The continuing smolder over trade show dates was re-ignited by the OutDoor specialty trade show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, when its board voted to move the 2003 show to late July, departing from its mid-August timing.
Not only does that make life challenging for hardware companies who find it difficult to meet such early deadlines for product, SNEWS® has been told, but the decision also leap-frogged OutDoor into a spot one week earlier than the ispo show in Munich, leaving ispo management debating another checkmate to an even earlier July date from its current schedule of Aug. 2-5.
"The earlier dates protect us from the risk that larger companies will lose interest in attending the OutDoor show because a large portion of their customers would have already gotten the information they need at other shows," Rolf Schmid, Mammut CEO and one of the founders of the show, told SNEWS®. "And the concentration of all these companies at one show strengthens the entire outdoor industry -- and that's in the interest of all its participants."
Although Schmid told SNEWS® that all the companies at the international committee meeting the first day of the show voted for the earlier dates, sources who were at the meeting have told SNEWS® otherwise. For the first time, representatives from an array of international and smaller companies -- such as Black Diamond, Arc'teryx, and Mountain Hardwear -- as well as shoe specialists such as Meindl and Lowa -- were invited to the meeting, SNEWS® was told. The board in the past has consisted solely of large German companies such as Mammut, Salewa, and Vaude.
"From our standpoint, we'd prefer later dates," Arc'teryx CEO Tom Herbst, who was at the meeting, told SNEWS®. "We'd also prefer the (European) shows closer together."
However, he and others who have said they are not be in favor of the early dates say they will attend, and they will do the best they can since they want to support the industry show.
"We won't ever please everybody at the same time," said Christian Jaeggi, managing director for Black Diamond, Europe, whose company is not in favor of July dates. "There will always be this conflict of interest, but whatever the show dates are now, that's what they are, so we'll support them and see how it goes."
On the surface, the discussion is portrayed as an ongoing debate between the interests of apparel companies, which prefer the earlier dates, and those of hardware companies that say they need longer lead times and want the summer season to be nearly over so retailers can better know what they may need to order. It has also often been cited that the show is not a "writing" show but simply one to gather information, network, talk to customers, get feedback, note trends and for manufacturers and retailers alike to learn from each other.
But the complex discussion extends beyond that: For example, August is difficult for the French, Italians and Spaniards who traditionally take their holidays that month, while July is more difficult for Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss whose school holidays are mostly in July. For retailers, mid-summer is the strongest selling time of the season and many -- especially in smaller stores -- can't afford to leave. Plus, in Germany, the huge annual summer closeout sales are the end of July -- a direct conflict with the dates.
Then there is the balancing act with other shows. So far ispo has stuck with its early August dates for 2003, but sources say the company had considered July dates last year and is still considering a change for next. It is also considering a simpler change to a Sunday-to-Wednesday run (Aug. 3-6) instead of its traditional Saturday to Tuesday. That slide by one day they say would make it easier for international attendees to get better airfares, as well as attend while missing less time at their stores. (Most stores are closed on Sundays in Europe.) Outdoor Retailer is always on a mid-August weekend (so far slated for Aug. 14-17 for 2003). So if one European show is before the OR show and one is after the show -- or they even overlap -- travel becomes a nightmare.
"It is increasingly more difficult for manufacturers/importers/distributors to handle the international show scene," Peter Carati, of Sweden's small Hilleberg tent company, told SNEWS®. "Particularly smaller companies with limited personnel forces like us find it difficult to juggle dates and jet lags during the summer."
SNEWS® View: Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, SIA, The Super Show, and the UK's Outdoor show this month -- all have been victims of tug-of-wars and games where the dates keep getting shoveled around, then shoveled around again -- all with political undertones that sometimes seem to have less to do with the customer than with the business of trade show operations. Once again, we feel there could be some games being played in this little round of chess -- by all sides, mind you. Many we talked to spoke wistfully of a coordinated schedule between Europe and the United States, or about how beautiful and easy one central European show and one central U.S. show would be. That would be a delight for those tired jet setters. But it still wouldn't solve the ongoing battle between the hardware folks, who don't worry so much about fashion, and the apparel folks, who must react quickly to the whim of fashion's fickle nature. Their needs will always be different. Period. The twain shall never meet -- no matter how hard the trade show organizers try. So the best answer is the renowned compromise -- Figure out the best compromise to meet the customers' needs, enact it, and stick with it. Unfortunately, we don't think this show struggle will be over any time soon.