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Jan. 09 Trade show wrap: Smaller crowds all around, but business got done

By Diana McCabe
February 25, 2009 6:30 AM

January trade shows in the industry reported small declines in traffic because of the slumping economy, but most organizers said the figures were in line with what they'd expected. In some cases, the trade shows said they fared better or held the line in certain areas.

Here's a look at January trade-show traffic at ASR, SurfExpo, SIA and Outdoor Retailer, and what some organizers are planning to help buyers and retailers get to their next events.

ASR

Not as many brands at the San Diego January show. ASR estimates 400 brands in 2009 vs. 500 in 2008.

"As a market trend we see retail consolidation continuing to be a factor, so fewer buyers are controlling more dollars than ever before,' ASR said in a statement it issued to me in response to my questions. "In addition, the market is gaining doors through chain and mass expansion at the expense of single door operators," it said.

ASR Jan 09The guys at Alliance Boardsports had fun with a
recession theme at ASR in January - and did business, too.

Other notes from ASR:

  • Retail buying base represented about 45,000 storefronts vs. 50,000 in 2008
  • Number of single store locations decreased by 12%
  • To save on travel costs, exhibitors decreased number of personnel they brought to the show by about 25%
  • International buyers came from more than 40 countries (about same as last year)
  • Buyers noted that less foot traffic created a more workable, business-friendly environment

"We did not know what to expect in January. We were hopeful though," said ASR Group Show Director Andy Tompkins. One bright spot: "International dealers and distributors did come, and it gave everyone a good sense of optimism ... This market is global and there is still demand for action sports."

ASR's outlook (next show Sept. 10-12 in San Diego)
"Companies will want to ramp up again. They've laid low and are ready to move forward because the show features the line for Spring/Summer 2010. So a lot of companies will want to have a presence. Buyers are telling us if they don't see it at the show, it's difficult for them to carry a brand that's not there. They need to know the company is behind them from a product point-of-view."

For its next show, ASR is:

  • Lowering exhibitor rates 25% across the board
  • Reaching out to San Diego hotels, restaurants and even Starbucks for coupons and discounts
  • Looking at possibly offering gas cards as fuel prices rise
  • Offering one rate for a package deal to set up a booth, move in the products and provide electrical. Or, exhibitors can still manage each component of their setup.
  • Teaming up with CLASS Events to unite core crossover fashion apparel and actions sports industries.

The show floor is changing, too. It's always been divvied up by surf/skate/swim etc. But Tompkins says it is creating "more coherent" neighborhoods to boost networking opportunities for buyers and sellers. "We want to mimic what we see in an action-sports shop, so buyers can see a wide array (of products)."

ASR says the efforts could reduce overall exhibiting costs by as much as 40%.

"We're just trying to come up with more creative ways to get buyers to show up and get exhibitors there. There are people who are hoping the economy will turn up by the end of the summer, but who knows for sure," Tompkins said


Surf Expo

John Wilson, Bob Hurley, PJ Connell and Bob TannerJohn Wilson, Bob Hurley, PJ Connell and Bob Tanner
at Surf Expo in January.

The retail store count for its show in Orlando was down 1.5% compared to last year, said Dan Darby, marketing director for Surf Expo.

"While we knew from our pre-registration numbers that January ‘09 wouldn't be a dismal showing, we were pleasantly surprised that our store attendance would come within 1.5% of last year's. There were many more bright spots than dim. ... Once everyone arrived in Florida and realized the sky wasn't falling, a post-apocalyptic vibe ensued - though there weren't as many extraneous attendees running up and down the aisles, appointments were all booked," Darby said in an email.


Other notes:

  • Overall attendance was nearly 15,000 retailers, manufacturers and media
  • The decrease in foot traffic was because exhibitors brought fewer employees
  • Industry guest badges down 38%
  • Media presence increased by 10%.

 

Surf Expo's outlook (next show Aug. 20-22 in Orlando):
This is the first time the show will be held in August and the economy is offering its challenges, but it should still be close to the usual 15,000, Darby said.

"Despite the challenging economy, business is still being conducted. Retailers still expect consumers to want boardsport and beach products. (And the recent data showing Florida Spring Break reservations on par with last year is a good indicator). We also had a significant increase in our first-time buyers at the January ‘09 show - which indicates store are cross-merchandising more so they can meet more consumer demand," Darby said.

For its next show, Surf Expo is:

  • For the first time offering a free exhibitor- training event in both Florida and Orange County, CA., this spring to help exhibitors in their show planning.
  • Offering turnkey booth setup packages
  • Discounting marketing packages
  • Working with manufacturers to ensure buyers make it to the show.

"We expect a continued challenge but are committed to keeping our retailers and manufacturers united and perseverant," Darby said.

SIA

SIA floorOn the SIA floor. Courtesy SIA.

The bright spot for SnowSports Industries America was total attendance. Its head count was up 4.35%, said Kelly Davis, SIA research director. However, its retail shop count was down. Many in the snow sports community came to see the last show in Vegas, she said. After 37 years in Vegas, the show moves to Denver next year.

Other notes:

  • Total attendance: 18,159, + 4.35%
  • Total exhibitors: 453, + 7.6%
  • Total retail shops: 1,424, -7.05%

"We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, so the decline in buyers (total retail shops attending was down 7.05%) was not a surprise," Davis said.

"This season, snow sports consumers are willing to buy discounted equipment, apparel, and accessories but the big-ticket items for the current season, such as high end alpine skis and flat (not reverse camber) snowboards, are a tougher sell.

"Retailers and manufacturers are working on thinner margins this season. Snow sports retailers in areas hardest hit by the recession, such as Michigan and other areas dependent upon manufacturing, are really hurting and some decided to forgo the annual sojourn to the SIA.09 SnowSports Trade Show; we will see them next year in Denver," she said.

SIA's outlook (next show Jan. 28-31, 2010 in Denver):
Expecting 17,000 to 20,000 people for the 2010 show.

For its next show, SIA is:
Working with Denver on restaurant and hotel discounts and specials.

"Moving the show away from the bright lights of Vegas to the "Mile High" city also makes sense for an industry that lives and breathes snow sports," said David Ingemie, president of SIA, in an emailed statement.

"Also, from a space standpoint, we've been denying brands the opportunity to expand their presence and have been looking at alternatives for some time. The state of Colorado is known as one of the key places for snow sports, boasting 27 winter resorts within the state, while many of the industry's leaders including manufacturers, retailers, ski/snowboard publications and athletes call Colorado home," he said.

Outdoor Retailer

OR's show director was out of the country and not available to talk on the phone. However, the show said attendance at Salt Lake City declined 5% from last year's event, to 16,500. OR said it added more than 110 new exhibitors and new areas/events. 

OR Show Director Kenji Haroutunian emailed this comment:

outdoor retailerThe Outdoor Retailer floor. Courtesy OR.

"We are constantly evolving the show to better serve attendees, from new show planning tools online (to make attending more productive), to aggressive negotiating with hotels to freeze prices, to a new scholarship program for brand new (to OR) retailers chosen by our advisory boards, and working with publications on other 'first-timer' programs.

We know that the global economy is in poor shape currently, and are looking for ways to increase value to exhibitors and attendees.

Change is a constant at OR, and every show will reveal more features and options for the attendee. Working closely with SLC is another important partnership that helps control costs."

OR's next show: July 21-24 in Salt Lake City.


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