Less than three weeks after SnowSports Industries America (SIA) announced it was moving its trade show from the Las Vegas Convention Center to a new facility at Mandalay Bay (click here to read), it appears as if the association will also announce new dates as well. Once finalized, those dates could put SIA firmly on top of Outdoor Retailer's Winter Market on-snow demo; it looks as if the new SIA dates will be Jan. 27-30.
Here is what SNEWS® has learned following our investigation and calls with officials at the Las Vegas Convention Center, The Sands Expo, and the Convention Center at Mandalay Bay Resort, with SIA president David Ingemie and David Loechner (president of VNU Expositions sports and merchandising groups), as well as with numerous insiders close to the dealings (backdoor and otherwise with both VNU and SIA).
- SIA originally made the decision to move to Mandalay Bay in order to have a venue that could provide sufficient space to house both SIA's trade show and Outdoor Retailer's Winter Market should the co-location of both shows become possible. SIA was in discussions with Mandalay Bay to move before Outdoor Retailer sent its letter to the industry saying that both shows would be unable to co-locate for 2003.
- Since SIA was seeking expanded space for 2003 and future trade shows, and the Las Vegas Convention Center could not accommodate it, the Las Vegas Convention Center was the one to point SIA in the direction of Mandalay Bay. Still, the move to a new venue, when SIA has long-term contracts already signed with the Las Vegas Convention Center was not a decision to be taken lightly because of penalty clauses for cancellations less than three years ahead of dates, that get stiffer the closer a cancellation is. At a minimum, the liquidated damages for the 2003 cancellation alone could total $385,000 (100 percent of the minimum daily rate for a four-day show -- ouch), with possible cancellations for 2004 and beyond meaning additional charges. (You don't want to read the legalese mumbo-gumbo we had to sift through to find this, do you? If you do, we'll email you the clauses. Otherwise, trust us, it's there.) Ingemie told SNEWS®that SIA is negotiating with the Las Vegas Convention Center regarding any payment of liquidated damages, chiefly because it was the Las Vegas Convention Center that suggested SIA look to Mandalay Bay in the first place.
- For some reason we can't determine, SIA is now looking very silly as it appears to have been unaware at the time the association made the change of venue announcement that Mandalay Bay does not want large conventions to book its rooms over weekends since it is a resort hotel and that's prime booking time for the hotel. For some other reason we can't determine, SIA apparently didn't consider that moving its show to a resort hotel during Super Bowl weekend might also cause issues, especially since Super Bowl just happens to be one of Las Vegas' biggest hotel booking weekends all year. SIA's original dates were Jan. 24-27.
- SIA has few choices. We do know SIA has talked to The Sands Expo and Convention Center about March dates, but we also know these discussions are only exploratory and as a back-up if all other options fail, which isn't likely. We do know that SIA has had discussions to return to the Las Vegas Convention Center, but again, if SIA did that, they would forfeit the Mandalay space and give up any future opportunity to lock up a venue that could hold both SIA and OR Winter Market, so this option is not likely either. Ingemie has told us that SIA is very firm in the association's goal to provide options for co-locating the trade shows, and SIA will make every effort possible to ensure that co-location remains a viable option for both industries, which means staying with Mandalay Bay, if possible. Assuming SIA manages to stay with Mandalay, there are essentially two scenarios: One, SIA could move its dates forward to the week of Jan. 20-23. However, that can't work primarily because it would fall on Martin Luther King's holiday weekend, which is a huge selling day for ski retailers and not a suitable time to be gone from a store. Or, two, SIA could move the dates back to Jan. 27- 30. While these dates now place SIA's show in conflict with OR, making it harder for manufacturers to make both shows, these dates will likely be the only alternative. Of course, all this is assuming SIA can get a contract finalized that is agreeable to both its board and Mandalay Bay.
- It is important to remember that nothing has been signed and confirmed, and no final decision has been made, which is why SIA has not been able yet to make an official statement.
SNEWS®View: For the record, SNEWS®has been aware of the possible date changes for over a week now, but we chose to try to wait until SIA made a firm decision that was bound by contract before writing about it. Outdoor Retailer magazine changed the manner this story would be covered when it made the decision to run with a story last week -- and a very good story at that. So, while we're utterly fed up with covering this trade show mess and writing a story every time somebody sneezes or scratches, here we go again:
The decision for manufacturers in both industries is really simple -- pick a damn show, support it, and quit waffling. The vast majority of major cross-country ski companies SNEWS® has talked to say they will be exhibiting skis only at SIA next year (including Fischer, Atomic, and Karhu). Numerous others in the backcountry ski market have indicated they'll be either at both shows or just at OR, and an amazingly large number of other companies who either exhibited at both for the first time last year or have traditionally exhibited at both told us they will be waiting to see what their retailers will do. WAKE UP! Your retailers will go where you tell them you will be. Either that, or we can simply relive this last January which was pure ugliness in terms of retail attendance at both OR and SIA. A few quotes we have read from Outdoor Retailer officials, as well as words we have heard via the grapevine, indicate that OR is thrilled to be able to make hay at SIA's expense. We remind OR that just because you're going back to Salt Lake is no guarantee the retailers will now return in droves.
OR Winter Market has its own trade show issues to work out and we would suggest OR simply focus on ensuring it doesn't repeat the poor attendance of last year by serving its market with abandon and vigor. Yes, SIA has egg on its face right now, and deservedly so. It is a bit ludicrous to us that an association as experienced as SIA would make a vital decision to move a trade show without having a full grasp of all the facts AND without having a contract signed in the first place. What of the retailer contingent? A quick poll of outdoor retailers indicate to us that the change in dates is preferable to them simply because those few that will be going to SIA say that now they can visit SIA for a day and then go on to OR to finish up the majority of their business all in one trip.