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August 22, 2005

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Graham

I wonder if these giant trade shows are starting to go the way of the airlines or department stores. A few years ago I attended Comdex in Vegas and was not impressed...seems that many agree as that show has been waning in recent years.

The money spent on a huge show like this often amounts to 50% or more of a company's trade show budget. It's a bit like advertising on the super bowl. I'm not surprised that some companies are beginning to re-evaluate their participation.

I think there are a couple of things going on here:

1) The age of accountability. Boards are asking for tangible results from high-priced activities. It is very difficult to measure the brand recognition and exposure gained from a show like this versus other means.

2) There are so many other ways to get your messages out and speak to markets these days. Companies can use grassroots marketing techniques very effectively and very cost effectively (e.g. blogging, etc.)

3) Although, the manufacturer's customer is the dealer, most B2B markets are shifting toward a focus on the customer's customer. For example, drug companies are now more focused on the consumer and not simply doctors.

4) Although, Trek may not get attention during Interbike week they probably feel that some of that attention is lost in the din of all of the companies being talked about that same week. By hosting a dealers only event and inviting media, Trek is able to steal the spotlight for its own during another time.

Anyway, just a few - not fully formed yet - thoughts...I'm anxious to see some other comments to this topic.

John Satory

Here are some of my thoughts on this topic...
Trek, for the most part know the marketplace. They are in consolidation mode. They are looking to get better dealers, not more dealers.
The other big names like Specialized and Giant are probably going to follow in their footsteps. They'll probably pick up some dealers who have had enough with Trek...
I'm not really convinced on the effectiveness of Interbike anymore. I think that we're going to see a more focused approach in the future in the likes of what Trek is doing and possibly more regional shows like the Colnago dealer show in Chicago this past weekend.
Lastly, I think that any regional or even national sales manager worth his weight should know the current market base. Who's strong and who isn't. I believe that a bike company would rather have three really strong dealers rather than eight floundering ones. More is definitly not better in this case.
That's it for now. I better get back to work!

JM

Jon, Like you said, Interbike has traditionally been seen as essential to our industry, and an opportunity to be coveted by those of us lucky enough to be working in it. Although the future of the show may be anyone's guess at this point, the fact is, the best and the brightest bicycle minds WILL be at this years Interbike, dispite the few no shows. And although there's no subsitute for industry networking, PR and good old fashioned branding, having and taking full advantage of the opportunity to showcase, demonstrate and educate riders and industry insiders about today's most innovative products is why Cannondale will be there with bells on.

To be sure, this year's booth will blow some minds and open some eyes, so be sure to spend some quality time there. Trek schmeck. Who cares? A ton of amazing companys will be there to enlighten and entertain. Go and enjoy the show. It's gonna be a good one!

Mike Geraci

InterBike is a great marketing opportunity, not neccesarily a great sales opportunity. It is one of the best chances to differentiate your brand from your competition's among your target audience, namely IBDs.

Kona has wrestled with this philosophical shift for a couple of seasons, particularly after returning from EuroBike with several million dollars (euros) in orders written at the show, immediately following line presentations.

This year, Kona will have a greater presence at On Dirt, and a smaller but more marketing focused presence during the show itself.

Once you alter your expectations of Interbike (marketing vs. sales), you will alter your goals and adjust your presence and budget accordingly and those big checks to VNU won't hurt as much.

Tim Jackson- Masiguy

Wow, this is a great example of what this kind of open forum can do. I'm really digging this dialog.

Anyway, yes Interbike is both a great opportunity and a huge waste of money. It really becomes a matter of deciding what you hope to accomplish there. Me, I get to see my customers (retailers) who I can't meet with a regional show format, I get to see a lot of my suppliers in one location and firm up relationships, I get to network and hangout with people I wouldn't otherwise see and I get to celebrate this goofy, fractious, contentious and wonderful little industry.

