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Foreign Visitors Absent from Shanghai Show

Published April 30, 2008

SHANGHAI, China (BRAIN)—Attendance fell at last week’s Shanghai Show. Big brands like Trek and Specialized went missing and many international visitors cancelled travel plans at the last minute because the Chinese government suddenly tightened visa requirements.

But at least one exhibitor in Shanghai said he was pleasantly shocked by the boom in Chinese IBDs at the April 25-28 event.

“We met with 500 to 700 dealers over the length of the show,” said Erik Kimble, owner of Colmax International, a Taiwan-based distributor of such brands as Park Tool, Campagnolo, Finish Line and Continental. “I was really, really impressed, and I think that the big players that didn’t show up made somewhat of a mistake.”

While the overall bicycle market in China is flat or declining, Kimble said these new IBDs are clamoring for international brands.

“The sheer number of these dealers has increased,” he said. “They’re becoming more sophisticated. They’re buying from Taiwan, they’re buying from Hong Kong.”

Yet the once booming market for electric bikes has fizzled. From three halls last year, the show managed to fill just one and a half halls with e-bike exhibitors, show spokesman Kevin Zhou said.

“I have heard that about 200 e-bike makers have left the business,” said Ultra Motor’s Ed Benjamin, a longtime e-bike expert. With the Chinese market flat, Chinese manufacturers are eyeing the export market where e-bike sales are expected to grow.

Despite visa problems, Benjamin said, several foreigners managed to attend. “Notably, they were crowding such [e-bike] companies as Wettsen, Phylion, Ananda—the higher quality and more expensive providers,” he said.

Specialized was one international brand that did not attend this year’s show. Instead, officials hosted dealers at its Shanghai concept store about 15 minutes from the convention center.

“That worked out very well as we were able to show dealers and customers our products as well as our concept store,” said Eric Koh, Specialized’s managing director for China.

Like Kimble, Koh sees growth ahead for the higher-priced segment of the bicycle market. “We believe utility bicycles will continue to drop, but the segment which we are targeting continues to grow,” he added. Specialized has four retail stores in China and is planning more.

Zhou does not yet have attendance figures but said the number of visitors fell. He said show organizers would consider moving the show to earlier dates next year.

—Doug McClellan

Topics associated with this article: Tradeshows and conferences

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