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The Super Show and its director for the last three years, Peter Haines, have parted ways, as of Jan. 28.
As COO of show manager CSM, Haines came on in March 2002 with an option to buy the business that managed The Super Show for show owner SGMA. His goal was to return the “super” to the event with that title.
Haines, CEO of Cybex until late 2000, started at CSM with his option-to-purchase the company over seven years. In addition to his duties with the show, he was involved in two other CSM businesses unrelated to the show. One — called BizBash Florida — he will continue to be involved with. BizBash is a series of communication vehicles including newsletters and shows that are a resource for those who organize special events such as parties and company meetings.
At the end of this year’s show, which ran Jan. 17-19 in Orlando, Fla., Haines told CSM owners that he was not exercising his option to buy the company. The show’s continued fall from its super status and size lent to that decision.
“It made it very difficult for me to put a rational value on a business with declining participation,” Haines told SNEWSÂ®.
“I came here with the intent of stopping a several-year decline in The Super Show and to build the show in the future using a variety of fresh new ideas and product offerings. After the 2005 show, it became apparent to me I was not going to make that goal.”
Over the last three shows, Haines worked to implement ideas such as the World of Sports Innovation for new products, which had a grand debut in 2003 but had peacefully dwindled to nearly non-existent status by this year’s show; a speaker series called IBIS this year that won positive comments and good audiences; as well as post-show networking parties that in part were also successful.
Nevertheless, the downward spiral of the show didn’t stop (see SNEWSÂ® story, Jan. 24, “The Super Show up for major reassessment”), with this year’s slipping in size by 25 percent over last year (down to 750,000 square feet) and still leaving large vacant areas and grumbling exhibitors when a lot of key buyers cancelled at the last minute.
Even when he was hired in 2002, Haines maintained the sporting goods industry and its various sectors needed a gathering place, but that the show needed to evolve with the times and become a different kind of event. At the same time, he said then that it may not be able “to be everything to everybody.” The Super Show had gotten “stale,” he said three months after his joining the group, and he blamed the show for letting people “get away.”
In talking to SNEWSÂ® about his departure, he said one of the problems was the departure of the major manufacturers such as Wilson, Prince, Reebok and Nike. Without those “anchors” to attract buyers, it was hard to convince them to come for all the smaller companies.
“It became difficult to build the show around the little guys,” he said.
New SGMA President Tom Cove was not available for comment.
Haines, who can be reached at PhainesUSA@yahoo.com, said he looks forward to finding a company to work with that he can help build based on good customer service and marketing — a company in which he can find an equity stake. That might be in the fitness or sporting goods industry since that is his background.
“I was saddened I was not able to do what I set out do,” Haines said. “No fault or blame.”
SNEWSÂ® View: On the heels of this year’s debacle of a show, it’s not at all surprising that Haines decided not to exercise his option. Who wants to buy a sputtering old Buick? And, of course, it’s no surprise that CSM owners Stanley Schwartz and Hardy Katz would want to part ways. Why pay Haines a handsome salary when there was no buy-out coming in four years to help send them into retirement after two decades of show management? As we said in our Jan. 24 story, the show has some major belly-button contemplation in its future if it is to survive in any form. If show owner SGMA decides just to let Schwartz and Katz continue with the event, we believe, it will simply and sadly slide into oblivion since at this point they may not feel the need to work too hard on it. If SGMA tries to wrest the show’s management back from CSM, an ugly contractual battle could ensue — one that we’re not sure the SGMA wants to get involved with or can afford. That means that new SGMA President Tom Cove — who steps up officially to take John Riddle’s place as of, well, today (welcome, Tom) — has his hands full. And we’re not sure that he wants to spend all his time dealing with a trade show when there are bigger fish to fry for the SGMA to help re-invigorate it as an association also. The first turning point will come at a special board meeting in March. If anything is to be done to the show to get some reasonable number of exhibitor renewals, action has to be solid and swift. Anything goes now since there is nothing to lose.