I'm clearly a proponent of the show and can't imagine that it would fade away entirely. I don't see that happening because there are not enough companies like Trek, Specialized and Giant who can afford to skip the show in favor of a single or regional dealer-only show. The rest of us, by necessity, will continue to have to band together once a year and blow our own horns as loud as we can. "It's good bidnits!"

Interbike could be better, I think we can nearly all agree on that (I say nearly because this is the bike industry and we can't ever be expected to all agree). How can it be better? That is open to a lot of interpretation of the word "better". Some would be happy if it was just cheaper. Some say the location has to change. Some say that the timing needs to change. Some say that the little guys in the basement need to be given the same exposure as the guys in the main exhibit hall. It's a fairly wide open discussion.

I love the show. I'm really excited that in a few weeks I will be in Canada for ExpoCycle (the Canadian equivalent of Interbike) so that I can meet a whole new group of passionate people and help to launch my brand there, face to face with my new customers. It's really exciting for me and helps to reinvigorate my passion for our industry.

The money required to pull off a good show in Vegas is pretty obnoxious, but for a company like mine that can not afford to spend even greater amounts of money on ad campaigns and team sponsorships, this is my chance to grab as much attention as I possibly can and I intend to wave my freak flag as high as I possibly can.

Tim Jackson
Brand Manager
Masi Bicycles

Yogi Da Bear

It's pretty simple: Trek, Giant and Specialized mean more to Interbike than Interbike means to them. Arrogant? Yes, but nonetheless true. Trek will get the same, if not more press coverage as it would if it were going to Interbike.

If you're faced with deciding on spending a million bucks on a show for the entire industry or focus on your most important customers, which would you choose? Yes, you can do both but does it make sense? How much press does Interbike get you outside of the bicycle industry niche media? In the auto industry they get a lot of general press for their shows so maybe that makes sense for them but I have serious doubts about the exposure the bicycle industry's show gets its participants.

Graham (in the first post) is right. The big trade shows are a dying breed across many industries, not just the bicycle industry. There are just too many opportunities out there that compete with these shows that often make a lot more sense to do.

I fully expect Specialized or Giant to follow suit if they hear that Trek's show this year was a success. Then dealers have an interesting dilemma on their hands: Which show(s) to go to? That's a tricky situation that pretty much demands the loyalty of the dealer to one manufacturer and I'm not sure that's in the dealer's best interest. We shall see.

Tim Jackson- Masiguy

Yogi brings up a lot of good points, but the one that hits me is kind of contradictory to the premise that the bigs shows are fading into the sunset; the regional/ dealer shows and the predicament for dealers.

This is one of the main reasons why I can't personally see the big trade show, for our industry anyway, disappearing. Retailers, especially in the bike industry, have very limited resources to spend and go see products. Sure, the biggest fish in the retail world don't have to worry about that because their main suppliers will foot the bill. But what about everybody else? The smaller retailers, or retailers not wanting to spend a couple of weeks/ months traveling to different unveilings will still need/ want to go to one place and see all brands at the same time. It isn't a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still the most effective. Admittedly, it is hard to cram it all in, in just a few days, but it does make it easier to filter out the stuff you don't want and find some things you do want.

I remember going to the show and just sort of speeding my way through the show picking up as much information as I could and then the group of us at the shop would look at it all together and make suggestions. If something really caught my eye at the show, I would stop in the booth a little longer and ask as many questions as I could and take a bunch of notes. Again, not perfect, but effective in the long run.

For this reason alone, I can't see Interbike being allowed to go away. I do, like most, see room for improvement. Periodically changing venues would be nice. Less expensive booth space would be nice. It ain't perfect, but it ain't all bad either.

Tim Jackson
Brand Manager
Masi Bicycles

John Satory

The fact of the matter is is that for most IBD's, the show is at least 70% fluff (i.e. companies or products that have very little impact on their specific business). I think that there should be more of an emphasis on such things as tech seminars and the like. I too agree that the show isn't perfect, but I don't see it completely fading away, just becoming more focused and efficient.

