The fine folks at Bikes Belong, the cycling industry advocacy group and trade organization, has announced that they are in the planning stages of developing a new tradeshow to rival and compete with the hallowed Interbike. Sound familiar? We’ve covered this kind of news a few times here already.
Eurobike tried to launch what was dubbed Eurobike-Portland back in October of ’06. That ended up getting shelved and then Eurobike teamed up with Sea Otter to create what was being billed as the greatest outdoor cycling event and consumer expo ever known to mankind… but it wasn’t so much…
The thing that is most intriguing about this, is that Bikes Belong actually knows the US marketplace pretty darned well, seeing as to how they are the main trade organization in the US. As such, they have a pretty good idea of what the industry wants and needs, as well as an inside line to the major thought leaders in the industry. Bikes Belong has also been a major partner of Interbike over the years and their banner ad on the Interbike website was still visible at the time this post was being written.
According to news I’ve gotten, “yeah, it’s pretty exciting stuff! And at this point, the sky’s the limit…. right now it’s just a lot of ideas (really, really good ideas 🙂 And either way, the industry will win.” If anybody has the clout and credibility to pull off creating a show to rival Interbike, Bikes Belong is the one group I can think of who can. Thing is, as has proven so far to be the case, Interbike is the established incumbent with a long history of great tradeshows. As we have learned in politics, even an unpopular incumbent has an advantage over a new challenger. If this new show is to come into existence, it’ll have its work cut out… just to survive the first few editions, let alone grow to a large enough critical mass to really make a significant impact on Interbike.
As was mentioned in previous discussions about Eurobike-Portland, the idea of a competing tradeshow is pretty great, but reality is gonna be hard. Show exhibitors are stretched thin to attend the shows that already exist on the calendar and adding overlapping or identical dates will hurt both shows. If you add a totally new date on the calendar, when is it? Before Eurobike? In between Eurobike and Expo Cycle in Canada, which is just before Interbike? After Expo Cycle? After Interbike? Is it a Springtime show like Taipei? Where does it fit on the calendar? I’m sure I don’t know. It poses a very big task and not one I’m sure I could figure out.
This news, just like with Eurobike’s attempted invasion, is big news that merits lots of discussion and contemplation from within the industry. Do we want or need a new show? Maybe, if it’s a better show. But what is a “better show”? Less expensive? Better location? No Teamsters to deal with? All things to consider.
I honestly wish Bikes Belong the best with this and I hope to be talking to them more about this, so stay tuned for more (hopefully). I love Interbike, as I’ve said before, so Bikes Belong (or anybody for that matter) has their work cut out for them if they are going to truly compete with Interbike. Can it be done though? Absolutely it can, so this will prove to be interesting. Bikes Belong has been listening to the conversation for a long time so they know what frustrations retailers and manufacturers have with Interbike.
I, for one, will be watching this story very closely and strongly encourage your comments because I know that folks from Bikes Belong will be reading this. Your comments could be influential… so speak up!
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
Sea Otter finished up this past Sunday. As usual, there was crazy weather to contend with and all kinds of cool racing and bike nerdery going on. It was exactly what Sea Otter always has been and always will be.
The big difference this year is that Sea Otter teamed up with the fine folks from Eurobike (Messe-Friedrichshafen) to create what was being billed as the largest outdoor cycling festival and “tradeshow” in the US. In keeping with this incredible new relationship and enhancement of the event, exhibitor space rates went through the roof, as did race entry fees and other associated costs of providing a worldclass event/ exhibit.
Thing is… it wasn’t any busier, it wasn’t any better, it wasn’t any different than years past (except for the increase in cost). Disclaimer– this was my first time attending the event, so these observations/ comparisons are based off of feedback I received from other exhibitors at the event. If this was supposed to be a premiere cycling event, in terms of being an exhibit/ festival/ tradeshow… it was a flop. As an actual race, it was superb as always. The racers and the people who come to hang out and gawk at the event, really make it what it is- a celebration of cycling (even if that celebration takes place in the rain and tornado-like winds).
I know that the race organizers and Eurobike had very little time to pull this together, after making their announcement of joining forces just a few months ago (the end of November). It would seem that once Eurobike realized their proposed “Eurobike-Portland” wasn’t going to work and that they were receiving so much negative press, they simply decided to shrink their ambitions for a year and start off a little smaller. Well… can’t say it worked. Many people doubted whether or not they would have enough time to create what they were claiming they would. It seems those folks were at least marginally correct. Don’t get me wrong, I’d call the event a success, but it wasn’t what it was billed to be and certainly didn’t merit the incredible cost hikes.
Here’s another point that may seem like I am just trying to pick a fight; where were the folks from either Sea Otter or Eurobike during the event? During the entire event, neither I nor Jill Hamilton (our Haro MTB Brand Manager and my partner in crime at Sea Otter) saw hide nor hair of anybody from the event. Many of us in the industry complain about costs and other issues associated with Interbike, but at least every year at Interbike I get a visit (or several) from somebody from the show organization thanking me for my business and checking in to see how things are going. It might seem like nothing, but it does make an impression- a little humanity goes a long way. Nobody disputes that the Eurobike shows are great. They are widely regarded as well run, well attended and well respected by exhibitors, retailers and consumer attendees. It’s a strong brand with a lot of potential. When they announced they were coming to the US, many people thought it was a great thing- including myself (though I argued with the date).
It seems that Eurobike has made a series of strange steps all along the way and it really begs the question of whether or not they are serious about coming to the US or if they even understand the US market. The way they handled the announcement and then the disappearing act they did, were both missteps. Then that was followed up with an overall strangeness in how they dealt with Sea Otter, on down to the lack of any known follow-up with US exhibitors at the event. It just doesn’t make them look like they know what they are doing or that they really have the desire to chase the US market. Was Sea Otter just a way to save face after all of the negative press they received over Eurobike-Portland? Nobody appears to know.
One other point that needs to be mentioned; kudos to the folks at Interbike! Not only did they handle the original announcement about Eurobike-Portland well, but they attended Sea Otter and met with exhibitors. I met with Rich Kelly and a few other folks from Interbike during Otter and they didn’t even mention Interbike once. It really did feel like they were simply there to see things for themselves and to say hello to friends. Gripe all we want about Interbike, this little touch was not unnoticed by me and surely wasn’t unnoticed by many other folks as well. Good job folks!
So, what’s your take on this all? Exhibitors- Did anybody from Eurobike/ Sea Otter come talk to you? Did the event have more traffic than ever, to match the cost of attending? Am I making too much of nothing? Please share your thoughts…
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser