Annual HFB show survey shows mostly satisfaction, show dates to be considered

Showing nearly the same satisfaction level as a year ago, the annual survey of retailers and attendees done by management of the Health & Fitness Business Expo nevertheless offered a look at areas the show has or will address.
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Showing nearly the same satisfaction level as a year ago, the annual survey of retailers and attendees done by management of the Health & Fitness Business Expo nevertheless offered a look at areas the show has or will address.

"In general, the survey has told us we're doing the right thing and are going in the right direction," said An Le, marketing manager for show owner VNU. "Now we can even do it better with feedback on things like location and dates."

Some 92 percent of retail attendees were either "very satisfied" or "satisfied," while 91 percent of exhibitors were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied," consistent with last year, the results showed.

"This was my first show in the industry," one attendee respondent wrote in. "I really enjoyed everyone that I met and all the information that I gathered."

Show dates and private meeting rooms
A couple of bugaboos surfaced, including the increase last year in some suppliers slipping off the floor into private rooms and the movement toward a later show date in August.

When it comes to show dates, Le said management was forced to take the best available in 2005, but it heard loud and clear that most people prefer dates between late July and the first or second week of August. He said the 2006 show dates have not been contracted, and management will push to work with the Denver Convention Center for an earlier time, if available.

"I would like to see the trend of later dates to be reversed," wrote one attendee, responding to the survey. "The show needs to be earlier."

One exhibitor responded: "We rely on dealer feedback at this show to help develop new products. August dates are too late to react and get new products to market before the busy selling season."

Regarding the issue of companies using private rooms in the convention center, show management has responded. As of 2005, companies muse be present on the floor. Meeting rooms on-site but off the floor are supposed to be for just that—special meetings, and perhaps to show a particular piece of new equipment to some customers. Companies will not be allowed to rent a separate room if they are not on the floor, Le said. For example, True Fitness, which last year left the floor for a room, has returned to the floor, he said, and Lamar Health, Fitness & Sports will also be on the floor.

"Allowing vendor exhibitors to have private exhibit areas detracts from floor traffic and kills one of the main benefits for small companies to attend – benefiting from floor show traffic," wrote on exhibitor on the survey.

Denver in high regard
In the past, some people questioned whether the show should move from Denver, but most participants like the Colorado city, and VNU has no plans to move it, Le said.

"Denver is still a favored city," he said. In survey results, 89 percent of attending retailers said Denver was either an "excellent" or "good" location, while 80 percent of exhibitors said the same.

Show management was also encouraged that a 90 percent of retailers reported that they found at least one new supplier at the show. That's up from 80 percent the previous year, a good sign for smaller retailers and newer vendors, Le said. Retailers said in the survey that they were at the show to see new products (95 percent), build relationships with suppliers (87 percent) and find new vendors (85 percent), among other things. Less business-direct items scored lower.

"The retailers' reasons for attending are solidly based on their basic business needs, finding new products and vendors and building relationships with their suppliers," the survey summarized. "To a much lesser extent are they interested in learning from other retailers or educational seminars. This is unfortunate but typical among some other specialty markets such as cycling. While many opportunities are presented at the show to work on this, more may be welcomed by the attendees."

Education slips in demand this year
When it comes to the educational offerings, perhaps what was perceived in 2004 as very weak seminar offerings affected the answers that only 26 percent of retailers found the seminars important; 41 percent said it didn't affect one way or the other their decision to come. For example, a year ago following the 2003 show, 49 percent of retailers said they wouldn't come without them, compared to a mere 6 percent this year. The show is working on upping the quality of the sessions for 2005, including offering a free lunch for networking after a seminar and then a panel discussion the first morning, sponsored by GearTrends®/SNEWS®.

The survey, conducted by Boulder Sports Research, Inc., is intended to help trade show management better understand retailers' and exhibitors' show experience and to utilize their input for future direction and planning. Researchers warn that small results indicate margin of errors from 10 percent (of exhibitor answers) to 14.5 percent (retailer answers) and that results should be interpreted with caution. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent via email in mid-January.

"Health & Fitness Business has proven to be a great venue for networking, connecting buyers with suppliers and has become the most important event of the year for the retail fitness industry," said Show Director Lance Camisasca. "This year we will be adding insightful speakers and discussion panels to the conference segments as we strive to provide the best possible event for the industry."

This year's show will be Aug. 25-27, in Denver. More information is available at www.healthandfitnessbiz.com.

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