Snow Show date changes get mixed reviews; push back from buying groups

News that the SIA Snow Show will start two weeks earlier in 2013 has snowsports retailers in an uproar. And exhibitor reactions are also mixed. But is this as good as the dates can get? SNEWS finds out.

SIA may now know the exact dates for the 2013 Snow Show, but the decision to move the annual convention forward by two weeks has put a lot of other factors in flux--particularly what will become of the retail buying group shows which have preceded the event since 2002 when SIA first moved the show dates from January to March.

“We made a commitment that covers us through the 2012 show,” said Steve Rogers, president of the Sports Specialists Ltd. (SSL), buying group. “But after that, all bets are off.”

SSL runs preview shows along with the Sports Merchandising Corp. (SMC) prior to the Snow Show to give its retailers a first look at trends, and also to negotiate buys on specific products. But Rogers said that with the Snow Show moving from a start date of January 26th in 2012, to January 12th in 2011, it will be all but impossible for retailers to leave their shops.

“I think my job would be in serious jeopardy if I tried to convince our buyers that it was a good idea to be in Denver that week--right after the holidays, during what is the second busiest week in January at their shops,” said Rogers. “I just feel like the retailer wasn’t considered in any of this.”

SIA’s Board of Directors approved the move, according to SIA President David Ingemie, as a result of changing production lead times, conflicts with major holidays and major trade shows such as ISPO and Outdoor Retailer, and also to ensure that SIA was the national preview show for wintersports products. Through all of that, Ingemie said the new dates were also the only way the Snow Show could still accommodate the buying groups.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make--no matter what decision we made. But we did schedule the move in a way that would include them,” Ingemie said. “All the other moves we looked at would have crunched them, or put us up against OR, or made us lose the on-snow demo. These are the only dates that will allow a full buying group show before the Snow Show starts.”

Along with multiple rep and buying group shows preceding the Snow Show, Ingemie said he hopes the new dates will condense the number of shows and presentations a retailer has to see each season. But with softgoods brands asking for orders earlier every year, and hardgoods brands still typically waiting for retailers to confirm their open to buy in March, Ingemie said at this point, “there is no such thing as a perfect date.”

“There is no perfect solution for the entire industry,” Ingemie said. “Someone is always going to want it later, and someone is always going to want it earlier than someone else.”

As for the exhibitors, many of them are also trying to gauge how the new dates will affect their business. At Marmot, public relations director Jordan Campbell said, “I don’t think it will have a big impact. I don’t think a difference of two weeks will create that significant of a change for us.”

Campbell said that despite the fact that “a good percentage of our orders have already been written before we get to Denver,” Marmot still sees the Snow Show as place to not only preview the brand’s entire line, but also to let retailers make any final buy adjustments.

Just how many retailers will actually be able to come to the Snow Show though is the biggest question being raised by the new dates.

“January is when retailers make their money, so I’m not sure how they will really benefit from this move,” said Willy Booker, president of Nordica USA. “It’s also going to put a lot more pressure on us to have product there in time for the demo.”

As for the idea that the new dates will reduce the number of preview shows prior to the Snow Show, Booker said, “Those are really softgoods shows, and moving earlier to usurp those show for a hardgoods based brand like Nordica is a non-factor for us.”

But Rossignol/Dynastar VP of brands Tait Wardlaw said that with the amount of time, money and people brands put into being at the Snow Show, anything that helps pinpoint Denver as the “must stop spot” on the seasonal sales tour is a plus.

“I think the move is great,” he said. “It’s really a bummer to spend so much time, and put many resources company-wide into an event that not everyone goes to. I understand that this is a difficult time for retailers to take away from their store. But what I hope is that right after that big holiday pulse of sales, this is the one place where the entire industry can get together to see what’s next.”

As Ingemie points out, the announcement was made to give exhibitors and buyers two years to prepare for the new dates. And in the case of the buying groups, that gives them plenty of time to think about what’s next.

“One of the options would be to move our show, to a different time and to a different place,” said Rogers. “For our buyers, that’s just one of the things that still needs to be discussed.”

--Peter Kray

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