Andy Tompkins isn't new to trade shows. He isn't even new to the company that runs the Health & Fitness Business Show. In the last decade he's worked with cycling, outdoor and action sports shows there. He has seen the passion an industry can have at a show of any size and, as the new HFB show director, he'd like to bring more of that to the fitness show too.
"We want to bring excitement," Tompkins told SNEWS® after only three weeks on the job as group show director for action sports, cycling and fitness. "We are very committed to the show. We also feel the market has traction and there are manufacturers telling us they need this show.
"We want to bring passion to the floor," added Tompkins, who most recently was director of the Action Sports Retailer show, also owned by Nielsen Business Media. In addition to ASR and HFB, Nielsen owns Interbike, Outdoor Retailer and FlyFishing Retailer. In total, Nielsen Sports Group says it markets to approximately 3,500 businesses and 25,000 unique specialty retailers from 10,000 storefronts.
Tompkins fills a spot left empty since January when director Lance Camisasca left the company to start his own event management, sales and marketing firm called Lifeboat Solutions.
"Andy is a consummate specialty sports trade show professional," said Joe Flynn, vice president of marketing and business development for Nielsen Business Media's Retail Group, HFB's parent company. "He has a deep understanding of the sports retail and brand landscape, as well as the needs of exhibitors and specialty retailers as they participate in trade shows."
Pre-reg numbers way up
With challenging economic times, the fitness show fulfills the needs of a niche industry that needs the energy and camaraderie it could find there to do better business, he said. Interestingly, he pointed out, pre-registration numbers are way up compared to the same number of weeks out from last year's show. Nearly a week ago, the numbers of retail buyers registered hit 735 from 242 stores, compared to 421 buyers from 139 stores at the same time out from the show last year. That's 75 percent more buyers representing 74 percent more stores already signed up -- an "encouraging" sign, show staff says.
He said he believes that establishing the Community Hub last year on the show floor as a open meeting and networking area (which is where the SNEWS® team has its booth), continuing the educational forums such as the SNEWS® Fitness Forum, and, this year, adding a free luncheon on the first day for more industry networking and discussion on the "state of the industry," led by SNEWS® editor-in-chief Therese Iknoian, are all just a few of the ways the show can become more than just a row of products.
"It's the industry's show," he said, mentioning a retail advisory council the company will form to help the company be in touch with retail needs.
Fitness means more
Since the definition of "fitness" is also morphing to include other lifestyle and wellness segments, Tompkins said their job is to tap into those segments and bring them to both sides of the aisle. In addition, the team this year is making a concerted effort to reach out to retailers who have either not come in the past or haven't come in a few years, inviting them individually to participate and offering a first-day session for them.
"We're trying to look at our lists of shows and talk to new retail segments too," Tompkins said. "We're trying to re-introduce the show to people. We're trying to reach out to dealers on a personal level."
That also means more product categories that relate to fitness are possible. Tompkins named as possible everything from sports drinks to apparel to music.
"We're trying to make this more than an exercise equipment show," he said. "We are hoping to develop synergy among our other shows to attract more buyers to HFB."
Since HFB is a part of a larger specialty sports show group, that includes shows such as Interbike and Outdoor Retailer, Tompkins said they can borrow ideas and tools used at those show. For example, a "Retail Resource Center" or business education offerings, such as done at Interbike, covering everything from POS to staff training to cash flow management is possible. In other words, he said, the show is not only about buying products but also about learning how to manage a business better.
Shortened show days
Regarding the show hours being compacted this year from being spread over three days to over two days, Tompkins said they heard a lot about costs and felt that was one way to bring them down and make two days stronger. But the company isn't married to that concept, he said, since there have been rumblings that everybody still has to stay Friday night and only having one true show night can limit company meetings and other networking opportunities that happen at a show.
"There's always a fear when you change a format," Tompkins said. "We're flexible as show producers. We will respond to the concern in 2009."
Off-floor private rooms
Another issue in the past has been the increasing migration of many exhibitors to the private rooms below the main show floor, taking the energy off the floor. To eliminate one loophole taken by a couple of companies last year, that had small booths but used them only as meet-and-greets to shepherd folks to a private room, the show has upped the required booth size to qualify for a room to 20-x-20 feet. Still, the show can only talk to its exhibitors and encourage them not to have large events during show hours but to use the rooms for meetings or to show prototypes.
"We are trying to do everything possible" to keep the energy on the floor, he said. "It's a service to the retailers. You don't want the retailers to have to wander the catacombs."
Tompkins said he looks forward to meeting people at the show, July 17-18.
"I'm really passionate about specialty markets," he said. "And the different specialty markets have similar threads."
For more information about the show, go to www.healthandfitnessbiz.com. Stay tuned to SNEWS® for ongoing updates about activities at the show.