SIA 2003 is a winner, despite smaller show

Despite being 70,000 square feet smaller than last year, the 2003 SIA Snowsports Show -- now housed in a new Mandalay Bay Convention Center home surrounded by thousands of hotel rooms, dozens of top-rate restaurants and entertainment options galore -- garnered SIA 2003 organizers winning marks from the vast majority of attendees.
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Despite being 70,000 square feet smaller than last year, the 2003 SIA Snowsports Show -- now housed in a new Mandalay Bay Convention Center home surrounded by thousands of hotel rooms, dozens of top-rate restaurants and entertainment options galore -- garnered SIA 2003 organizers winning marks from the vast majority of attendees.

According to SIA, which worked harder to establish credible attendance numbers following a few years of criticism for being vague, the number of shops attending the 2003 trade show totaled 1,720, slightly down from last year's reported total of 1,743 shops. The show attracted buyers from 23 countries.

The SNEWS team was in attendance for all four days of the Jan. 27-30 show and what follows is a quick summary of our observations and thoughts.

Good JuJu Abounded -- Say goodbye to the rather disorienting and somewhat dusty days of attending the old convention center and hello to a clean, bright welcome to the new show entry. True, one had to walk a country mile through casino hell and Mandalay halls to get there, but that's a small price to pay for creating one hallway that accesses all parts of the show floor, a hallway filled with energy most of the time. Good food existed right at the show doors from a multitude of eateries. Access to the Mandalay facility was easy via a tram that connected several major hotels, including the Luxor and the Tropicana (the SNEWS team bunked for $55 a night at the Tropicana and couldn't have been happier).

SIA Floor Jumble -- We know they call it a floorplan, but really, there looked to be no planning at all in the way the exhibit floor was numbered. In fact, most of our appointments were booked with exhibitors informing us what major booth they were near (ones with huge signs hanging above), and telling all to forget the useless numbering system. Take Nikwax, for example. It was in booth 5170 -- yet, if you looked to the sky and followed the signs for the 5100 aisle, you'd be wandering forever lost in the land of Spyder and Orage where 5129 suddenly vaporized to be replaced with 5033 and then 4941. We did eventually find Nikwax, tucked in behind 4967 and next to 5070 and on the other side of 5071 -- a world away from where it should have logically been found. We trust SIA will improve on this silliness for next year.

Snowboard Memories -- Yes, snowboard continues to provide pulse and vibe to the show, but someone, anyone, needs to tell a huge gathering of knuckleheads that aside from the "professional" approach found at established companies such as Burton, Ride, Salomon, K2 and Rossignol, overall impressions are, well, a bit tainted. At the end of the show, as two SNEWS editors headed out of the show to catch a flight to Salt Lake City, the following fairly well summed up Snowboard Alley: We saw one 20-something guy on the floor near a booth, legs splayed, like a drunk who'd crashed down on a barroom floor. A huge sombrero sat on the ground next to him, and folks in a nearby booth sported the same headwear. His head rolled back and forth and his eyes were glassy. From time-to-time, he'd try to push his long hair from his face, then give up and slump forward. Overworked from writing too many orders? Perhaps. Drunk or drugged? More likely. Now that's a professional image we want to leave with all the attending media isn't it.

SIA knows how to take care of its members -- From free eats and coffee the first morning, to free coffee every morning, plus a variety of parties and events, SIA made sure its members and show attendees were kept as happy and feeling as much love as possible. The cyber café on the show floor was always stocked with coffee and always had a line waiting to access the free-access computer stations.

Exhibitors and attendees were happy -- Most everyone we spoke with at SIA was very happy, from retailers to exhibitors. By all accounts, this venue and the energy this year was a dramatic improvement from prior years. Though members of the Nordic community were unable to attend Outdoor Retailer, thanks to the continued trade-show scheduling lunacy, they appeared quite satisfied with the SIA welcome mat and attendance. Because the Outdoor Retailer and SIA shows overlap even more next year, Nordic companies will most likely once again choose SIA over OR. While some retailers we spoke with were only attending SIA and forgoing a visit to OR, the vast majority were doing two days of SIA followed by two days of OR. Thanks to attractive Vegas flight pricing, adding a jump to Salt Lake City rarely raised airplane prices more than $100.

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