Over the years, the Eastern Outdoor Reps Association (EORA) has gained a reputation for hosting extremely well-run regional trade shows. And the annual winter Southeast Region show in Greenville, S.C., is considered the best of the bunch.
The SNEWS team ducked into this year's show, held Feb.22-25, and we have to say we were very impressed, for a few reasons.
First, Greenville's Palmetto Center provides a nice venue for this open-booth regional show, with a first-floor hall that is roomy, clean and well-lit. Second, we were impressed with the level of activity. Even though the first day -- a Saturday -- was slow, traffic picked up, drawing 575 buyers (up from 520 last year), who saw some 425 product lines. Of these buyers, about 60 percent do not even attend the national trade shows, said Debbie Motz, EORA's executive director. Of course, one reason for this show's strength is that the Southeast is home to one of the country's highest concentrations of specialty outdoor stores.
Walking the show floor, we were surprised to see a number of snowsport brands, such as Spyder and Rossignol, exhibiting for the first time. They were unlikely attendees because the EORA Southeast show focuses on the outdoor specialty market. Plus, the ski show presented by the Southeastern Winter Reps Association would be starting in a few days in an upstairs hall in the Palmetto Center. We wondered why the ski companies were crossing over.
Jim Parnell, who represents Spyder and Carerra, said there were a few reasons why we might see more ski companies migrate from the winter SWRA show to the EORA show. "There's been a real shift in the market, and people are scrambling to do year-round business," he said. The need to do year-round business is causing the outdoor and ski retail markets to blend together. While reps and buyers would like to do business in both worlds, the dates for the Southeast ski and outdoor regional shows don't always dovetail or overlap, so people must choose one over the other.
This year, Mitch Chilton brought his Rossignol line to the EORA Southeast show, rather than SWRA, for the first time. "We had been trying to do both shows, but felt like we were duplicating our efforts. Plus, we felt like it was doing the dealers a better service to have our lines in one place, rather than having to catch us in two different places," Chilton said.
He added that the EORA show in Greenville has the advantage of being four days, while SWRA is three days. "We really need a four-day show to get everything done," said Chilton. "I was slammed from the time we were out of the chute, and we had people at our booth at 5 o'clock as we were beginning to tear down."
According to Chilton, regional shows have grown more important for the Southeast ski market. "Because SIA in Vegas is so much earlier now, many Southeastern retailers are not going there. They're trying to get everything done at the regional shows," he said.
We asked Chilton if he was concerned that he might be missing business by choosing the Greenville outdoor show over the ski show.
"If I had been the only guy at the outdoor show I would have been worried," he replied. "But when you have Atomic, Salomon, Volkl, Tecnica and Rossignol (at EORA), the ski people are going to come to that show."
EORA reports that it has confirmed dates with the Palmetto Center for Feb.19-22 next year. However, those dates could change, pending a meeting with SWRA.
"We'll try to have the shows overlap a day or two or dovetail," said Mary Kalis, SWRA's executive director. "We need to make it work for the retailers."