Snowboard Industry Conference¿Day One: The Trade Show Tangle

By Leah Stassen

As the first workshop at this year’s 12th Annual TransWorld Snowboarding Industry Conference (dubbed the Wilderness Survival Camp) held in Alyeska, Alaska, manufacturers got the chance to address SIA representative Ed Wray over an informal breakfast. Moderated by World Industries own Wallace Hargraves, the workshop covered issues such as the problems with overlapping trade-show dates, seniority within the many rep associations, and the conflict between national and regional shows.

Coming off of a hectic trade-show season, many manufacturers were ready to get some answers as to how things will differ in upcoming years. Hargraves opened the conference with a gripe felt by many manufacturers this winter: “At World Industries 90 percent of our business is in skateboarding, while ten percent is snow specific. But we want to be able to dedicate 100 percent of our efforts to both sports.”

The current trade-show schedule of ASR, OR, SIA, and ISPO all overlapping or one happening right after the other make it hard for any manufacturer with merchandise that crosses over from snowboarding to attend.

The biggest conflict this year was the overlap between ASR and SIA, making it extremely difficult for manufacturers, reps, and shops to attend both and effectively sell and order the products. For many, it was just too much in too little time. And unfortunately, both SIA and ASR will overlap again next season, causing more headaches for those core snow/skate/surf companies, their reps, and potentially hundreds of shops that want to attend both shows.

However, on the good side of things, after 2003, the ASR and SIA shows shouldn’t overlap again.

According to Wray, of SIA’s members just 27 percent are snowboard-specific companies (70 percent would say they have snowboard products like beanies, gloves, socks, etc.) yet only 32 companies (one percent of the total) exhibit both at SIA and ASR. Meanwhile about twenty percent of SIA exhibitors overlap between OR and SIA. This juxtaposition of interest really favors the remaining 73 percent of SIA’s members that have no schedule conflicts. Even so, there has been much speculation that the SIA and OR shows would try to combine in the future.

However, Wray says that the member-owned, non-profit structure of SIA is one reason why the large trade shows will probably not be consolidated¿both OR and ASR are owned by the same for-profit company, the Dutch Corporation VNU. Meanwhile, SIA’s member-owned structure allows it to offer the lowest exhibit rates of the 50 largest trade shows in the United States, significantly lower than either OR or ASR.

Even if the national shows don’t combine their efforts, there is no reason consolidation can’t occur on a regional level, which was another total mess for the industry this year, with many regional shows occurring after snowboard company order deadlines.

“You as manufacturers have the power to let your reps know where you stand on the trade-show issue,” says Wray. Currently in each region, rep associations put on an average of two trade shows and one demo for snowboard retailers each season, amounting to upwards of 27 regional shows each year. Wray believes these numbers can be cut down for the future. “Our goal for the buy/sell cycle was based on the idea of “See it. Try it. Buy It,” he says. “See the product first at a national show, try it at a regional on-snow demo, then buy it at the regional rep show.”

One problem Wray and attending manufacturers addressed within this system is the use of seniority within the rep associations. Rep groups haven’t changed their business models with the addition of snowboarding, so as a relatively new sport many snowboard reps are left on the sidelines of the decision process while older ski reps make many of the decisions about show dates, locations, and demos.

So, as one member of the audience asks, “Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?” For companies caught inn the tangle it may be pushing its reps for further control on a regional level. In fact, in some regions like NorCal and the Southeast, snowboard reps formed their own shows to get orders in by their deadlines, while the ski-based shows took place weeks later.

SIA hopes to help address the problem by its recent offer to the regional rep groups. “We’re making the resources available to regional rep associations so they can change facilities and dates without occurring any financial losses,” says Wray. Now it’s just up to them to take the offer¿either way only time will tell if adjustment to the new trade-show schedule is all it takes to make the complaints go away.