Vosper: Regional and alternative shows rush to fill the gap left by Interbike

Interbike owner Emerald Expositions announced it was getting out of the bicycle trade fair business shortly after its disappointing 2018 edition, newly relocated to Reno, Nevada from its traditional home in Las Vegas. The show claimed a one-day trade attendance of 2,500. Compare that with “about 18,000” over three days in 2017 and a historic three-day peak of 25,536 in 2012, and the decision seems not just understandable, but downright inevitable.

So now what? As discussed previously, the answer for many is smaller shows in regional markets. Given that the United States is a very large place with functionally nonexistent public ground transportation, show venues tend to be within a half-day drive of major population centres and bike markets.

The industry leader in the regional show business is the Chicago Area Bicycle Dealers Association’s CABDA Expo series. The original CABDA had hosted trade events in Chicago dating back to the 1970s, with the current version in continuous  operation since 2015 and pulling some 2,000 retailer attendees in 2019. The organisation premiered its West Coast (San Diego area) edition in January of this year and has announced plans for two new venues: a consumer-focused Denver event slated for November [editor note: The Denver edition looks to have been delayed] and an East Coast venue for the trade in the New York City area, slated for March of 2020.

“Attendance has grown year on year,” says CABDA show director Jim Kersten. “I’m anticipating probably double the attendance in our 2020 California show, some growth in Chicago, not sure what the premiere of New York holds.” For most shows, Kersten says, he needs about 950 shops to make it viable, but only needs a little more than a hundred for a demo-based event. Keep in mind that new estimates claim there are more than seven thousand total bike shops in the US (as opposed to traditional estimates of less than half that) and the future of regional shows in the CABDA model seems bright.

Other examples include the Philadelphia Bike show, which is roughly the same size as CABDA Midwest but more  consumer-focused, and Frostbike, a “house show” for mega-distributor Quality Bicycle Products which will move from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Denver for 2020. Both report themselves in good health, although retailer attendance numbers are hard to pin down.

Curiously, industry chatter increasingly refers to consumer events as trade shows. The largest of these is Sea Otter, which will inaugurate a Canadian edition near Toronto in July to augment its established European (Girona, Spain) and original stateside (Monterey, California) venues. Other events promoted to trade status include the various Crankworxes, assorted Outerbikes and various selfstyled “media summits,” all of which are notoriously short on retailers. Even the North American Handbuilt Bike Show, which changes locations each year and focuses on bespoke builders and buyers, is considered a “trade show” now, despite the fact that virtually no actual “trade” – which is to say, neither retailers or traditional suppliers – actually attend it.

Aaaand… that’s all folks!

So there you have it: another issue, another birds-eye lowdown on the most recent hijinks from your colleagues across the pond. Hopefully, it’s interesting, perhaps it’s insightful, and, if nothing else, you can always look at our North American antics and say See? It’s not just us, after all.

Stay tuned for more from Rick Vosper on Cycling Industry News. And catch up here