SnowSports Industries America (SIA) has moved the dates of the 2002 SIA Vegas Show from mid March to late January to address the growing concern that this largest and most important North American winter sports trade show was increasingly out of step with a changing business cycle.

“I think it’s a tremendously positive move for everyone involved — both for the suppliers and retailers,” says SIA President David Ingemie. “We just finished a significant research project on the buy/sell cycle that clearly showed us that retailers are ordering earlier. Timing is everything. Some people like to lead, others like to follow. For us, as a member-owned trade association, we have to be somewhere in the middle. But clearly the membership has told us they wanted a change.”

Although Ingemie says he heard from many different types of suppliers and retailers about show timing, he says the snowboard community was also vocal about their desire to see the dates moved. “We’ve heard from K2, we’ve heard from Burton, Sims — literally everyone, even Rossignol. What they’ve told us is the SIA show should lead off the season and not end it.”

Ingemie says the reason there aren’t specific dates for the show is that the final contract with the Las Vegas Convention Center has yet to be signed.

According to Bill Clapper, SIA’s associate director of public relations and communications, “What this move will do is position the SIA show as kick off of the wintersports selling cycle. We’ll be near the beginning of the buy/sell cycle instead of at the end.”

“What we heard from the members of SIA and from the retailers is that having the show in March simply is not the best time for anyone,” continues Clapper. “A lot of it goes back to the softgoods and apparel people. Most of them have received all their orders by January and could reasonably ask us why they should attend the SIA show. If you take that to its logical conclusion, it’s obvious that for some very solid business reasons a lot of these companies were staying away from the show.”

The story was much the same in the snowboard industry this year. With the regional rep shows growing in importance, many sales managers were complaining bitterly about the SIA show months before the show was even held.

During February’s WWSRA show in Santa Ana, Northwave National Sales Manager Johan Malkoski had this perspective: “The thing I’m concerned about is that we’re trying to condense the buying cycle into 60 days, but with the show rooms and rep show, most retailers have seen the line probably twice, demoed it on-snow, and made their buying decisions weeks before they see all the 100,000-dollar booths at Vegas. It all seems backwards.”

Now, with the show dates moved, SIA hopes concerns like these have been allayed.

Clapper also mentioned that another reason for the move was to enable manufacturers to make a splash at the beginning of the season. “While we will still encourage retailers to place orders at the SIA show, moving the show allows manufacturers to debut their lines in a big and powerful way, and then as the winter winds down they can go out and hunt down their remaining orders.”

Of course, these issues are hardly new. There’s been a growing feeling for the past several years that moving the show to earlier in the season was needed to keep the SIA show relevant to the marketplace. However, the stumbling block most often mentioned was the unavailability of space in the Las Vegas Convention Center. So what’s changed?

“The Las Vegas Convention Center is building a new facility across the street from the current building,” says Clapper. “This additional space allowed new dates to open up.”

Since the new addition will open in the late fall of 2001, moving the dates of next year’s show (March 9¿13, 2001) was never an issue. “Plus,” says Clapper, “We owe it to the membership to give them ample warning that the dates are moving.”

By holding the show in January, the SIA hopes thhat the event will become a can’t-miss gathering for the entire industry — even for those not directly tied in with the buying and selling of product. “We hope that this will emphasize the fact that anybody who’s anything in the winter-sports business should be in Vegas in late January,” says Clapper. “We hope we entice a wide variety of groups and organizations to hold their meetings in Vegas during this time.”

So, how will this move affect other trade shows — especially the Outdoor Retailer show which will be held just prior to the January SIA show?

“I’m not sure,” replies Clapper. “That’s a business decision that will have to be worked out by the individual companies. Really, we don’t know how it will all play out. It will come down to the key players at each company making the decision if they want to do the SIA show or the Outdoor Retailer show — or both.

The move also has the potential to affect attendance at the ISPO trade show held in Munich, Germany in early February. Since ISPO is the key show for launching snowboard product in Europe, the new SIA dates will no doubt make the travel plans of sales managers the industry over even more frenetic. “Once again, I really don’t now how this will affect ISPO,” says Clapper.

So who were the key players pushing for this move? Although Clapper mentions the softgoods and apparel companies as wanting the move, he says it was hardly brought about by a few squeaky wheels. “We heard from the membership — and it certainly wasn’t just a few people. We also talked to the rep groups and retailers. David Ingemie, SIA president also walked around the show and talked to a lot of retailers about the dates of the show. The feeling — I’m hesitant to use the word consensus — but the feeling was that a show in early March was simply too late. Of course everyone has their special date that was best for them, but you can safely say that most were in agreement that the way business is conducted has changed and the show should reflect that.”

According to an SIA press release, changing the dates and repositioning the show is already seen as a positive move by most of the industry.

“The Eastern Winter Sports Reps Association supports the decision of the SIA Board of Directors to position the national SIA Snow Sports Trade Show at the beginning of the buy/sell cycle,” says EWSRA Executive Director Linda Irvin. “We see the move as an effort to reduce the number of trade shows and ultimately the cost of doing business for reps, retailers and manufacturers while tightening the buy/sell cycle and bringing back the newness and excitement of the SIA Show as our industry’s kick-off event.”

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