By Chris Cross

The 2002 MWSRA show at the Alliant Center in Madison, Wisconsin was a trade show suffering from an identity crisis. With SIA occurring well before the regional shows, many people in the industry were concerned that these later, smaller trade shows are becoming irrelevant. To add to the confusion, the poor winter weather conditions in the Midwest have left many retailers with lots of product on the sales floor, making them reluctant and unexcited about the current buying season.

As longtime winter-sports representative Peter Lugers noted, “There are a lot of retailers who didn’t go to Vegas, and they’re not coming here either.”

This is not to suggest that there wasn’t a significant amount of business occurring at MWSRA. Almost all the snowboard booths were busy, with retailers sitting down to presentations scheduled in advance with their local representatives. But most appointments were finished by the third day of the four-day show, and walk-around traffic was noticeably thin. By the end of day three most snowboard reps were packing up to go home.

There was also quite a buzz about space, or lack thereof at the show. This year’s show marked the second season where the show floor ran out of room and several vendor booths were set up in the hallway outside the main show room. While some reps were comfortable with this situation, others opted out of the show altogether, choosing instead to set up and take appointments outside the Allaint Center at places like the nearby Sheraton Hotel.

Salomon snowboard rep Randy Keliher was one of them. Although several of Salomon’s reps were present on the MWSRA show floor, Keliher set up shop in a commercial space about a mile from the main show, and felt no reluctance at asking his retailers to make the extra trip to visit his showroom. “They MWSRA didn’t have enough room for me,” said Keliher who shared the large commercial space with Salomon’s downhill ski and shoe reps.

Unlike last season, where many retailers were anxious to write and turn in orders as early as possible to maximize their discounts, few orders were being turned in early this year.

Josie Gruber, manager of the Hostel Shoppe in Stevens Point, Wisconsin stated that she had yet to write several of the shop’s preseason orders even a week after the MWSRA show.

Peter Lugers noted that many retailers were sitting on a lot of product, particularly clothing, and were waiting to see what they could sell in the last few weeks of the season before committing any numbers to their preseason orders.

Four Star Rep Steve Wikner felt the softgoods reluctance, but stated Forum hardgoods sales were robust despite the poor winter conditions. Although he had a few stragglers waiting to write their orders, most retailers turned in orders by the end of the regional show. Wikner also noted that the snowboard portion of the show was vibrant compared to the rest of the winter sports industry represented at MWSRA.

In spite of the slowdown felt at the show, the third annual Nixon broomball tournament, attended exclusively by snowboard reps and retailers, was a huge success, as was the DC party held the following night. “Party-wise, the show was on, but the rest of it just seemed rather dead,” said Wikner.