SIA Ends To Mixed Reviews

The 2002 SIA SnowSports Show, held Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 in Las Vegas, left some exhibitors smiling, others shaking their heads in disappointment, and many feeling as if, well, it was just another SIA show.
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The 2002 SIA SnowSports Show, held Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 in Las Vegas, left
some exhibitors smiling, others shaking their heads in disappointment,
and many feeling as if, well, it was just another SIA show.

Retail attendance dropped 10.5 percent to approximately 5,164
registered buyers, down from 5,772 in 2001. Actual stores numbered
around 2,000, again down from 2,217 shops in 2001. Media attendance,
however, climbed for this year's show, to 500, up from 420 in 2001. SIA
also reported that the "buying power" (the percentage of retailers
attending as a percentage of the industry's total sales volume) dipped
to 85.7 percent, down from 90.3 percent in 2001 and 89 percent in 2000.

For those seeking to gauge immediately the success or failure of the
show, however, we remind you that it won't be until all the regional
shows have been completed that we will know, without a shadow of a
doubt, how successful the change in dates and new format for SIA's show
were. Now buyers have "seen it," they move to the "try it and buy it"
phase of SIA's much ballyhooed "See it, try it, buy it" plan.

If all goes as anticipated, the entire buy-sell cycle will be reduced
from the typical 120 days to 90 days. But all that depends on how
successful the on-snow demos are, followed by a round of indoor rep
association buying shows that conclude March 31. Sorry, but you're just
going to have to wait and see before firing a thumbs-up in an
endorsement salute of the new plan, or thumbs-down in a fit of
overstocked depression.

Echoing the words of SIA chairman and Rossignol president Hugh Harley,
David Ingemie told SNEWS® he agreed with what Harley had said at an
earlier membership meeting: "We expect it to take a full three years
for all of the industry to come on board. It takes time, just as it
took time for our board to arrive at the decision to move the dates."

"All things considered -- a soft economy, no winter to speak of back
East and in the Midwest, retail shop consolidation, market uncertainty,
September 11 -- we feel this show is a success and served its purpose
as a strong launch for the 'see it, try it, buy it' scenario we've all
be working so hard to achieve," added Ingemie.

Posturing and speculating aside, it was the drop in retailer attendance
that was noticed by most everyone though, especially since the show
moved to a newly constructed part of the Las Vegas Convention Center
and grew in size with more than 500 exhibitors spread out on two floors
covering 385,000 square feet. Bottom line? Less retailers, more space,
less energy. Indeed, the upstairs, which embraced a large percentage of
the alpine community as well as the outdoor contingent, felt like a
library. Voices were hushed and we didn't dare speak above a whisper
out of fear we might awaken those who appeared to be engaged in quiet
meetings, deep discussions, or -- as we witnessed more than once --
naps. To be fair, there were pockets of energy on the upper level. The
Marmot booth looked like the trading room floor on the stock exchange
at times, with hands flailing in the air as buyers eagerly shouted,
"Buy, buy" while Marmot regulars responded, "Sell, sell."

The Nordic community, the one that shunned Outdoor Retailer in favor of
SIA this year, was almost unanimous in feeling the love of retailer
attention. Doug Barbour of Karhu told SNEWS® his company was having an
"incredible" show.

Downstairs, the library atmosphere began to generate into something a
bit more upbeat as one wandered through the apparel aisles,
degenerating into an area that, at times, resembled the set of Animal
House. Of course, we're referring to the Snowboard Arena. If you were a
retailer in search of life in a trade show floor desperately in need of
a pulse, snowboard had it. Of course, the energy did reach
inappropriate levels at times. The Volcom team managed to become so
unruly they were evicted from the show for one day. One reporter, who
was waiting for an appointment at the adjacent Burton booth, ducked and
ran for cover after being showered with debris, including Budweiser
cans. Ooooo, now that's a nice touch, and we're just totally sure folks
were lining up to do business with that company!

For the most part though, the snowboard section was the place to be.
The rest of the show could learn a lot by studying what works and what
doesn't. We sat on the stairs separating the apparel side and the
snowboard side to watch and were amazed. Without exception, folks -- no
matter what age, sex or race -- wandered through the apparel aisles
ponderously, gazing here and there. However, all it took was a few
steps past the stairs and the pace picked up, smiles spread across
faces and once quiet eyes glanced here and there with interest and
passion.

We asked several industry veterans -- buyers in whom we noticed an
attitude adjustment following the crossing of the "demilitarized zone"
-- and each told us essentially the same thing: Snowboard is friendly,
fun, and doesn't have walls like fortresses around each booth.

Hmmm. Alpine fortress folks: Are you listening? We braved repeated
trips to wander among the alpine fortresses upstairs and noted that
there was just as much innovation and style as in snowboard, minus the
fun. Maybe it's time to loosen up the neck ties a bit.

SNEWS® View:
It really was just another SIA show, and that is neither good nor bad.
It just is. It would be completely inappropriate to judge this show in
relationship to the recent Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, or Winter
Market in relationship to this one. If one can draw any parallels from
the two shows, it is that the outdoor community wasn't very happy at
either. Of course, it didn't help matters that few, if any, of those
same outdoor companies made any kind of statement regarding which show
they were going to attend and played the market like a roulette wheel
-- place your bets on two markers and hope the retail ball lands on one
of them. It didn't. And that's that. Perhaps a page can be learned from
the Nordic community of companies that sent a letter, albeit a bit
late, to all of its retailers, saying that they were going to SIA and
not Winter Market. Those retailers for Nordic gear that went to either
show went to SIA as a result. Next year is an entirely different
proposition. SIA is now Jan. 24-27 and Outdoor Retailer Winter Market,
which moves back to Salt Lake, is Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 (not including the
on-snow demo). But that's a topic for another discussion, which we'll
be presenting in an upcoming editorial position.

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