The Super Show touts growth with Orlando move

With a move to Orlando, Fla., for the next three years, The Super Show had to rebuild its entire layout and floor plans, including a major re-jiggering of its still-wet-behind-the-ears World of Sports Innovation (WOSI) -- of course, all the while hoping not only that manufacturers and retailers would follow it eastward but also that even more would feel the draw to come to Disney's town.
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With a move to Orlando, Fla., for the next three years, The Super Show had to rebuild its entire layout and floor plans, including a major re-jiggering of its still-wet-behind-the-ears World of Sports Innovation (WOSI) -- of course, all the while hoping not only that manufacturers and retailers would follow it eastward but also that even more would feel the draw to come to Disney's town.

If numbers hold out, that could be the case, even for the fitness and nutrition area, which is now the fourth largest area behind No.1 licensed products (the gargantuan "world" of the show, of course), No. 2 tennis and No. 3 marine.

Under the show's belt also is a complete revamp of the WOSI -- an area rolled out last year to showcase new products, companies and innovation in a radical and abstract departure from the booths, aisles and sometimes annoying sales folks of most shows. Although gaining positive reviews of the WOSI concept last year, Show Director Peter Haines told SNEWS that surveys of attendees and exhibitors revealed the execution needed a bit of help. But no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater since The Super Show is trying to make a name for itself as THE place to come to see new stuff.

"We want to be the new product showcase," Haines said. And, although The Super Show may not be the hot spot for specialty retailers, it has a growing following among sporting goods and international dealers, including those who also carry fitness and exercise equipment.

"We're emphasizing The Super Show as the cross-category show," Haines added. "Anybody interested in buying sports products will come and find an efficient way to buy. We want to be the most important venue for cross-over buys."

Fitness companies aboard

Included on the exhibiting list for the fitness and nutrition "world" for example are: Hoist Fitness Systems (debuting its new sporting goods BodyGear line), Horizon Fitness, Spirit Fitness, Nautilus Health & Fitness (with its brands Bowflex, StairMaster, Nautilus and Schwinn), True Fitness, Icon Health & Fitness (taking over its traditional huge area complete, we expect, with top-secret meeting rooms), Trimline, Impex, Ivanko, Fitness Quest (we wonder what this year's sexy entertainment will hold), Century Sporting Goods, York, Cap Barbell, Polar, Smooth Fitness, and Spri Products, among others that totaled 131 as of Nov. 24.

The new Orlando Convention Center has 1 million square feet under one roof (one dang huge area with few columns we're told), while the area the show used in Las Vegas was about three-quarters that. As of Nov. 24, the show had sold about 86 percent of the new space. Haines told us that exhibitor numbers were up 21 percent over last year, and new companies that had never attended totaled 391 across all 21 categories.

Now, we can't back up those percentages with hard numbers since last year after the show, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the show's owner, decided it would not reveal total numbers before or after, only square footage with a few percentages thrown in.

Innovation world making a few changes

The World of Sports Innovation (WOSI), too, will be in the spotlight again this year -- taking over a space smack in the middle of the floor so buyers don't have to make a special effort to go up or down stairs and navigate hallways to get there, thereby encouraging more to take a gander through the area. In case you aren't sure what this WOSI thing is, it was a new concept last year that allowed new or established companies to display new and innovative products in a non-traditional setting. Rules were: No company salespeople, no brochures and sales literature, only a one-size-fits-all small sign with max 25 words, all in a setting sans booths and more conducive to wandering the space and touching and using some products. Its goal was to "level the playing field," Haines said last year, with all companies paying one flat fee to display its wares. Nearly 500 took advantage.

WOSI garnered great reviews for the daring concept, including from SNEWS, but its implementation and policing left some scratching their heads. Without a printed guide to tell you where to look for what, you were forced to wander the entire hall. And some companies posted employees near their product anyway to talk to (annoy?) passers-by. Haines said he will have none of that this year and promises better enforcement so the field is indeed level. In addition, the area will be laid out more in a grid format so visitors can find specific products, there will be one interactive area to roll up your sleeves and try out stuff, signage will be better and more permanent (so small stand-ups don't get stolen as they did last year), and signs will include a website or other contact information. Plus, there will be a better electronic system to swipe cards and get company data quickly.

"It will look totally different," Haines said. "This is a chance for the little guy to become a big guy."

But he admitted the company is fighting a bit of an uphill battle after last year's debut. Some companies aren't renewing, perhaps because of last year's downfalls. But with hardly more than a month until the doors swing open, he remained upbeat about the continued turnaround for The Super Show that had in recent years lost its pizzazz and must-go draw.

"The momentum is still going strong," Haines said. "If we shut down (selling) today, we'd still have a bigger show than last year."

SNEWS View: We look forward to attending to see how the new venue across the country affects its look, feel, attendance and exhibitors. We expect WOSI might slow down in its participation but will eventually find a level that suits it -- perhaps indeed one that highlights the little guy. And that's more than OK. We think that having everybody in one humongous hall will be a boon to energy for all categories. We don't think the show will ever return to its glitzy glory days since specialty dealers and companies just don't seem to fit in among collectible sports paraphernalia, licensed caps and tees, or pool toys. And that's OK, too. And although being on the East Coast will make it more difficult for attendees from Asia, it's closer for European visitors and, of course, much closer for those from the eastern U.S. and Midwest. Now about fitness: It will certainly remain a part -- for its sporting goods ties, but less so for its specialty and high-end products. That said, with some sporting goods dealers selling higher-priced equipment these days, some companies that make both may put a little of both in their booths. Ah, and lest we forget the entertainment options in Orlando: Being in the same town as Disney, Universal, Sea World and Cape Canaveral can't be a negative. See you in January wandering the WOSI.

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