Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Eurobike Portland vs Interbike; Part Two

Because this topic merits further open discussion and because I didn't want my incredible insights and commentary getting buried in the comments (or allowing Donna to steal all the glory), I am writing this additional post about the recent developments regarding the soon to be Eurobike Portland.

This has been pretty much the biggest news in the bike industry in quite some time now. You can read about it more here, here, here, here, here and here- among other places. Each of these give some pretty great coverage to the issue and the comments that follow some of these posts are really pretty cool. Lots of great discussion going on over this topic.

Here is my take on the whole thing and I encourage other industry folks to chime in with an opinion- please! If not here, then somewhere- Interbike Times is a great place to go say something;

First, I really do have to give Donna a tip of the cycling cap for her post because she covers a lot of great questions/ considerations.

I personally love Portland and I've never even been there. One of the highlights of Interbike for me this year was meeting with representatives from the Portland Development Commission. Chris DiStefano from Chris King brought them by to talk to me about their plans to actively court the cycling industry to move to Portland. I was floored by their generosity and energy. If I could move Masi to Portland, I certainly would. Portland rocks. However, a personal love for the city can not cloud the business decisions we all have to make. Eurobike Portland, from what we know so far, is just scheduled at the wrong time. As Donna points out, with the creation of this show, I would potentially be traveling to Canada for their show, Portland for their show and then Vegas for the "big" show (no Eurobike for me as I can not currently sell into Europe due to a trademark dispute). Now, some folks would have to decide if they were going to patronize all four shows or carve it down to 1, 2 or 3. This schedule conflict is not created by the city of Portland and it's cycling community (quite possibly the very best in the US), so the city and PDC should not be held responsible for this issue.

Vegas and Interbike, for all of the issues many people have with it, is still the premier show on the calendar. Eurobike is sooner in the year, so it serves as the global launch for many new widgets, but Interbike is still pretty widely considered the Belle of the ball. Yes, it costs us all way too damned much to attend each year. Yes, the Union workers we deal with are frequently less than stellar. The past two years my parent company, Haro Bicycles, has had bikes stolen out of the booths during the night while the booths were being "watched" by security. BUT... the show is still the biggest and bestest show in the country and has beaten away all other contenders for the title over the past 25 years- that means something. Vegas, warts and all, still houses an immense infrastructure to handle an event the size of Interbike. There is a reason that Las Vegas is the tradeshow capitol of the US (if not the world)- rooms, restaurants, transportation, entertainment. It's all there. Yes, it all smells like cigarette smoke and riding your bike on the streets of Las Vegas is like playing with a loaded gun. BUT... then there is Dirt Demo, which has become more important to many exhibitors than the expo itself. Demo has become huge and has replaced the energy that was once so strong on the floor of the expo. We all know that the expo has almost nothing to do with "business" anymore and almost nobody actually writes orders for product while at the show. Now, the expo is for thanking our customers for their support, seeing friends and networking. For a small brand like mine, the expo is still important- even though I don't write orders either- because I need to get the bikes under the noses of as many potential customers as possible. Is Vegas perfect? Not by a long shot, but in 25 years, Interbike has become the defacto "must do" event of the year for the bulk of the industry. Trek, Specialized, Giant and a few other folks do their own regional shows long before Vegas and have all but stopped coming to the show (though Trek was absent in 2005 they had a presence at Demo this year, but still no tradeshow booth during the expo) and many of their retailers who are very deeply invested in them have also stopped coming to the show because there is nothing "new" for them to look at (Hello... come see Masi then!)

As a manufacturer, I can't imagine traveling to 4 tradeshows in the month of September and my wife would kill me if I did. David Roth brought up an interesting point in his comments on Donna's post about some companies already doing this in Europe and then traveling here. The thing to keep in mind in those situations is that most (maybe not all) of those companies are actually working with regional/ national distributors and not actually carrying the entire expense or the burden of staffing and attending the shows. The distributor for that country or region usually pays for the booth space and mans it with their own staff. Some representatives from the "home office" might visit and help to present the line/s, but the ultimate burden usually rests on the shoulders of the distributor. For small guys like me, I'd get slaughtered if I tried. Fortunately for me, my distributor in Canada (Norco) handles their show (BTAC) and all I do is show up and look pretty with the bikes. Same thing for Australia (PacBrands)- the distributor handles this all for me and I just bring my funny American accent.

Speaking of Australia... as Phil points out in his post, Australia's cycling market is under-served by it's tradeshow and could certainly use the help of Eurobike or some other source (though I have offered my services for this, my phone has not been ringing). Markets like the Australian one face unique challenges that really need to be addressed by the industry, globally. If more vendors/ suppliers/ manufacturers and exhibit promoters do not help the market out, it will only shrink. As a global cycling community, we need to be searching for ways to grow markets like Australia. It'll never be the biggest market in the world, dollar-wise, but it can certainly perform better with our help.

Overall, I invite the possibility of another major tradeshow in the US, but I'd like to see a better date on the calendar and, as much as I love Portland, something on the East coast would serve the overall US market better- rather than another show on the West coast.

