SIA.04 show energy continues to build at Mandalay Bay

Building on momentum from last year, SIA.04 closed out another successful trade show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas from January 26 to 29. While final numbers were not available as we went to press, show organizers told SNEWS they were very happy with the show energy and overall attendance. Preshow numbers estimated attendance at 16,000.
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Building on momentum from last year, SIA.04 closed out another successful trade show at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas from January 26 to 29. While final numbers were not available as we went to press, show organizers told SNEWS they were very happy with the show energy and overall attendance. Preshow numbers estimated attendance at 16,000.

SIA.04 boasted a sold-out show with more than 400 exhibitors occupying 329,079 square feet, a 3.1-percent increase over last year. Average booth size increased 5.9-percent over last year.

Trade show navigation
Recovering nicely from the floor organization debacle of last year (rumors of retailers still lost trying to find a booth proved untrue) SIA kicked off a color-coded format to simplify navigation. Blue, red, green and black carpet corresponded nicely with a color-coded map and sequentially numbered booths. This was a very nice and appreciated improvement, because now, at least, retailers knew what color they were lost in. Unfortunately, even with the color-coding, retailers were left to navigate a maze of booths zigging this way and that with few clear and straight aisles. Often, an aisle would end in the wall of a large booth, leaving you to zip around and try to pick up the scent of your destination. Next year, we'd love to see more flow, with longer, straighter aisles.

Partying through the years
SIA.04 ended the first day with a large 50th Anniversary partying that was both entertaining and dark. Everyone had a great time, you just didn't know who you were having it with. Four adjoining rooms, each representing a different era in the growth of the winter sports industry, offered a visual snack of dancing girls dressed in period costumes, swaying, bopping or grooving before a screen showing film and video from each time period. The SNEWS team groped its way from the 50s and 60s to the 70s and then the 80s, ending up with a handful of potato chips and a plateful of dip in a dark place between the 90s and 2004. While we offer huge props to the show organizers for pulling off such a good party, we're left wondering if the show shouldn't have also had a room for the future, or was that just too scary to imagine?

Pain and prostitution, err, we mean snowboarding section
While the entire show floor was reverberating with good energy this year, the snowboard section, affectionately known as the pain and prostitution region of the show, was in rare form yet again -- though it took them until Day Two to warm up. Decals, cards featuring local female talent, and bumper stickers littered the aisles along with an ever-increasing number of bodies. While partying is not a bad thing, it does appear that the louder the music, the trashier the booth, and the more the booze flowed freely, the less business was getting done. This is not to say that there were not loud and boisterous crowds surrounding the likes of Burton, Salomon and others, but clearly, the energy at the successful companies was focused more on getting down to business, and not just on getting down.

One very interesting trend is the military influence on the snowboard crowd -- so much so that it looks as though many are prepping for boot camp. Practically every manufacturer we saw featured camo apparel in the line. There was also a helmet by Giro that looked like a military-issue Kevlar helmet. And, apparently the web belt and olive-drab plastic canteen is becoming the hydration gear of choice.

Tele grabs a stage off the edge of the convention floor
We're still chuckling over SIA noting that tele is an emerging category, but we understand where the show organizers were coming from. While outdoor has known telemark has been relatively strong for years, ski shops have yet to really get a clue. Perhaps now they will. Banking on the newfound energy, Craig Dostie, publisher of Couloir magazine, and Mike Hattrup of K2, put on a staged "Great Debate" with Glen Plake as the Master of Ceremonies in the Telemark/AT World. With a premise of debating whether boots or bindings would affect the future growth of Telemark, Dostie and Hattrup fired a few mild jabs and parries at each other before a crowd of 50 or so. As the crowd dispersed within 30 minutes, the SNEWS team was still trying to comprehend whether the debate had actually produced any substantive material. We quickly drowned out all memory of the event with shots of aquavit, which was thankfully very nearby in the Nordic Village. Thanks to Alpina and Swix for the tasty salmon and libations.

SIA.05 will take place next year at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center from January 24-27. The SNEWS team will be bringing you more coverage of trends and observations from the show floor in the next two weeks.

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