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Interbike Rights the Ship

Published December 21, 2011


Even Vegas-haters had to admit: This was the best Interbike show in recent memory.

And what a difference six months makes! This Spring, the questions were flying:

• Can Interbike recover from their triple-A toe stub? (ANAHEIM, AUGUST, ANTIPATHY from both retailers and suppliers).

• Will Nielsen spend the money to market the show more aggressively and create a more exciting event once dealers arrive?

• Will Dealer Camp’s impressive momentum and bulging supplier list turn into the kind of retailer turnout that will challenge Interbike’s decades-long supremacy?

• With all of the Big Five bike companies hosting their own dealer events, will this continuing trend deflate the success of all large-scale trade events?

Last week’s five days in Vegas answered most of these questions. Despite rainy weather dampening the Demo a bit, I couldn’t find a single retailer or exhibitor who didn’t declare Interbike’s 30th Anniversary bash a rousing success.

So why was the show such a hit?

• Interbike spent the money. They hired industry heavy-hitter Pat Hus to complement Andy Tompkins’ organizational skills. They turned Rich Kelly and Elayna Caldwell loose with an enhanced marketing budget. They brought in a velodrome, lots of new lounges, a killer Tuesday night party, a mobile app, and many other attendee-friendly enhancements. One quibble: Still no hall-wide wireless.

• The industry forgave AAA. In fact, this exercise in making a wrong turn, then changing course in response to the industry outcry, may have been a long-term plus for Interbike, as painful as it was for Tompkins and staff at the time. We found out that despite their size and stature, Interbike really CAN listen to their audience.

• Dealer Camp fizzled instead of sizzled. While everyone agreed that the late-July event in Park City has potential, this year’s event was a case of over-promise, under-deliver on the retail attendance front. Suppliers waiting for traffic that never fully materialized jokingly called it “Vendor Camp.”

• Interbike again proved its value. Retailers still find plenty of reasons to come to Vegas, despite many of them going to Big Five brand-specific events in August. We’re still a face-to-face, meet-and greet industry. Many retailers say the lack of big bike companies gives them the time they need to visit with mid-size suppliers and seek out new, innovative brands and products.

• Orders were written! We’re still sussing this one out. Brand after brand reported their biggest order-taking show in many moons. Certainly a positive trend if you are selling Interbike booth space.

One explanation from a large West-coast retailer: “We went to Dealer Camp and saw a lot of the new 2012 stuff,” she told me. “I went back and talked it over with my staff, agreed on the winners, so I came here ready to write orders.”

While this certainly doesn’t explain all the dollars spent in Vegas, it sure makes sense. And it sets up a trade-show rhythm that also makes sense: Dealer Camp, followed by Big Five events, culminating in Interbike.

Well, it sounds good to those of us who attend such events. Not too sure about the exhibitors footing the bill. More trade events equals more marketing dollars spent. And these events are not cheap.

The bike industry Pipe Dream remains: One Big Show, with all the suppliers and retailers in attendance. I’m sure Hus, Tompkins et al will continue to do their best to make that dream a reality!


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