up 36.7 percent over last year. Their interest reflects the growing influence and buying power of China’s new middle class.
While the Taipei show remains an important venue for U.S. and European visitors, of the top five countries sending attendees to Taiwan, three were Asian—China (including Hong Kong), Japan and Korea. Rounding out the top five were the U.S. and Germany.
TAITRA, the show’s organizers, said this year’s event set new records with a 6 percent increase in exhibitors with 948 companies representing 36 nations filling 3,060 booths. The show also recorded a 10.5 percent increase in international visitors with 5,701 walking the aisles.
Despite the increase, attendance from Japan and Germany fell 20 percent as the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northern shore cast a shadow over the show, said Andrea Wu, a TAITRA spokeswoman.
“It’s surprising that visitors from the Asia-Pacific area not only increased this year, but they were focusing on higher-end products and were very interested in French-made products, which is very different from the past,” said Chiang Hailum, representing UBI France. Hailum organizes the French Pavilion, now in its second year at the show.
Mike “Wick” Wickland, KORE’s sales and promotions director, echoed her view. “It’s countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and others that are now riding bikes for recreation. This show is evidence that riding bikes (in Asia) is now more about recreation than it is about transportation,” he said.
Wick, as he prefers to be called, said KORE’s future growth as well as that of other U.S. and European brands will come from Asian-Pacific Rim nations. “That’s where we will see our numbers increase,” he said.
Stella Yu, founder and owner of Velo, said she met with a number of visitors from China, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. “One company from Indonesia (a retailer) brought 38 people to the show,” said Yu, whose company manufactures saddles for many of the industry’s premier brands. “A lot of them are just looking right now,” she added.
Still, for Taiwan manufacturers, the U.S. and Europe remain its key export markets with only Japan ranked in the top 10. And as Taiwan maintains its position as the global leader in high-value manufacturing and assembly, Taipei Cycle’s mid-March show is a significant event on the trade show calendar.