The Bicycle Leadership Conference right before Sea Otter welcomed a new companion event this year, the IBD Summit.
The brainchild of Interbike's Pat Hus and Sea Otter's Frank Yohannan, the gathering of about 50 top retail businesses more than made up for in quality what it lacked in quantity.
It also created a bit of a dilemma for suppliers, who were torn between learning about the latest trends at the BLC and hanging out with their best customers at the Summit.
BLC attendance went up a bit from last year, at 220, so no harm done. Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong set the Bi-Conference Hopping record, with eight trips back and forth.
Ironically, one of the most valuable messages to retailers was delivered at the BLC, we'll get to that in a bit.
The biggest barrier to retailer attendance at the IBD Summit, the mid-April dates, may end up being its strongest asset.
Large retailers without a lot of line responsibilities in their stores can go to any gathering at any time. And if you want to learn from the Big Guys and Gals, you'll figure out a way to get there with them in April.
A November or January event may be a stronger initial attendance draw, and if there were 200+ retailers there, would the Best and Brightest still want to attend?
Anyway, both events had really strong and well-received programs. And the joint Wednesday night dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium had everyone wondering how there could be more combined supplier-retailer sessions in the future.
The mood in Monterey was about as upbeat as it could be. Despite a few nay-sayers pointing out that industry sales have been flat for basically the last 30 years (a situation many industries would LOVE to suffer with):
The early spring sales bump, lack of a Congressional plug-pulling on bike funding, rising gas prices, increasing dedication to bike facilities in major U.S. cities, had (most) everyone smiling.
And once again, for the umpteenth year in a row, the most discussed topic at BLC was: How do we get that Casual, Non-Enthusiast rider (what the Portland study calls "Interested but Concerned") to feel more welcomed?
Robin Thurston from mapmyride.com (which, by the way, is seeing phenomenal growth, both in the number of riders and the information gathered) proposed three things EVERY retailer should do for EVERY bike shopper:
<li>Show them a safe route to ride locally that matches the type of bike they want</li>
<li>Sign them up for an event, whether it's a kid's bike rodeo or a century ride</li>
<li>Sign them up for a class or clinic that's appropriate to their level</li>
Thurston gets it. People come to bike shops because they want a quality riding experience. Not to hear a tech seminar. Tech talk both intimidates them and wastes their time.
So talk to the Beginner customer about what matters to THEM about bikes, not what matters to YOU!
And I hope to see you next year at either the BLC or the IBD Summit, April 16-18, 2013!
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