In a move it hopes will lead to the consolidation of the buy-sell season in the winter-sports industry, Snowsports Industries America (SIA) announced late May it will be canceling The Snow Show, held late January each of the last two years.
The decision came after a six-month comprehensive study of the market’s current buy-sell cycle, which concluded there were too many shows costing too much money for retailers, reps, and manufacturers. In addition to cutting the show, the SIA board of directors has called on the industry to embrace a 60-day sell/buy season beginning February 1 and ending March 31. The SIA Ski, Snowboard, and Outdoor Sports Show in Las Vegas will continue to be the cornerstone of the buy/sell season, and it will fall between the first and tenth of March.
The decision was applauded by the industry, who collectively want to put the whole process behind them. “It’s as I predicted,” says Burton’s Vice President of Sales David Schmidt. “The dates are the same as they’ve been for the Vegas show. For the retailer, those dates work.”
Industry members hope the change will help to ease the financial burden of the trade-show season. “There are two resulting benefits with the decision: time and money,” says Rossignol President and SIA board-member Hugh Harley. “With all the participants embracing the 60-day sell/buy season, resources will be freed up to focus on the consumer and developing the market.”
In addition to canceling the Snow Show and calling for a 60-day selling season, the board resolved to appoint a task force of suppliers to work with rep associations and retailers to implement the following recommendations for future trade-show seasons:
To conduct introduction shows between February 1 and March 1, and to schedule these shows so as to avoid conflicts among and between events.
To see a significant and measurable reduction in the number of shows.
To hold on-snow demos no earlier than February 1, and to schedule the demos in order to avoid conflicts among and between events.
Although the SIA took the initiative in cutting out the first show of the trade-show season, President David Ingemie says eliminating a third of the shows might be a bit too high. He believes some shows are fading out already. “Some shows are having a tough time,” he says. “The Seattle show was soft and the Southeast didn’t have a closing show this season.”
Darcy Lee, owner of Cold As Ice as well as an SIA board member, points out that Southern California didn’t have a post show either, and many shows are unnecessary and drag on too late in the season. “The retailers want a deadline, even though reps say they don’t,” she says.
While the decisions of the SIA board weren’t all that astonishing, the fact that it pulled off the research and got a consensus among industry members was a surprise to many.
To achieve this task, the SIA hired Sport Map, a market-research firm, which developed and conducted a survey of retailers, sales reps, and suppliers addressing the buy/sell cycle. A certified public-accounting firm compiled the random sample of surveys from the three groups. Then a marketing-strategies firm called Proteus researched historical and current buy-sell cycles in other industries including golf, in-line skating, and the outdoor market.
After gathering the data, three forum groups of suppliers, reps, and retailers were set up to discuss the information, and they suggested some solutions to the buy-sell cycle. The SIA Trade Show Committee then looked at the results and let the SIA Board of Directors pass the resolution.
“It was tough keeping the process participatory, balanced, untainted, and to convince people to have patience,” says Ingemie. The forums took longer than expected to put together because everything was happening during this season’s buy/sell period, he says. “It took 250 calls just to get fifteen people on a forum.”
But the experience was rewarding. “It was refreshing to see everyone-eespecially retailers-being included in this process,” notes Bev Sanders, vice president of marketing for Avalanche Snowboards. “It really enlightened me as to everyone’s different needs and what they’re looking for to conduct their business in the best way.”
According to Mark Williams, president of Williams Ski Haus in Highland Park, Illinois, “Everyone understood each others’ situations and tried to work toward a common solution for the group rather than going to war over their own agenda.”
Certainly what resulted was a compromise, but that’s what is needed in the industry right now. “Manufacturers are always going to try to outsell each other,” says Ingemie. “But every now and then there’s a retrenching. When the market it booming, everyone is having cocktail parties and trying to outdo each other. But when things are really bad, everyone is beating up each other to get sales. I think we’re seeing everyone working together to get things back on track. Then maybe once things settle down, companies will start getting a little more competitive against each other again.”
For companies like Burton, the cycle might be a little later than they wanted. “Vegas is the deadline for us,” says Schmidt. “We get the job done there, but for some its the start of their selling cycle. It’s a compromise. For us, we’ll still do the Outdoor Retailer show in January and increase our emphasis on our showrooms.”
However, everyone felt that the decision was a group compromise between the manufacturers, retailers, and reps. According to Ingemie, once the groups started discussing the issues, there was an overwhelming consensus to the solutions of the problems.
Lee concurs that the group decided the solution, not just the manufacturers decreeing and implementing it: “The process pulled everyone in and enlisted teamwork. In the process, we needed everyone to feel they had a voice.”
How things will progress remains to be seen. There has already been a commitment by the ESRA and NESRA, who run the Stratton On-Snow Demo, to move the dates back into February. Whether other shows will fade is questionable, but for now, everyone in the industry is happy with the decision.