The Super Show: Time to move on, the industry says, but where?

Whether the sporting goods trade show world will be a better place after the feeble flickering flame of The Super Show is snuffed out at the end of this month is yet to be seen, although most say it was high time to recognize market changes and move on.
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Whether the sporting goods trade show world will be a better place after the feeble flickering flame of The Super Show is snuffed out at the end of this month is yet to be seen, although most say it was high time to recognize market changes and move on.

"I applaud their decision. The retail and manufacturing landscapes have changed dramatically over the past 10 years, and this show lost its luster," said Michael Savage, president of Savage Fitness and CEO of Danskin Fitness, exhibitors since 1996 that pulled out after last year's show. "Whether this was inevitable or not, I don't know."  

Show owner SGMA officially announced Jan. 4 that its future show strategy does not include The Super Show, which will be put out of its misery after its 21st edition Jan. 23-25. Click here to see details in our SNEWS® story, Jan. 3, 2006, "SGMA's future show strategy ousts The Super Show."

Instead, the association said it will stage two "markets" as of 2007 -- a Spring Market in June for holiday and first-quarter deliveries, and a Fall Market in October for back-to-school and third-quarter deliveries.

Show producer, Florida-based Communications and Show Management Inc. (CSM), wasted no time in announcing the next day that it too wasn't going to be left out, scrambling to send out a press release unveiling its new show for November 2006 for the sports licensing and entertainment industries with a so-called "tailgating extravaganza."

"Licensing was a strong part of The Super Show," said Ann Keusch, CSM's COO. The SGMA is "doing what they want to do to serve their market and we have worked closely with the licensing market. We are working quickly."

Conflicts with other shows?

In the end, the licensing and team categories at The Super Show were the two largest segments, with licensing nearly dominating the remaining hall space. For other industries, such as fitness, what this will mean is yet to be seen, especially since the June market falls smack between two fitness shows that have been key to different markets -- IHRSA in March for the commercial and vertical segments, and the Health & Fitness Business Expo in August for the retail and vertical segments. At this time, with details of the SGMA Spring Market lineup still to be set, it's not clear whether one or the other may suffer or gain with the change in the SGMA strategy. Fall shows, such as Club Industry in October or November and Athletic Business in December, could also pose some conflict with any fitness element at the SGMA Fall Market in October.

"I can't say I feel threatened, but I won't ignore it," said Lance Camisasca, director of the Health & Fitness Business show, this year Aug. 3-5, again in Denver. "I'm not sure fitness people want running shoes and baseball bats there with them."

Still, one new company that has been at both the Denver show and Super Show told SNEWS® he supported the strategy since it shows a much-needed adaptation to market needs.

"We now have the ability for these new shows to be the focal point of the sporting goods industry," said Kevin Lamar, president of Lamar Health, Fitness & Sports, and an SGMA board member. "We have a new easel on which to paint a new picture.

"Of course, there are going to be conflicts, but it doesn't change the direction you have to go," added Lamar, who said he will still support the Denver show and, despite being an SGMA board member, will not be in a booth at the last Super Show this month.

"Fitness could be an underlying part of both (new SGMA) markets," he said, "because it's so much a part of all sports, from running to hockey."

Savage, who has begun exhibiting at the Health & Fitness Business Expo, said he believes companies and retailers with a fitness/health bent will transition to attending the Denver show.

Wait and see…
At least one exhibitor who has been at The Super Show since its inception in 1999 is Horizon Fitness, but a spokesman said he remained uncertain about the new strategy.

"We understand what the SGMA is trying to do and agree that The Super Show needed some change and new life," said Bill Sotis, vice president of product and marketing. "We are not sure that this is the answer. For the fitness industry specifically, the timing poses a few problems relative to retailers' assortment decisions."

