Manufacturers and SIA members have learned the possibility of a 2003 joint show or merger between SIA and Outdoor Retailer is off -- the message coming in what came off as dueling letters. The first came from David Loechner, group president of Outdoor Retailer, which was followed by one from David Ingemie, president of SIA. Both stated essentially the same facts, but underlying views about the reasons were quite different.
Loechner told his exhibitors, "Today, the SIA organization and Outdoor Retailer mutually agreed that a merger of these two shows would not occur for 2003."
In contrast, Ingemie said in his following letter, "VNU, producer of the Outdoor Retailer Show, has informed SIA that the company does not feel a co-location or merger with the SIA Show is possible for 2003.
"We will continue to pursue every opportunity to hold one show, whether it is in 2003 or in the future," Ingemie also wrote. "We have heard from a number of our members that they would like to see one show. This scenario would save many companies a great deal of money and potentially allow for that money to be put back into the marketplace."
Both Loechner and Ingemie agreed that, essentially, a lack of available space in the convention center in Las Vegas for 2003 during SIA's scheduled run, coupled with a time-schedule that was becoming increasingly too short for effective planning, led to the termination of 2003 planning.
Loechner told SNEWS® that Outdoor Retailer remains committed to exploring opportunities to merge or co-locate the winter show for 2004 if that is what the market truly wants. He also told us that Outdoor Retailer, a company he says has given over $2.5 million to the industry over the last two years, was prepared to increase its funding to OIA and other industry programs as needed.
"Keep in mind though," Loechner said, "that it is not who has the most money but who does the most with what they have, and OIA is extremely effective in helping the industry to grow and in establishing effective legislative agendas with limited funding. Can you show me that SIA has managed to grow their industry despite more dollars?"
When asked if VNU might look to lower pricing for exhibitors, Loechner told us that, "We are not working in a world of commodity, we are working in a world of value. I doubt that you will find many companies that don't believe Outdoor Retailer offers the best value for their trade show dollar."
SNEWS® View: Still confused? Let's see if we can help -- some. SNEWS® does agree that a 2003 co-location or merger thing was not ready for prime time. Far too much still needs to be worked out in terms of pricing, coordination, floor planning, revenue protection, etc. At present, we do know that SIA and VNU are still talking about a 2004 co-location. However, consensus on the issue is anything but a lock in either camp.
Consider these items from SNEWS®' background investigation:
- Approximately 11 percent of the total number of retail companies attending either OR or SIA actually cross-over to both shows. Since many companies actually split their buying team, the number of actual retail buyers who attend both shows is significantly less. So, there's not much noise from the retail front to co-mingle. That said, we do believe that there is a benefit for retailers to be exposed to additional sales and business opportunities that would occur with a co-location.
- Less than a third of manufacturers from either show actually exhibit at both shows. This includes companies such as Lowa boots, Columbia, Manzella, Tubbs, Lafuma, Marmot, Mystery Ranch, etc. It is from this group that the clamor for co-location is the loudest as such a move could amount to significant cost-savings.
- At best, slightly more than a third of companies that exhibit either at SIA or OR might benefit from being exposed to retailers from the other side of the market -- ski to outdoor, and outdoor to ski.
- Slightly less than a third really don't care about what happens in or to the other market at all, so a co-location only means more bodies roaming the floor that these companies don't need or want.
- That leaves fewer than 1 in every 100 or so of the companies in either show who are -- we're sorry to say -- quite clueless about why they are even exhibiting at all. So, perhaps a co-location deal might be a wake-up call.
- Action Sports Retailer (another VNU company) is moving its dates to January. And guess what that means? It will further confuse this mess and probably take some snowboard companies away from SIA to boot.
Our advice? Pick a show, any show, and back it. Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2002 was, well, a retail attendance disaster. SIA, for the outdoor community, was equally dismal. While both trade shows made claims, they clearly weren't supported with numbers. SNEWS® believes exhibitors need to own part of the attendance blame. Other than the Nordic contingent, no manufacturer stated simply and clearly -- this is the show you will need to go to if you want to see our products. The presentation was confusing, the message even more bewildering, and retailers, who have enough confusion and bewilderment simply trying to cope with everyday business, simply stayed home, opting instead for the growing strength of regional shows.
Should the markets co-locate in 2004 to save a third of the market some money? While we doubt that there ever will be consensus, we still believe one show would offer long-term benefit to the overall health of the entire winter and outdoor sports industry.
Finally, amid all this quibbling, one thing appears to have been overlooked, although you'd think that the 2002 winter trade show season would have made it abundantly clear -- this is really all about retailers! It really doesn't matter what the shows do or don't do if the retailers don't care. Because, without the retailers, trade shows are simply very expensive networking opportunities.