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After some phone tag, I got a chance to connect Friday with Andy Tompkins of ASR.
The first thing I asked him: Why did Nielsen pull the plug all the way? Many would not have been surprised if the January show was cancelled while the August show remained. Shuttering the show completely seemed so final.
Andy said the team looked at a lot of scenarios – downsizing it to a different venue, just having the August show, etc.
It boiled down to this: There is a certain platform the company is comfortable investing in and producing, and the show was not getting the retail response need to stage that kind of show.
ASR felt it had the brand support – nearly every brand was at one of the four shows under the ASR umbrella in August, he said, but the retail attendance kept dropping each year.
“We were concerned we were at a point of diminishing return,” he said.
(Right: Andy with Bob Hurley at the Dick Baker Memorial Award event.)
Andy shared some statistics with me. At the 2010 August show, typically the biggest ASR show, 1,000 unique stores attended with a total of 3,100 buyers.
In August 2009, 1,300 unique stores attended, and 3,600 buyers. That decline trend had been going on for awhile, he said.
Andy compared that to the once-a-year Interbike show for the bike industry, which still has a very robust independent specialty store base and does not have a lot of other trade shows in the space. At that last show, which happens once a year, 4,000 unique stores attended and 12,000 buyers.
Andy cited several reasons for the drop in retail attendance at ASR, including the consolidation at retail and the growth of the action sports lifestyle, which led larger chains to carry brands. In addition, some larger brands are strategically not opening new accounts and are instead investing money back into the retail floor.
Many brands also have the resources to visit accounts, and so retailers had already seen the lines.
Andy wanted to stress that he is not suggesting action sports as a category does not have a brilliant future. It’s just the way it’s evolving, with the brand consolidation and the big brands getting bigger and stronger, he’s not sure how the success is going to be parceled out.
He definitely thinks participation is growing and consumer interest is high, but is not sure if it will lead to a broad acceptance of many brands or acceptance of a limited number of brands.
And he sees the same thing with retailers – retailers are opening more doors, but it’s mostly the bigger chains that are expanding rather than the independents.
ASR could have put on shows in 2011, he said, but if the product was not strong enough, it did not want to ask manufacturers to invest in it. Also, Nielsen wanted to spend its time and resources on other opportunities. The company recently made an acquisition in the photography space.
Andy likened the decision to athletes who don’t want to continue to compete if they can’t compete on the same level.
See Page 2 for more, including why Nielsen is keeping the ASR name