There were many questions awaiting the industry as we all arrived at Interbike last week. Would the new hall and hotels be an improvement? Would Consumer Day resemble a plague of locusts? Would any of this matter if we get an early Spring in 2014?
If you’re pressed for time reading a few hundred post-show e-mails, the answers are yes, no and no. If you cleared your desktop over the weekend, keep reading.
New hall and hotels: If you, like many industry women, got a kick out of a bunch of men wandering around, asking each other for directions, you LOVED Interbike 2013. The confusion level finding our way from the hotels and around the hall was epic.
I thought I had it figured out by mid-day Thursday. Until I couldn’t find an exit, and I found myself scurrying along the walls, like a rat looking for an opening. Others described the same experience.
So I was a bit surprised to read the BRAIN Show Daily Friday morning, where six retailers all agreed that they liked the new hall and hotels better than the Sands, the Venetian and the Treasure Island!
So it seems that it was the Old Hands like myself, used to almost 20 years of shows at The Sands, who were the only ones thrown off by new surroundings.
Tyler Meyers from Electra, a fellow dazed-and-confused guy, had a great insight at dinner Thursday night: “I think it’s GOOD for the industry to have a shake-up like this. It gets us all out of our complacency and our comfort zones.”
My thought: It helps us empathize with our non-enthusiast consumers, who fell that same sense of “lost and disoriented,” if not “fear and loathing,” walking into their local bike shop.
Speaking of consumers: The show opened its doors to the public for the first time Friday at 11 AM. In a very controlled way this first time, by invitation of an attending retailer.
While I’ve always thought the industry was pretty evenly divided about consumer traffic at Interbike, it was hard to find an exhibitor on Wednesday or Thursday who wasn’t either neutral or in dread.
They’ll steal us blind. They’ll scare off our paying retailer customers. They’ll wear us down even further after five days of set-up, show, and Demo. None of these fears materialized.
Show director Pat Hus estimated that 1,000 consumers would attend. The yellow badges made them conspicuous, but with a hall used to 25,000 industry folks, it seemed more like a trickle than a flood.
I hope Interbike decides to expand the program next year, given the benign premiere. With the caveat that I’m not paying for booth space, so my opinion doesn’t count for much.
But hey, it’s my column, so I’ll close with three quotes in support of the consumer concept.
Skip Swain, Norco: “Wait. I don’t wanna talk to my best potential customers, who are totally stoked to be here, because I’m TIRED?”
Eric Hawkins, Park Tool: “My trade show booth is beautiful, my whole staff is here, I’m never gonna look any better to a consumer than I do at Interbike.”
Mercedes Ross, Merchandizing Werx: “Not only should retailers not go home, they should stay and watch consumers like a hawk! What attracts them, what do they pick up and play with? It’s the best research ever!”