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Gregg Bagni: The industry's dysfunctional family function

Published September 26, 2012
John Burke gave the keynote address at Interbike. Photo: Lynette Carpiet

Admittedly, all you have to do is hang out with the dark side of my family tree and you’ll realize they truly put the “funk” in dysfunctional. With that said, my late flight arrival only allowed me to hear the last half hour of John Burke's speech at the first ever industry breakfast. But it only took a few minutes before I started to experience a weird case of dysfunctional family déjà vu.

It’s cool that Interbike now has an industry breakfast similar to what Outdoor Retailer has been doing successfully for many years. It's a great vibe and hats off to Interbike and Bikes Belong.  By the time I arrived the room was full and the doors were closed so I snuck in the back. It only took a few minutes to feel like a whacked relative was lecturing me.

Sure, the message was correct but it felt like it was being directly delivered to me from an insane family member who doesn’t practice what he preaches. You know what I’m talking about?  Imagine my Uncle Lenny—who makes Patrick O’Grady’s “Old Guy Who Get Fat In The Winter” look svelte—laying into me about losing weight. Was this Burke speaking or my Aunt Mable holding two drinks and telling me I drink too much?

Trek and the other missing companies, with their size and stature, could find plenty of fluff in their budgets for a 20 x 20 booth

He professed an honorable theme—participation, unity and that the industry needs to get its shit together. But frankly, the speech would have been more convincing if delivered by the National Rifle Association’s CEO Wayne LaPierre. (He’s not a family member but comparably insane.)

So here’s the supreme leader of the industry telling me to get more involved, while his company, employees and products aren’t within 100 miles of the show floor. Not to pick on Trek’s John Burke, but equally off target is Schwinn, Cannondale, GT, Mongoose, Giant and a few others.

Many years ago I did what my corporate mothership required and got involved in the doomed Bicycle Industry Organization (BIO) trade show. BIO wasn’t a trade show; it was a junk show and deservedly went away.

The lesson I learned was there could only be one show and everyone has to attend for the unity, momentum and industry love we all crave. So call me hypercritical or hypocritical, but I’ve lived this one first hand and seen the error of my ways.

By the way, there’s no need to be a corporate crybaby and wail that there’s no budget because, Trek and the other missing companies, with their size and stature, could find plenty of fluff in their budgets for a 20 x 20 booth to interact with the people who support your brands, your products and the industry.

Most likely we can’t guilt-trip any of these non-attending companies into attending. Instead, they have to see for themselves they’re missing something big—an event that’s fun, well attended, persuasive and “energetic.” And they are off the back for not being there. (Congrats to the Interbike staff on starting to turn this property around! Keep it going baby!) 

Bottom line? The one immeasurable result about well-run trade shows, industry conferences and events is they can work as a collective and be inspiring. Sure, you leave feeling tired, burnt out from all the hard work, but you take some great energy back with you.  I feel this way when I attend Outdoor Retailer or the Natural Products Show and this year I’m starting to feel a little bit like that with Interbike.

So come on down non-attending brands and walk your talk.  It doesn’t matter how much you spend on private dealer shows, advocacy, grants, lobbying or your annual NRA membership. Because unless you’re flying your flag face-to-face on the show floor you’re not encouraging participation, you’re doing exactly the opposite.

Related: Read about Burke's address in the Interbike Show Daily

Topics associated with this article: Interbike

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