For those who attended this year’s edition of the Health & Fitness Business Expo, and perhaps more significantly, for those that didn’t, the news comes as little surprise.
The trade show dedicated to the home fitness retail market since 1999 has run its course.
Late Thursday, a week after wrapping up 2014 edition in Las Vegas, Emerald Expositions, which operates the business, announced that the event would no longer be a stand-alone show. Instead, exhibitors will be asked to join the larger, co-located Interbike show in a new “fitness neighborhood” on that show floor.
The nail in the coffin for HFB, after a 15-year run, was the absence at this year’s show of three of the largest brands, Life Fitness, Precor and Johnson Fitness, said show director of communications Justin Gottlieb. Add to that a shrinking specialty fitness retail base, which has seen its store-count figures cut by more than half since the recession.
“The market has changed, a lot of manufacturers are on a five-to-seven-year cycle now of releasing new equipment and they aren’t seeking additional retail distribution,” Gottlieb said. “There just wasn’t the support for stand-alone show any more.”
There was no ignoring the topic of the future viability of the show at this year’s event. A smaller show footprint was visually evident with the entire back wall of the ballroom empty and rumors flying.
While acknowledging the industry’s shrinkage, many retailers and brands at the show expressed the importance of getting together on annual basis. Some wanted to see an earlier show — in June or July — saying that September is too late to capture all-important retail orders for the busy holiday period. Even the show’s previous in August was late, they said.
Others said the co-location with Interbike wasn’t working. While it might have created a semblance of more crowds, the reality is few retailers venture from one floor to another.
Still others said a co-location with the commercial fitness shows — IHRSA or Club Industry, albeit run by different operators — makes better sense.
In the end, Emerald’s strategy is to attract fitness brands upstairs to Interbike in a neighborhood much like it has to separate out mountain bikes, road bikes and electric bikes.
Stay tuned to SNEWS for industry reaction to the decision.