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Fitness gives thumbs-up to Interbike co-location; retailers ready for Vegas — mostly

With the decision made that the management of the Health & Fitness Business Expo has decided to co-locate the 2010 fitness show with its bike show, Interbike, SNEWS® launched a survey and heard loud and clear: Give retailers a show and they’ll be there...but the same can't necessarily be said for manufacturers.

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With the decision made earlier this month that the management of the Health & Fitness Business Expo has indeed decided to co-locate the 2010 fitness show with its bike show, Interbike, SNEWS® launched a survey and heard one thing loud and clear: Give retailers a show and they’ll be there.

Not to say there aren’t a few still on the fence, citing, for example, economic uncertainties, wait-and-see on the year, or making sure vendors show up.

But, in general, most say they don’t care where it is, if there’s entertainment or if it’s at Interbike, they just want to see equipment, meet with their peers and be a part of an industry gathering.

“We will support our industry’s only show for as long as it is around, ‘no matter what the format,’” said one retail respondent, “as every retailer and manufacturer should!”

The SNEWS survey was a short four questions, all multiple choice, with the option in several cases to add comments to an answer or to add additional insights or requests. We were, to put it mildly, rather overwhelmed at the response, of which 57 percent said they were retailers/buyers/dealers, 39 percent said they were manufacturers/suppliers/exhibitors, and 4 percent said they worked with marketing or PR agencies in the industry.

Yeah or nay

Of those, 62 percent said they were in favor of the decision to co-locate, with 26 percent saying they were not and another 12 percent saying they were “uncertain.”

“More people — more atmosphere — more energy,” wrote one respondent.

“I would prefer a stand-alone fitness show, but this is a better alternative to no show,” wrote another.

“Co-locate to be in a separate ballroom, not really part of a show and more of a sideshow or an afterthought? NO!” wrote one nay-sayer.

“I think it is worth a try and see how it goes,” wrote another. “It’s still hard to believe that our industry isn’t strong-willed enough to get together and support its own show instead of being a ballroom event of another show.”

Vegas or bust

The biggest push in recent years was growing opposition to Denver, the long-time home to the HFB show, even from many of those who liked Denver but had grown weary of the same town, the same restaurants and the same sights. But in the end, many still said location didn’t really matter. Fifty-six percent said they liked Las Vegas as a location, while only 18 percent said they did not. But a solid 26 percent said, honestly, it didn’t really matter.

“I don’t like Vegas, but it is inexpensive to get there and probably for that reason an OK location,” wrote one.

“I do not attend the show because of the location of the entertainment proximal to the show. I attend to interact with other dealers, vendors and evaluate products,” wrote one. “Having so much outside entertainment available is a distraction that some will not be able to avoid — and this could actually be a negative influence on the show.”

“It will help drive new traffic to the show,” wrote another.

Retailers are in

Not that every retailer is already booking a flight. Of course not, but our response was strong among retailers and buyers, with 58.6 percent saying they would attend, only 6.9 percent saying they would absolutely not, and another 34.5 percent still sitting on the fence because, as we said above, things like staff changes, waiting out the year and economic uncertainties.

A few noted they will want to see that the manufacturers are showing up, so that’s one message: The show needs the manufacturers to sign on to help keep it alive, and, yes, the retailers want to come so that’s certainly another message to manufacturers.

“I don’t go to shows for a vacation,” wrote one. “I want a show that is open long hours, so it can be completed in a single day.”

But East Coast retailers who had long complained about Denver being too far still picked at Vegas, which, of course, is farther than Denver.

“Too far, and I have no interest in bikes,” wrote one. “Also I still have a bad taste in my mouth regarding the joke that was HFB ’09.”

Manufacturers thinking, thinking

Although more of the manufacturers who did respond did say “yes” they planned to exhibit (35.3 percent), a few said definitively “no” (14.7 percent), many were waffling (17.6 percent) or just taking the way out that frankly helped kill the Denver HFB show. That answer choice: “I may just walk it” got another 17.6 percent of the response.

Interesting to us is that retailers are mostly ready to come, as long as the economy holds out or turns around a bit more. But manufacturers, who could make or break that decision for the buying crowd, are sitting around thinking, thinking, thinking…. If this version of HFB does not succeed this year, it could spell the end of the industry’s gathering.

“We feel it is important to network with our customers and support the fitness industry,” wrote one manufacturer.

“Still unsure of attendance and of return on investment,” wrote another. “Show is too late in the year.”

“Too late in the year to develop new dealer relationships, effect new product development decisions,” wrote one. “Not sure of what else is changing about the show to improve its productivity for dealers and vendors.”

Messages in a survey

“What else is changing” is something HFB management will have to figure out. It, of course, can’t just transfer the micro-show of 2009 to a ballroom and call it good. But we think they know that.

In other comments added, there were some interesting suggestions.

“This may sound dumb but I remember the Atlanta Super Show and there was always music going on and that made it an upbeat atmosphere,” wrote one. “I would love some kind of music to bring more energy.”

“Will Interbike admission automatically get me into the HFB at no additional cost?” asked one retailer.

“Set up guaranteed meetings with retailers,” wrote another.

One retailer worried that being at the bike show would in fact hinder fitness retailers, since more bike shops or even hardware stores would start considering fitness sales that could be “damaging (to) the reputation and integrity that the specialty fitness retailers have worked so hard to establish.”

And, again, comes the question about the show allowing non-exhibiting manufacturers to walk the show, a sore point that has become even more sore in the last few years of declining attendance: “Why do you let manufacturers walk the show and not exhibit? This is unfair to the manufacturer who paid to exhibit.”

For additional background, take a look at our Jan. 6, 2010, SNEWS story about the announcement to co-locate by clicking here. SNEWS launched its survey Jan. 13, the following week, and left it open for 10 days, closing it on Saturday, Jan. 23.

Interbike is scheduled for Sept. 22-24, 2010. Although bike shows globally have been moving their dates earlier to late August, Interbike for 2010, at least, is still late September.

–Therese Iknoian