Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taichung and the Bicycle Industry

I just returned earlier today from a two week trip to Taiwan. Part of those two weeks was spent visiting the RideOn and Taichung Bike Week mini-tradeshows for the OEM market. If you don't already know, RideOn began about 4 years ago when a small group of OEM suppliers decided to have a small and very informal gathering to allow product managers a chance to get either a first look at upcoming products or a last look at existing products so they could make their spec decisions with the best and most recent information available. Taichung Bike Week began as something of an offshoot of the early success of RideOn. The plan was to provide another option for visiting product managers to Taichung, since they were already in town. Over the past few years, this has grown into a small, informal meeting for the suppliers to the OEM trade and their customers. It has also proven to be quite successful and valuable for the industry.

The spec process gets more difficult each year as so many options pop up in the marketplace and as the need to finalize spec earlier each year grows. In the "old days" of just a few years ago, spec didn't need to be finished for bikes until March and you would still get bikes delivered in the late summer time frame- in time for Interbike and the other major tradeshows. However, that is a thing of the past as factory capacities are stretched thin and leadtimes grow and grow. Now, spec is due to factories as early as mid-December if you have any hope of seeing bikes delivered by Interbike. Throw into this mix the fact that many companies like Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo have continued to present new products earlier and earlier ever year as well. All of this combined has made a product manager's job harder and harder each year- not to mention those of purchasing departments.

So with all of these various challenges and the timing of product cycles, the Taipei International Cycle Show has become decreasingly important to product managers across the cycling industry. The show is now more important to the International Distributor (ID) business and the various retailers from around the world who like to go to the show to see new products before they show up at the larger shows or who have their own private label products made in Taiwan or China. But, for the OEM trade, Taipei has become less important simply due to its place on the calendar.

Because of this and because of the growth of the two Taichung events happening with overlapping schedules in December, many product managers have been making the trip to Taichung. With this growth and activity, the events have caught the attention of the Mayor of Taichung, Jason Hu. Mayor Hu, who happens to be a very funny man with an Oxford education, has created a committee to work with the cycling industry to see how Taichung can better facilitate the work it is already doing on its own. Rumors had been going around the industry for weeks that the Mayor might have plans to create a competing bike tradeshow to rival Taipei International Cycle Show. These rumors were creating quite a bit of buzz among the attendees of the two events. As Taichung is the virtual center of the Taiwan bike industry, some felt that a major tradeshow hosted by the city might shut down the Taipei show altogether- even as the organizers of the Taipei show are now discussing the possibility of moving their own show's dates closer to the time of December/ January to better meet the needs of the OEM trade. Those rumors were put to rest and the uneasiness settled after a few minutes of discussion with the Mayor's liaison to the bike industry, Anna Wang.

Mayor Jason C. Hu and Anna Wang of the Industrial Development & Investment Promotion Committee of Taichung City.

After asking the representatives of the bike industry for their feedback and a list of their needs, Ms Wang made it clear that Taichung has no intentions to try to put the Taipei show out of business, but truly wants to help the industry go about doing its business. The cycling industry is a major player in the Taichung economy and keeping the industry happy and located in the city and county of Taichung is of vital importance to the Mayor and his team. Ms Wang stated that the city would simply like to help the industry work better and more efficiently and at a reasonable cost for all who attend. As it is now, RideOn happens at one end of the sprawling city and Taichung Bike Week at another. While RideOn offers a demo area to test product, Taichung Bike Week is all centered in the Landis, now renamed Tempus, Hotel. Product Managers are therefore forced to either shuttle back and forth between the two sites or make the choice to select one over the other. Each location has its pluses and minuses, but all seemed to agree that a venue that could handle multiple meeting or presentation areas and still allow a demo would be best. Worst case scenario, having some sort of shuttle service to and from the two sites would be a good starting point.

As it is now, there is no real cooperation between the two events and neither event produces a very accurate list of exhibitors and schedules for the attendees- something nearly all felt would be very useful. Another major point given by nearly all in attendance at the meeting was the need to keep the event/ events very low key and informal. Nobody present in the meeting wanted to see the casual event turn into a more structured and rigid tradeshow, nor did anybody want to see it become a marketing extension for any one brand- ie; Taichung Bike Week, presented by SRAM/ Shimano/ Brand X, etc. All felt that it was the low cost, low key, informal format of the events that has made them so successful and allowed them to grow so organically without any real coordination or effort. Taking all of these comments and concerns into consideration, Ms Wang said that she and her counterparts would take the notes and information to the Mayor and begin the process of finding ways to help the industry continue to use the event as a major tool in the product process.

Personally, I find this to be a very exciting development for the cycling industry. Having this level of cooperation from the city government is amazing and the cycling industry needs to do all it can to help the city of Taichung with this process. The organizers of the Taipei International Cycle Show, TAITRA, should also be excited by this news as it shows that the city of Taichung is not trying to steal away the show or force them out of business. TAITRA still has the chance to improve the show to benefit the customers it has and address the changes that have taken place over the past few years there. With more and more distributors and retailers attending and fewer and fewer product managers using the show for their final spec process, TAITRA could reshape the show to more accurately reflect the needs of those attending.

After the meetings and dinner reception with the mayor that took place in Taichung at the Splendor Hotel on December 9th, many of the attendees felt very optimistic about what the final outcome might look like. Members of both events felt that they had formats they wanted to protect, but both were willing to cooperate to build a better event that served the needs of their intended customers- the product managers and other representatives of bike brands from around the world. I am personally very excited by this time in the history of our industry and I hope that all of my brothers and sisters within the bike industry will work with the Mayor and his office to help them work with us to make the cycling industry an even better one to work in.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

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Posted by Tim Jackson at 12:45 AM

8 Comments

  1. Anonymous Carlton Reid posted at 10:52 AM  
    Great post, Tim. Jetlag keepin' you awake, huh?

    You're right, it's very good news about the non-compete. Intelligent on the mayor's part, also forward thinking.

    Trades have been torn asunder by show bunfights and it's great that Taiwan's small, but important, bike industry won't suffer the same fate.

    But the date for the main show needs to change, if it's to survive as a show relevant to an international trade audience.

    Keeping the 'house shows' small is also a necessity. But it's going to be tough to resist making them into strong and direct competitors of the main event.
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  3. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 12:53 AM  
    Tim just to up date you and all watching here, get ready for the press conference at Taipei show, it just goes to prove that bring a few people together behind closed doors can really make things happen, Anna and I mapped out the next phase today and if you drop me an email I will send you a copy of the plan, Steve Fenton
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