SV

A point was made in a post above which I think is very true. How is it that Trek plans on flying out all of its dealers and putting them up in hotels for its own private interbike. I doubt that will happen and thus Trek has instantly created a class system to separate out those dealers who are not hitting the sales marks that Trek expects.

If other corporations follow Treks lead then I see the unfortunate possibility that the local bike shoppes are going to die off. This is a result of large companies like Trek not attending the Interbike show and thus making it difficult, or just not possible, for the smaller shops to gather the same information that the shops, who can afford that travel expense, are getting.

Is it their way of weeding out the shoppes that don't make them enough money? Is this Treks way of saying we are too good for Interbike? I suspect both and once again I am witness to corporate greed and suffocation of the sport and legitimate small business.

If other large companies think this is a good idea... its not. It will only hurt them and the industry as a whole in the long term. This kind of move will make the "less fortunate" dealers look for another brand to carry. It also alienates the customers who are active in the sport of cycling and limits the accessibility of the sport to those who could become the next Kabush or Armstrong. In turn memberships to NORBA/USA Cycling, IMBA will go down. They are already down.

Interbike will never die, I hope. Lets hope the local bike shoppes dont die either.

Tim Jackson- Masiguy

More good comments here.

I agree with John that the show is a lot of filler and not as much substance. Still it is also a big party and a celebration each year, so that's not so bad. I do agree wholeheartedly that more and better seminars and tech sessions would be great. I think that Interbike has the opportunity to provide dealers with much greater access to valuable information. They are starting to get there; how many good seminars or forum discussions did we have 20 years ago?

I agree with SV that an "elitism" may be getting fostered and I think that is bad for everybody. I don't know that I can draw a link to declining numbers of participants/ license holders in the sport though. Admittedly, numbers have been weak. Honestly though, I think that has a lot more to do with the cost of the sport than anything else. As a parent myself, even with my industry hook-ups, getting my two children going is expensive. Juniors have a hard time getting into the sport due more to cost than anything else, from what I have experienced and from what I hear from other parents.

Still, all in all, I do believe that it is better for all of us in the industry if we band together, rather than fracture off in different directions.

Tim Jackson
Brand Manager
Masi Bicycles

Jonathan Maus

Thanks to everyone for such insightful comments. I value your time and insights. Here are some of my thoughts.

Graham:
About accountability and measuring exposure. I don't see Interbike being any more difficult to measure than other marketing/branding efforts. Exhibitors can measure results with sales, leads/contacts made, dealer presentations made, dealer packages handed out, bus. cards scanned, media interviews, etc...

JM:
Glad to see your enthusiasm and sense of opportunity in Trek's absence...and don't worry, I'm still plenty excited to go! I look forward to seeing your booth.

Mike:
I hear what you're saying. I think the marketing vs. sales thing is different for each exhibitor. For the small guys without a distribution network, they must generate sales and solid leads...but for the larger players (like Kona), they simply need to reinforce their position in the market.

Yogi Da Bear:
Glad you brought up press coverage. I will add my thoughts on that in a new post.

Tim:
I agree with you. The vast majority of retailers can barely afford one show a year...so a "one stop shop" format like Interbike is essential.

John:
Great point about much of the show having no value to IBDs. And I agree that the Interbike folks could stand to improve the content of the seminars, clinics, etc...I was hoping for a blogging/technology panel discussion, but guess I'll have to wait for next year.

SV:
You make some interesting points. But I think you're connecting some dots that are pretty far from each other at this point. In my opinion, it's too early to tell what effect (if any) Trek's decision will have on smaller IBDs and IMBA/USA Cycling memberships.

Thanks again for commenting, there is some great insight being offered here and I hope Lance Camisasca (director of Interbike) finds the time to take note of it.

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