The Health & Fitness Business show indeed happened in Vegas. And, as they say, it will be staying in Vegas too.
With positive feedback from most retail attendees and exhibitors alike, the second year of the show co-location with Interbike Sept. 14-16 at the Sands Expo proved a success.
“Most exhibitors I’ve spoken to were enthusiastic about the show,” Tompkins said just a few minutes before the trade show floor closed for business on Sept. 16. “There are always some improvements we can make but I think (exhibitors) had quality conversations and the retailers that came here were here to work and pretty focused.”
“This show had an upbeat vibe, and most customers said they were excited about the integration” of the two trade shows, he added.
Lending to the increased number of smiles and ramping up in energy was the new configuration of the HFB show that plopped it in a can’t-miss area next to registration, overflow bike exhibits, the café and escalators.
"It's been excellent. I've had more qualified people in one day than the whole show two years ago in Denver. So far I'm very pleased,” said Michael Watters of Thumper Massager as he noted the 40-deep crowd waiting at the entrance before the show floor opened on day two.
Preliminary numbers on par with last year
Although the final numbers weren’t ready for release, Tompkins said the preliminary numbers were on par with last year’s.
Tompkins said early counts showed approximately 24,000 total show attendees – including 12,000 retail personnel, 4,000 stores, exhibitors, media and others were at both HFB and Interbike.
“We have to take a close look and see but it looks to me like it was pretty similar,” to last year, Tompkins said. “That’s a pretty good representation of what’s out there in terms of cycling. Cycling has lost a few doors and we know that fitness has lost a few doors since this time last year.”
Though several companies were no-shows or last-minute cancellations on the HFB floor, companies that registered late balanced the numbers out, keeping the total at around 85 companies that brought 100 brands to the show.
What worked, what didn’t?
The two afternoon SNEWS Happy Hours (in partnership with Diamondback Fitness Sept. 14 and with the HFB show Sept. 15) drew a consistent stream of people searching out beer and an end-of-day hang-out, while the Thursday morning workout proved less successful.
The workout from 8-9 a.m. on the second morning, Sept. 15, drew few if any participants, and many of the quiet booths hadn’t stepped up to be a part anyway. BH Fitness had several staff members in the booth that offered a SNEWS reporter water and information about the company’s new products – and a great workout too.
Tompkins said he agreed that the timing made it difficult for attendees to work out with enough time to return to their hotels and shower up and get back close to the show’s 9 a.m. opening. Looking forward, a more intimate meeting room environment could be advantageous compared to the sprawling open show floor, as well as more promotion to get both fitness and bike attendees over to the early morning workout.
“I don’t think everybody knew of the opportunity or what it was and how it works,” Tompkins said. “I think we can take a step back and be more thoughtful about the early morning workout.”
“People do want to get in their workout in,” Tompkins said, “we just need to figure out how we can make it more comfortable.”
A few retailers and manufacturers said they wished the show would be on the same floor with Interbike.
Gerry Maryntschak of Fitness Town in Vancouver, Canada, said HFB felt “very basementy, literally,” he said. “It’s not as polished as it’s been in the past.”
Though Maryntschak said he didn’t feel there were a lot of people from Interbike at HFB, Rob Stober, sales associate for Bike King in Clinton, N.J., perused the HFB floor on the last day. Stober said he’d liked to have seen more integration of the two shows. “The bottom floor is almost a forgotten area,” he said.
Show management worked to attract people there by adding bike exhibitor overflow, an art exhibit, a WiFi lounge, and a café where the less convention-center-like food was served. Unfortunately, Tompkins explained, the size of Interbike means not everything can be in one hall.
“We don’t have the ability to completely integrate it, but we might be able to look at that again,” Tompkins explained.
Not all retailers were negative: Cindy Bucek, of Houston Cycling Centres, said she liked the split-level show saying, “It’s easier to access. They did a great job.”
Despite common complaints – including longer show hours, a three-day event, and the extra cold air conditioning some experienced on the HFB show floor – many people were pleased with HFB next to registration, amping up visibility.
“I think we put (HFB) to the forefront a little bit more, and I think a lot of people appreciated that,” Tompkins said.
Duane Abbott, of Body Solid said he’s “happy they kept the show alive.”
Interbike and HFB getting to know one another
The arranged marriage of HFB and Interbike was a smart move, many at the show said, but now they need to get to know one another better.
“Having some integration with Interbike is great for us,” said Kurt Kenny, director of commercial sales for Lemond Fitness, which had a booth at both shows. Numerous Interbike attendees came down to check out the company’s HFB booth, he said. With registration just around the corner, plus additional Interbike booths on the same lower level with HFB, more people were aware of the fitness show.
Mark Goodman, president Fitness Direct said, "I enjoy seeing the stuff face-to-face. And for us (the co-location with Interbike) is good because we do some bike stuff. And it’s fun too."
Tompkins said he hopes next year to take the two shows’ relationship to a whole new level.
“We need to do something to connect these markets a little more closely,” Tompkins said, adding next year could feature a few mixers. “I think it would be cool to get some specific fitness retailers out to the outdoor demo to get on bikes specifically and really have a testing opportunity.”
He said both markets have something to offer one another, like a bicycle store offering fitness accessories to supplement the slow months or a fitness retailer offering bicycles to compete with the big box stores. “An experience” is what he said the show should be.
Carsten Stanjeck of Fitter International said, "We're seeing a trend in the bike stores. They're supplementing (with accessories), and it's helping their revenue stream."
Plans for the future
Tompkins said next year the show would expand into the neighboring hall, which was filled with a technology show this year. That addition will give show management additional opportunities with both shows and their activities.
Tompkins said his team would also work to address many of the common complaints that were heard this year, including discussing whether to return to a two-day format.
“If we can continue to innovate and continue to keep on offering these markets something that they haven’t seen the year before,” Tompkins said, “I think we could keep this show relevant and provide a return in investment to keep these brands engaged.”
Stay tuned in to SNEWS the next two weeks for updates on product trends the team spotted at HFB. Meanwhile, catch SNEWS TV episodes featuring products at both HFB and Interbike.
--Ana Trujillo with Therese Iknoian and David Clucas