Some manufacturers who have sometimes complained quietly in recent years about the lack of traffic at The Super Show, have nevertheless found reasons to go back, including good timing for meetings, international contacts, and sometimes even stumbling on a couple of resources that have made the entire event and many hours of thumb-twiddling worthwhile.

"The Super Show has become for us one of interaction with international dealers," said Ed Banasky, sales director for Fitnex, which has exhibited since 2004 since its first year as a company. "That has outnumbered the U.S. dealers 3-to-1 for the last two years for us. Actually, last year for us was very good; we walked away with a very good amount of direct sales and gained one international dealer who later ordered a 40-foot container."

Banasky said the company already has three meetings set up for the coming show with international contacts that should prove valuable.

"I think the new structure will actually be a nice change of pace and should benefit us as a fitness equipment supplier," added Banasky, whose company also exhibits at the Health & Fitness Business Expo, which he said Fitnex would not give up.

Specialty buyers?
Although SGMA has declined to release attendance in recent years, it's been clear that many big-name sporting goods and mass market players either don't attend or spend their time in private meetings off-site. Buyers for specialty fitness shops often don't go, and at least one said at this point he doesn't see a reason to go to the market in Las Vegas.

"I'm actually glad that the show is restructuring, but I'm not sure if the Vegas show has the right subject matter for us to attend," said Carlos Vazquez, president of Florida-based Busy Body Gyms to Go, who also attends IHRSA for commercial buying, Denver for retail equipment, and Club Industry to fill in the gaps. "The Super Show saw its time. I will remember the years in Atlanta when I was overwhelmed by the amount to see."

Marching into the future
But just because the SGMA has announced new shows, doesn't mean they will be the be-all, end-all to which the industry and all its segments will immediately flock. Like other shows, the association will have to prove they are worth attending and perhaps provide anther carrot behind rows of booths. For the SGMA, that may mean education or even dipping into the technology needs of sporting goods industries.

Whatever way you look at this end of an era -- you can bet the funeral that will be this year's Super Show will echo with reminiscing tales of the glory days of yore -- it has been recognized as time to move on.

"Business changes, and life changes," said Colleen Logan, director of marketing for Icon Health & Fitness, which exhibited at The Super Show for a number of years starting in about 1997 but had pulled out a few years ago. "It's not a bad thing. It's just healthy to say, 'It's changed.'"

Will Icon come back? Logan said there are blanks that need filling in before Icon decides. Shows as a whole have become less necessary, partly because of the rise of the Internet and email as a marketing tool that has accelerated the pace of development, she said. She called the former "grand unveiling" of products at a show a "quaint" idea in today's world. In addition, business isn't as seasonal as it once was. Plus, continued consolidation on both the supplier and retail has downsized needs and numbers on both sides of the aisle.

"We think this strategy is the right thing," Logan said. "It's a smart recognition of how things have changed."

On with the show -- The 21st annual Super Show will go on at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. It will open its doors Jan. 23 for its last go-round. We have been told there are about 500 total exhibitors, but the ranks filling out the fitness area look slim, based on the Super Show's website. They include: Ball Dynamics, Century Sporting Goods, Everlast Worldwide, FitDeck, Fitness Master, FitTrek, Heavy Hands, Horizon Fitness, Lifegear, Reebok, SportsBeat, Spri and Stamina, as well as a bunch of unknowns including Ciber International Corp., Gee Hoo Corp., HL Corp., Ho Cheng Sports Manufacturing Ltd., Kao Chen Ltd., Kogee USA Inc., Ming Luen Ltd., Shanghai Wingo International Ltd., Uma International, and Wai Lana Productions.

No show floor map had been published on the website (www.thesupershow.com) as of Jan. 9, we were told because of constant changes.

In addition to the trade show floor, management is touting its networking party on opening night with free music, hors d'oeuvres and beverages from 5-7 p.m. There will also be a State of the Industry talk by SGMA President Tom Cove (with a free lunch), and a workshop series with a smattering of lectures over the three days of the show.

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