Second in our series focussing on CosmoBike, the premiere Italian Bike Show.
Claudia Vianino interviewed Paolo Coin, CosmoBike Project Manager, to better understand the future of this show.
Words and Pictures by Claudia Vianino
CIN: This year, many exhibitors have “mistreated” you. In 2015, with the difficulties connected to a first edition, you showed that the CosmoBike event had lots of potential. This year, despite the premises for a huge edition, the response of some large brands and local distributors lacked. Why?
PC: Some big brands have clearly stated that the trade fairs are dead and that they are now looking for other solutions, like their brand events or test tours. The reasons for these absences are not connected to investment costs only; frankly speaking we are lower priced in comparison to the Eurobike Show. We cost from 1/3 to 50% less, depending on the situations. We are located in the center of gravity of the Italian productive system, this means that a large part of the Italian exhibitors could go home after the show, instead of staying in Verona and pay for a hotel. My reply to this choice? Our main challenge this year is to demonstrate with the facts that a show is still a big opportunity for all the players of this sector: on our opening day, 15 minutes after opening the gates, we had more visitors than some of this events had in their three days; I mean those events that this year were considered the sure alternative to the exhibition … Some brands prefer to be elitist, selling in the upmarket a few bikes, at a very high unit price. This works until it works. I mean, depending on a single product, a mono event, is always a dangerous choice.
CIN: And how would you explain the absence of some big distributors?
PC: The reasons for these absences are different. Some of them claimed a timing issue. If one evaluates the fair from an eminently commercial point of view, than it is true: September is a time when “les jeux sont fait”. Then, there are those who had serious economic problems and therefore, pulled back. Some others decided to organize their in-house meetings, inviting their sales force only. Ok, I can understand you could be more efficient with the sales reps but what about the final consumer?
CIN: However, this second edition was a success, moreover from the audience point of view.
PC: Yes. An important outcome: it’s the celebration of the Italian Bike passion, regardless of all aspects of complexity while organizing an event like this or of its completeness. We have clearly shown how much people love and longs for The Bike, how important is to promote the cycling culture, the movement, the technical aspects, the use, the mobility.
CIN: 60000 visitors is a good number. How much is trade traffic and how much is consumer?
PC: I cannot give you an exact answer on this but I can confirm that CosmoBike exhibitors are very satisfied by the B2B results of this edition. The fair is based on a mixed formula, including B2B and B2C. The two B2B days are Friday and Monday where Monday plays a predominant role, because all bike shops are closed. Friday, nonetheless, was a great day too. We had many foreign visitors. This year, thanks to ICE (Istituto Nazionale per il Commercio Estero – Italian Trade Agency) we involved new realities and particularly, some top buyers, over 40; we focused on Europe and the middle east markets.
The thing that amazes us and this is also due to the favorable Veronese infrastructure, is the presence of these several foreign operators, who have come to this meeting regardless of the fair set up channels.
CIN: This ICE operation proved to be successful then. It will be repeated and increased next year?
PC: The bike is one of the top strategic sectors for ICE and a project like the one with the buyers can only grow at this time. For ICE is important to have a national reference point on which they can build an incoming program, in regard to an industry that’s a feather in the heat for its representation of the “made in Italy” on a worldwide basis. We also arranged a partnership with TAITRA, the Taipei Cycle Show organizers. TAITRA is right now one of the big aggregation players among the bike companies. We believe that the presence of foreign exhibitors and the increase in the number of manufacturing companies coming from abroad can only bring benefits to our event. We know that today the success of some trade fairs comes from the strong presence of foreign operators. We are convinced that by strengthening the acquisition of foreign exhibitors, particularly thanks to TAITRA, we will do our part with respect to what is the international appeal of the event.
CIN: The Eurobike Show, according to many opinions, is becoming more and more a German regional fair. Is there room for Cosmobike in this new international scenario?
PC: The Eurobike Show is always an important moment and the German market is the strongest in Europe. Then the choice of the show to open to the public this year has been much discussed. The town is small and it does not offer adequate structures to accommodate all the incoming people. On the contrary, Verona is in the center of gravity of a consumer dimension. Let’s imagine for a moment that we are the top European bike show: well, for us, a two days public opening would not cause the least of a problem, neither logistically or in terms of receptive structures. In one hour or two, northern Italy visitors would reach the fairgrounds; we can reach a potential basin of 8-9 million people… And from Monaco is even easier to come to Verona than to Friedrichshafen. Plus, these two Eurobike public days represented a cost for the attending companies. Even the big brands need linearity and reliability. They need to save costs and spend less money when attending a show. (..) There is an ongoing discussion about Giant. What will they do in 2017? Will they take part in the Eurobike show again or not? Giant has expressed a clear warning: there is a ROI problem. Show payback.
By the way, we are moving over in a systematic attempt to close the gap. It is clear: today everyone is playing its game.
CosmoBike interest for the foreign operators is not much of a secret. During the opening ceremony, Giovanni Mantovani, General Director of Veronafiere, declared that “Even in the cycling field Veronafiere expresses its vocation for internationalization and the creation of a development plan of this sector aimed outside the national borders. Therein lays the success of a young event that’s full of potential”. It must also be said that, from a structural point of view, Veronafiere is perfectly equipped to host big international events (an example: the famous Vinitaly show). Verona itself, from the receptive point of view, is also perfectly suited. We experimented that by ourselves: despite the fact that two other major events were taking place during the CosmoBike Show (including a concert by a famous Italian singer, at the Arena), we experienced no waiting in traffic, no problems in finding a free hotel room, no parking problems.
However, coming back to what we are, to our current reality and the negative responses from the local trade operators – Coin continues – Italy is a big market but a particular one as well. Some Italian companies do not sell much in Italy and also, they do not strive to do so, it’s not only a problem of xenophilia. This market is suffering: it pays little and badly. Then, we see the strong presence of foreign brands, which obviously didn’t have all these problems… What I mean is that Italians are the first ones not to strive to be the home leaders; or better, very few think as a natural leader s of our market, helping it to grow and improve.
CIN: Well, but you had quite a good number of prominent Italian brands at CosmoBike: Colnago, De Rosa, Wilier, Olympia…
Sure, absolutely, and I’m glad that they decided to attend this event this year again. Though, even Colnago or De Rosa declare to export around 70-80% of their turnover… (..) We had no American brands at the show this year, but the final figures say that Colnago, De Rosa, Wilier or Olympia played well their cards by attending CosmoBike. And these brands have nothing to envy in terms of quality to the American ones.
CIN: Plans for the future of CosmoBike, then?
Thanks to this structure (Veronafiere e.n.) we have wide margins of increase. I can develop and complete the proposal. There is still much that I can and want to do for this show. My goal, is to propose to our exhibitors, even those who didn’t attend the show this year, an even more comprehensive and complete event; for example, we are studying how to realize a very good and efficient Demo Day and when. I have organized plenty of Demo Days before. There are several locations around here that would be perfect for that.
CosmoBike Show 2017 will take place from 15 to 18 September 2017.