Monday, September 27, 2010

Interbike Report - Leaving Las Vegas

Interbike 2010 was in Las Vegas last week. Just before the this year's show, we learned that Inrebike will move from a long time run at the Sands Convention center in Las Vegas to Anaheim CA, and it will be six weeks earlier in the year running the first week of August in 2011.

In recent years with many of the big companies in the bike business pulling out of the show, there has been a great deal of discussion about the utility and usefulness of Interbike (the changes for next year being made to supposedly address this). Indeed, some even question why Nineteen, a company that only makes triathlon wetsuits, would even be at a trade show called Interbike! The reality is that there is no specific trade show for the triathlon business, and many of our retail customers, prospective retail customers, distributors and the triathlon media all attend this show. Years ago there had been some discussions about a Triathlon zone or area at Interbike that never came to fruition. I take no credit for it, but when we (Nineteen) started going to the show four years ago, I sought out where the leader in the tri wetsuit business was, Blue Seventy, and I took a booth across the aisle from them. They were fine with this, and now, almost all the wetsuit companies can all be found within a very small area or short walk on the Interbike show floor - as well as more than a few other companies interested in the triathlon market. There is now an informal Triathlon Zone at Interbike that has developed over the past few years in the back left corner of the show floor.

Of course, with the move to the Anaheim Convention Center next year, it will be interesting to see how this will be replicated - formally or informally. Naturally the move to Anaheim, generated considerable talk amongst vendors and dealers at this year's show. If it was Interbike's intention to make the show "better", by drawing back in, some of the big players who no longer book booth space on the show floor( TREK et al . . ), and more dealers, they may be sadly mistaken in this regard. The reaction on the part of fellow vendors that I spoke to, and dealers was mixed at best.

I understand why Interbike has become not at all helpful to big players in the bike business, such as TREK and others. Pre-season orders are now taken in July and August, and these larger companies these days are in the habit of inviting in, all expenses paid, all or their best accounts to special events that they host either at their own facilities or elsewhere at nice hotels and resorts. Even smaller companies such as Cervelo have gone this route with their BrainBike events!

Ironically, for really small companies, micro businesses really, Interbike still full-fills a valuable a key role - it puts vendors(sellers) and dealers(buyers) under one roof for a few days. I know that for us at Nineteen, Interbike is perhaps the most important three days of the year for us and this year, was the best Interbike show that we have ever had - we met with more people, talked to more good prospects, and interacted with more key media in the triathlon business than we ever have.

Hopefully next year, despite the move to Anaheim and it being six weeks earlier, it will be more of the same!

Finally, it's important to know that Interbike is a Trade Show. In the gear oriented sports of cycling and triathlon, many consumers are obsessed with finding out what is the latest and greatest, but the general public is not welcome at the show. People who do get in or newcomers to the show, are often overwhelmed by all the gear and all the cool tech stuff or the VIP's just wandering around - Is that George Hincapie over there? I know I was like that, when I went to my first Interbike show years ago. However, it's important to note that often the key things that go on at a show like Interbike, are the quiet conversations that go on in the aisles, with customers, competitors, prospects and key movers & shakers in the business. This is where and how the real action in the business happens.

That being said, everyone wants to know what was the coolest thing I saw at the show. Well, truth be told, I barely got out of the Nineteen booth for the whole show and I really did not get a chance to walk the whole show or see much of it for that matter. This being the last Interbike in Las Vegas, that to me was the news of the show. I have been coming here for many years now, so on the last night of the show, I took a short walk up and down part of the strip near our hotel for one last time just to take it all in. I have always had a strange relationship with Las Vegas - it's not the kind of place I would ever go to on vacation, but thousands of people do. That walk of nostalgia amongst the masses strolling the Strip, past the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars, The Flamingo, Mirage and the Bellagio, and the other grand hotels and casinos of Las Vegas seemed a fitting way to end it all!

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