SNEWS Reader Survey: HFB show should rotate cities, bring in other categories, keep equipment previews

In SNEWS' second annual survey of its readers to assess what the fitness industry wants in a retail-centric show, respondents gave us an earful about the cities they'd like to see, the non-equipment categories they approve of, the kind of program they prefer -- and a whole lot more.

In SNEWS' second annual survey of its readers to assess what the fitness industry wants in a retail-centric show, respondents gave us an earful about the cities they'd like to see, the non-equipment categories they approve of, the kind of program they prefer -- and a whole lot more.

Overall, a majority of SNEWS® readers who responded said:

>> Rotate cities where it is held

>> Maintain equipment testing, networking of all kinds and add more education

>> Bring on the non-equipment-based, less-traditional categories

>> An alternative show concept? We'll listen.

"We will always go to the show," wrote one respondent. "This is an opportunity that anyone with any ambition to stay active in the market can't afford to miss."

For the record…

As with all SNEWS surveys, these are not scientific or led by a team of statisticians. We ask for opinions. This round, we put out the call for opinions for two weeks, with the survey open the last week of August through Sept. 3, 2009. There were only five required questions and three optional ones, although most chose to do them all. We did not require respondents to identify themselves by name although we did require them to tell us whether they were a retailer, supplier or other professional. Respondents were evenly split between retailers and suppliers.

SNEWS would like to set the record straight at the start: We do not own or run the show, although some seem to think so based on how highly involved we have become with education, content and networking. We just care a lot and want to try to deliver. We found it rather entertaining that some survey respondents said "your show" and "you should" when we at SNEWS can only pass on to show management at Nielsen Business Media what you say. So show management gets the comments such as, "Hopefully you will take the feedback you receive seriously since it is quite apparent from the fact that this show was on life support that you haven't listened in the past." We at SNEWS have tried over the years to bring more fun, education and networking opportunities, so thanks for thinking we have more power than we do!

Mark your calendars! Show management has told SNEWS it is planning a web-based meeting and presentation, now tentatively set for Oct. 22. All are invited to dial in and attend to hear what the company would like to do with the show and give feedback while it's early enough in the planning to make a difference, said show director Andy Tompkins. Meeting details are still pending, but stay tuned to SNEWS to read more.

Rotate or head to Las Vegas -- or both?

This year, we listed nine cities to choose from -- ones that had come up more consistently in last year's survey or since then -- plus a choice of "rotate every 1-2 years" and "other." (We were glad to see that nobody checked our option "Doesn't matter. I won't come.") We also allowed respondents to check more than one (see chart below).

More than a third of respondents choose Vegas (35.5 percent) although a good number (22.6 percent) opted for San Diego, Calif. The most votes went to rotation (41.9 percent). Interestingly, 16.1 percent actually voted for staying in Denver.

In added comments, those from the East said they were tired of heading West and wanted to see something in the Midwest or East. Fair enough. A few said a city just had to be centrally located with good flights and logistics. Some who use this as a vacation opportunity wanted entertainment options, access to the ocean or other activities.

One, interestingly suggested a resort hotel since such a location keeps people together, is in a good environment and can be conducive to family travel. "…a great environment for networking, with great opportunities for events like rafting, golfing, bike rides, etc.,… Everyone gets a lot of business accomplished, in an environment that connects to the industry. People look forward to the event every year."

And, for all those in favor of Las Vegas -- be it for good connections, entertainment or cheap show logistics -- some just hate the place: "Anywhere but Las Vegas," wrote in one.

We must add that our profile this year of respondents skewed to those who have attended more rather than fewer shows. Nearly three of four had been to seven or more shows in Denver.

What do you want once there?

Although the show has broached the subject of a less equipment-based show, i.e. one with more of a conference feel with only small exhibits -- that may not be the way to head, per our respondents. Of a list of 15 items they'd want at shows (multiple choices allowed again), "equipment preview/testing" was overwhelmingly a must -- 93.5 percent said that's what they came for.

Second choice, however, was networking. Combine answers for "networking with industry peers" (67.7 percent) and "networking happy hours" (67.7 percent) and you can see that networking (and being happy) are pretty popular. Another large group wanted more education -- naming "breakouts" and "staff training opportunities," with other choices such as forums and state of the industry garnering some votes. The fewest votes (16.1 percent) were for keynotes.

But, of course, not all are agreed.

Said one, "I think the show needs more of a draw than just exhibits. There needs to be education/seminars that will bring retailers to the show and the exhibits will benefit as a by-product."

Said another, "The show needs quality vendors…. The rest is fluff."

All that aside, three-quarters of respondents said they felt a "hotel-based" conference and show had merit. Some calling it "wonderful" in fact. Despite saying they supported it, many then added comments that they needed to see the package, read the details or expressed hesitation like "it might work."

Then there are those who don't like change: "I have been in business for 11 years so I don't need to schmooze."

But several pointed to this year's disappointing show and said, as one did, it was "pathetic -- too many manufacturers and suppliers are not supporting THEIR show."

Another said in response to another question but related to this: "Dealers need to band together and force their manufacturers to attend the show. If they only support manufacturers who support the industry show, the show will thrive and those who are not part will simply fade away."

Other types of exhibits than equipment?

Opinions seem to be swinging a bit here. This year, we had nearly 84 percent say, yes, they would be interested in "non-traditional" fitness exhibitors such as apparel, footwear, yoga, nutrition, bikes, outdoor, playground equipment, etc. (see chart below). Last year only 60 percent said that. To see last year's Sept. 9, 2008, story summarizing 2008 SNEWS survey results, click here

Even write-in comments were (mostly) more positive:

"I am always open to new revenue streams and profit centers."

"The fitness dealer may need an evolution. Bringing other fitness-related items to the show may aid in that evolution."

"Specialty fitness needs to look at other seasonal opportunities to produce revenue."

Some even expressed surprise that any of these things were considered "non-traditional."

But again some said absolutely not -- or at least not to the extent it would become a giant free-for-all of product like The Super Show once was.

A number noted the option of combining with Interbike, although as long as that show remains in late September it would likely be too late in the season.

Still want to express your opinion? Keep the conversation going by adding a comment to the exclusive members-only SNEWS Chat below this story.

--Therese Iknoian

SNEWS® View: Show management, of course, has a huge task on its hands in creating another option for 2010. We know for a fact it cannot satisfy everybody in type, timing or location. But since so many seem to indicate they want this show, no matter what is tried, SNEWS believes the industry should support it and engage in additional conversation to develop it to what is truly the best format. Either way, we hope many take the time to participate in the web-based presentation on Oct. 22. SNEWS will announce details as soon as we have them.

--SNEWS® Editors


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