HFB Expo survey shows overall satisfaction

In the results of an annual independent survey just released by the management of the Health & Fitness Business show, nearly half of the respondents said they were "very satisfied" with the show.
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In the results of an annual independent survey just released by the management of the Health & Fitness Business show, nearly half of the respondents said they were "very satisfied" with the show.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the total of those who said they were either "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" went down 5 percent compared to last year, which had gone up 6 percent over the previous year. That means VNU show management is nearly back to where it was two years ago. Conducted on behalf of VNU, the purpose of the survey is to help organizers better understand retailers' and exhibitors' show experience and to use that in planning future shows.

Nevertheless, overall results are positive from those who responded to the email survey, not only about the overall experience, but with the quality of retail buyers, and Denver as a location.

"I feel it is the very best show for specialty fitness dealers," said one respondent cited in the results.

Still, respondents sounded concerned about the quality of retail buyers, with only 11 percent saying they were "very satisfied," while 51 percent checked "somewhat satisfied," and more than one in four (27 percent) saying they were "somewhat dissatisfied."

Said one respondent, "Encourage buyers in large companies to stop by small businesses," with another noting that it "seems less retail dealers are making the trip."

Denver still a-ok

But Denver still gets the thumbs-up as the best location with 49 percent saying it was "excellent" and another 30 percent saying it was "good." Last year, VNU had asked about moving the show due to construction to significantly enlarge the convention center in Denver in the next two years. Most said they liked Denver, but show management has said it still needs to know that construction won't greatly disrupt business before it makes a decision regarding 2005.

Satisfaction with Denver is higher with retail attendees than with exhibitors it seems, likely because the Rocky Mountain city is known for high drayage and related exhibiting costs.

Noted the full survey report: "Exhibitors were more likely to rate it 'fair' as opposed to 'good' with the retailers doing the exact opposite, but the differences were minor…. The general complaints seem to be distance and the inevitable labor complaint you'll encounter with just about any exhibitor at any trade show."

Said one respondent, "We like Denver because it seems to be a middle point for most attendees." Counter that however with another from the Atlantic Coast of Canada who said getting to Denver took "just too much travel time."

Let consumers in?

SNEWS® has heard suggestions to let consumers in on one day of the show, as is typical at many European shows. Interestingly, in the survey, 48 percent of attendees said they would support a consumer day, while 36 percent still said no. The survey explanation noted that for the exhibitors, it all comes down to the cost of perhaps needing an extra day there or even mandating changes in booth design to accommodate consumers.

"Ultimately the goal of the industry should be to realize quality sales to consumers and to that end all of us should be receptive to learning more and better ways to accomplish that," wrote one respondent.

In other reported findings:

>> Significantly more respondents called out the conference's lectures and roundtables, with 49 percent saying they were important and another 5 percent saying they wouldn't come without them. That compares to only 35 percent who said they were important last year and 4 percent who said they wouldn't come without them. One respondent this year said he noticed changes had been made, while another said, "We took four employees with us, and they truly enjoyed the seminars."

>> Among exhibitors, 77 percent said they were satisfied with the quality of retail buyers at the show (43 percent said "very satisfied," while 33 percent said "somewhat satisfied"). That is one area that dropped significantly -- down 19 points overall from last year.

>> Among retailers, 80 percent said they found a new supplier at the show, one of their key business needs. That dropped 7 percent over last year's total of 87 percent. Said one, "It's good to go out and meet the vendors in person and also see and test the new products."

>> An overwhelming number choose the first or second weeks of August as the best time to hold the show. Although not asked directly, some added comments that questioned the need for three days and suggested making it a two-day show.

For the survey, show owner VNU Expositions provided Boulder Sports Research, Inc. with 890 unique, usable email addresses (573 retailers and 317 exhibitors) from the Health & Fitness Business Expo & Conference 2003. Email invitations were sent between Dec. 8-12 that contained the URL to a retailer survey for the retailers and an exhibitor survey for the exhibitors. A reminder email was sent on Dec. 16 to those who had not yet responded. Between Dec. 8 and 29, 120 valid responses (75 retailers and 45 exhibitors) were received. A sample size of 120 in a known universe of 2,205 (the number of unique retailers and exhibitors) has a margin of error of plus or minus 8.5 percent. Questions for exhibitors only have a margin of error of 14.3 percent. Questions for retailer attendees only have a margin of error of 10.9 percent. Due to overall small sample sizes, caution must be used in interpreting the results.

For more information about the 2004 show, Aug. 19-21, go to www.healthandfitnessbiz.com.

SNEWS View: Although a great and cozy show with a real "fitness family" feel, perhaps it's time to put more effort into growing the ranks of exhibitors a bit (more nutrition, for example, or other mind-body areas) as well as retailers. We know some retailers who go to the IHRSA club show instead of this one, although we honestly can't figure out why. Some we've spoken to don't even know much about this one! So perhaps more promotion is in order. Either way, it's still THE show for the fitness industry and needs its support.

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