So now back to the banter. What are your thoughts? Please don't be bashful- chime in. (Raleigh Reed, I'm talking to you my friend. Nice new catalog by the way...)

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 11:22 PM


  1. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 7:17 AM  
    Thanks for your reasoned (and passionate) comments on the subject, though I have to respectfully disagree with some of them. (Of course I do, right? I work for Interbike... You have always had great things to say about the show in the past, and we do listen everyone's comments and suggestions about the show - and take them very seriously when making decisions about the show.
    It's easy to make some sweeping statements about the show and have them be taken at face value. When you right, "Trek, Specialized, Giant and a few other folks do their own regional shows long before Vegas and have all but stopped coming to the show," what do people take away from that? That those companies no longer exhibit at the show. I know you had a very busy and successful show so maybe you didn't have the opportunity to see the very large and packed Giant booth or the smaller, but also constantly packed with showgoers, Specialized booth.
    Trek is an interesting situation. They did return to Vegas this year with a display at the OutDoor Demo and were very successful with it, but their decisions regarding their Interbike presence seems to be more of a statement about their marketing plans and there ability to better serve their dealers on their own in Madison - and with their Trek-only concept store programs. At this early stage, I don't think another trade show would change the scenario for them. As with Specialized's smaller presence at Interbike, we are happy to be able to serve whatever need they both feel that Interbike can serve. With that said, though, we did just come off the largest show ever. And attendance was up 12%.
    "We all know that the expo has almost nothing to do with "business" anymore and almost nobody actually writes orders for product while at the show.", While it is true that there aren't as many orders written at the show as in the (distant?) past, the show is ALL about business. Having been an exhibitor for 7 years prior to this gig, it was always an important part of the sales process for me - whether the paper was written at the show or not. There are parties and entertainment happening at the show and it's alot of fun to attend (as both of us have discussed in the past) but it's all related to business. Most of us work in the industry because we love bikes, but at the end of the day there is work that needs to be done. And aren't the benefits being touted in favor of Portland non-business related?
    Your comments seem to speak more to the value of trade shows in general, not just whether a show is in Vegas, Portland, Denver or Boston (another awesome bike town).
    I believe the point is whether another trade show on the calendar will benefit the industry.
  2. Blogger Tim Jackson posted at 8:49 AM  

    Thank you so much for coming here and participating in this dialog. I sincerely hope that more and more members of our industry will do the same thing- whether here or somewhere else. Communication is important.

    Your "differences" are valid and we are still pretty close on those issues. I agree that the show is still about "business"- however you define. From the standpoint of tangible monetary gain (in the form of orders), it's tough. From the standpoint of strengthening long-term relationships, it is still a huge success.

    I also agree that the ever-shrinking presence of some of the larger companies still confirms that they see a need to have some sort of footprint- no matter how small.

    I, like you and most of the industry, am anxiously waiting to see what the dates will be and other particulars. Should be very interesting.

    Thanks again Rich.
  3. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 1:32 AM  
    And many of us in Oz are discussing the issue of having a show at all.

    Lot's of road shows now and this year a few of the bigs gave it a miss. But I think that has more to do with format and structure. So I think we still need to have one where we bring the industry together for a good chinwag and bonding session.

    As Tim mentioned in his post I'd love to see Interbike take over the show duties here, their expertise and connections would energise the industry here I think.

    Lastly, Rich should know that Interbike would be my choice next year.......
  4. Blogger Guitar Ted posted at 5:42 PM  
    Tim, and Donna:

    Great conversation here, first of all. (I'm glad the trade show season is over so this forum can function again..wink-wink!)

    So, from a shop guy's perspective, here is what I am seeing. I don't care if the show is in Vegas, Portland, or San Bernadino, as long as there is one place to go. Shops like the one I work at cannot afford to come to several shows, two shows, and barely can afford to come to Interbike.

    Think about how many independant bicycle shops there were ten to fifteen years ago. How many are there today? Far less, and they have to be very careful with their dollar. Too many shows mean no attendance from shops like the one I work at. That means less business for the trade show exhibitor, and less business for the trade show organizers eventually.

    I feel that the smaller exhibitors will find themselves in a similar plight. They will be forced to choose and that very well just might end up deciding the eventual outcome of this predicament.

    As an "outsider" looking in, it seems like the Eurobike decision is a very provacative and hostile one. I do not foresee anything very good coming out of this, especially if they decide to set up their tents in such close proximity to Interbike.
  5. Blogger Tim Jackson posted at 10:30 PM  
    GT- Thanks man for the comment and gentle prodding.

    Yes, hopefully this will mean that more posting will be coming on a much more regular basis... changes and editions, etc are on the way, so please do stay tuned.

    As for the show stuff... I have to agree. I think Eurobike could do a great job here, but I just think the proposed dates would be bad and having the show on the west coast is just unfair to the east coast vendors and retailers- if we're talking about helping the industry overall. However, we still know nothing concrete yet, so who knows what will happen.
  6. Blogger Donna Tocci posted at 8:09 AM  
    GT- All good points from the dealer perspective. Thanks for stopping by and sharing them with us!

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