SIA.05 rocks the house at Mandalay

It appears that Snowsports Industries America (SIA) has put any questions about show timing and show health behind them. Despite no snow in the Northwest and snow that finally arrived (perfect timing) in the East just as retailers and reps were heading to SIA, the show vibe was electric during SIA.05 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jan. 24-27.
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It appears that Snowsports Industries America (SIA) has put any questions about show timing and show health behind them. Despite no snow in the Northwest and snow that finally arrived (perfect timing) in the East just as retailers and reps were heading to SIA, the show vibe was electric during SIA.05 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Jan. 24-27.

Final numbers were released as we went to press, with show organizers telling SNEWS® that all things considered, they were very happy with the overall attendance numbers. Post-show numbers estimated attendance at just over 16,000 -- basically the same as last year.

SIA reported that buyer attendance was up 1 percent over 2004, with 4,381 buyers from approximately 1,584 retail shops. SIA stated that those shops represent 18,055 storefronts worldwide -- translation, there were a lot of chain stores in attendance. SIA also reported that attendees represented 89.58 percent of the U.S. retail buying power, a 1.5 percent increase over 2004. David Ingemie, president of SIA, told SNEWS® that the buying power number is provided to SIA by Leisure Trends and is arrived at by taking those retailers who attended SIA this year, determining their sales volume from last year, comparing it with the total sales volume for the snowsports category, and then projecting it for this year -- get all that?

In terms of exhibitors, SIA.05 reached a sold-out show status in early 2004 with more than 400 exhibitors occupying approximately 328,000 square feet. Ninety-five exhibitors were newcomers, according to SIA. Reading between the lines, that means there were quite a few companies that did not return from last year, either because they elected not to or, as was the case with a number of snowboard companies, because they were no longer in business or had been acquired. Consolidation is affecting all industries.

Only during a trade show will you hear the industry complain about snow!
We had to chuckle on day one of SIA as time and again, we heard woeful tales of retailers, reps and manufacturers getting delayed for hours -- in some cases a full day -- by the record snowfall that began dumping -- finally -- on the East Coast. One retailer bemoaned his late arrival commenting, "I suppose this is the only time you'll ever hear anyone in the ski industry complaining about a heavy snowfall." Right you are. Snow means sales, and sales mean industry health. All told, SIA organizers told us only a handful of room reservations were cancelled due to the weather.

Trade show navigation continues to improve

Though we still found ourselves wandering about in a daze searching for booths from time to time, the overall layout and flow continues to improve, and the maps located at key aisle intersections throughout the show, each with a "you are here" marker, were most helpful. Last year, as you may remember, we reported that even with the color-coding of carpets and numbers, 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. This year, there were fewer dead ends, fewer "hanging" aisles, and retailers we spoke with were appreciative of that fact.

Parties and appearances
Though the snowboard area appeared more toned down this year, SIA was still the place to be if you were seeking a good time. In fact, there were nearly 100 special events that took place, far surpassing last year's records. The Big Monday Money II party sponsored by Hooked on the Outdoors Magazine, W.L. Gore & Associates and Camelbak had live music by Galactic and simply rocked, according to our spies. (We can confirm that if it is a Hooked party, it is going to be packed and amped.) Yet another live band -- Bow Wow Wow from '80s fame (SIA appears to be the place to try to resurrect a career apparently) kept partygoers dancing at another evening shindig. There were also athlete appearances and autograph sessions, live TV broadcasts, giveaway and design contests, live bands, press conferences, breakfast and lunch seminars, an alumni breakfast, a Rail Jam -- heck, we're worn out just trying to type this.

Super Wednesday was quite super

New this year to the SIA SnowSports Show was the introduction of Super Wednesday. Included in the format were seminars conducted by industry experts who educated retailers on the children's market, women's products and what SIA keeps trying to term "the booming telemark industry" -- OK, can we please stop calling this a booming industry? Just because the ski industry has finally discovered telemark does not mean it is booming. Sheesh! It's healthy and growing, yes. The outdoor industry has known about telemark as a category for eons. Booming? Not. OK…back to the super part. By all accounts, retailers took full advantage of the extended hours and event format to learn about product categories and new brands. Cool idea that other trade shows might want to consider emulating.

Did you get our good side?
SIA reports that over 400 media personnel received credentials to cover the show -- and that includes the editors from GearTrends® and SNEWS®, naturally. Most intriguing was the coverage by major TV outlets including Resort Sports Network (RSN), Outdoor Life Network (OLN) and local Las Vegas network affiliates. SIA also turned to a local film crew to package a seven-minute video news feed (VNR) that was distributed to more than 600 news stations across the United States. VNRs aren't cheap, but they are becoming more popular as news stations slash budgets and look to professionally produced news feeds to fill segments. We're told SIA made the investment to push sales into retail stores during President's Day week. They'll likely run an edited version of the footage before Columbus Day in the fall to drive sales then. We just hope they got our good side because we just know Hollywood producers will be watching.

SIA elects first female chair

Perhaps underscoring the industry's increased attention toward women and serving their needs with specifically designed equipment, for the first time in SIA's 51 year history, a woman will now lead SIA's board of directors. Diane Boyer-Irwin was elected as chair of the board and will serve a one-year term. Dick Leffler, president of Nils, Inc. steps down after two consecutive terms as chair. Rounding out the slate of board officer are: James Curleigh of Salomon is first vice-chair; Laurent Potedevin of Burton is second vice-chair; Mike Carey of Seirus Innovative Accessories is third vice-chair; Bill Post of Sport Obermeyer is secretary; and John Stahler of Tecnica is treasurer. New board members are Kathy Murphy of Tubbs, David Currier of Carrera, and Eric D'Anjou of Coalision.

SIA.06 will take place next year at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center from Jan. 23 to 26. The SNEWS® team will be bringing you more coverage of trends and observations from the SIA.05 show floor in the next few weeks, beginning with our Nordic trends coverage this week.

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