Midwest Buyers Optimistic At Local Show

Madison rep event delivers positive vibe, but future uncertain.By Christopher Cross

The positive mood of this year’s Midwest reps show in Madison, Wisconsin was apparent from the moment one walked into the Alliant Energy Center, where participation has grow so large that many prominent manufacturers set up their booths in the hallway due to lack of space in the show’s main room.

A walk down the aisles told an equally positive tale. Booths were occupied and busy, and both retailers and reps alike had smiles on their faces. Many new booths were present, and several, more established reps expanded their normal-sized booths to impressive scales.

Randy Kelliher, representing Salomon/Bonfire, was beaming on the second day of the four-day show. “Retailers are stoked,” said Kelliher, “If we got five years of snow like this we’d all get rich.” Commenting on how this year’s early, measurable snowfall made a marked difference in sales when compared to the meager to non-existent snowfalls over the past four selling seasons, he said: “There’s been an insane sell-through this year. Everybody is sold out of everything and happy about it.”

Despite successful sales, there wasn’t a rush of at-once orders to fill in inventory holes toward the end of the season. “We haven’t had a lot of requests, people are just happy to be sold out for once,” said Kelliher. “And we won’t be offering any closeouts because we don’t have anything left.”

Kelliher was stoked on preseason orders. “We’re taking marketshare, especially from the big guys,” he said.

Retailers said they’re willing to take a chance with larger preseason orders. “We’re doing fifteen percent more for next year,” says Harry Schoeninger, manager/buyer for Torque Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “We almost under bought this season, and wound up doing a lot of reorders. The weather certainly helped.”

Margaret Milner and Kathy Burges, buyers for The House in St. Paul Minnesota, were increasing preseason orders by twenty percent due to what they see as a natural growth in snowboarding, rather than a response to any perceived under-buying and this season’s increased demands. “We always run out (of hardgoods),” says Burges, “but it was all the softgoods that ran out early this season.”

The real buzz around this year’s Midwestern Winter Sports Representatives show was the future of the show itself. With SIA moving the Vegas show dates to January, many retailers were wondering if there will be a need for regional shows, and if so what will be their purpose and when will they be held?

“I don’t know if they’ve thought about moving the date of this show or not,” says Jason Fischer, a Burton rep who serves the greater Chicago area. “I know they’re moving the Vegas dates in order to make it more of the premiere show, but it’s not going to change the way we do business in this region. If anything, retailers will be more prepared when they get here because they’ll be more familiar with the product from the Vegas show.”

He says he and his associates rely on their own showroom presentations (which can last up to eight hours) instead of the regional shows. “That way we can provide a more relaxed environment and we can provide more customized service. If we know that one of our retailers never buys any high-end clothing, we don’t have to waste their time showing it to them. We can just show them what we know they want to buy.”