In 2019, Interbike will not be running for the first time since it started in 1993
. A monolith of the industry, it attempted to buck the tide of falling numbers with a move to Reno last year but it was too little, too late.
The rot began as the big brands left, taking their bike shops with them. Numbers began to spiral which put off more brands until it was left in a hole it couldn’t get out of.
The decline was hastened by product releases becoming more scattergun, as opposed to being held back for shows. It makes sense - if you’d spent years working on a new product, would you want to release it among the clamour of 1,000 other products at a trade show, or have it breathe on its own?
The move to Reno failed to buck the trends and, as number fell yet again, the show had to close. Emerald have promised to bring back Interbike for 2020 but, having lost most of its management staff, there’s no telling what it may look like. So what does this mean for the other big cycling trade shows? Let’s take a look through the other shows around the world in the mountain bike world to understand where they may go next.Eurobike
2018 Exhibitors - 1,400 (+0%)
2018 Attendance - 37,379 (-12%)
Eurobike was moved forward in the calendar to July in 2018 in order to combat online releases of new products. The idea… didn’t work.
The new date clashed with the start of the Tour de France and peak riding season, which spread brands and shops thin. The new date also meant exhibitors had to try and fit a year’s worth of work into nine months to get themselves ready for Eurobike.
The result was a show that was down 12 per cent in attendance following a seven per cent drop the year before. While the show still sold out, the bigger brands continued their exodus from Friedrichshafen (with the exception of Kona who returned after a hiatus) leaving 100 new brands to take their place. The show, like most trade shows now, was dominated by ebikes with virtually no new traditional mountain bikes on show.
There was an initial change of the date for 2019 to early August and then capitulation back to its traditional date in September. Eurobike has also recently announced Aseanbike, a partner trade show for the Asian market, that will be based in Bangkok.Sea Otter
2018 Exhibitors - 500 (+15%)
2018 Attendance - 74,000 (+0%)
Sea Otter continues to grow and is probably the most successful, large trade show. It’s now also the only trade show that attracts significant numbers of the general public - Taipei manages just 3,000 and Eurobike doesn’t allow them in. In 2017 Sea Otter branched out into Europe with a show in Girona, Spain, that attracts 30,000 visitors, and 2019 will see it add another stop, this time in Canada.
Over the last five years, Sea Otter exhibitor sales have grown by 46 percent, while Sea Otter Europe doubled its exhibition space last year.
With a focus on demoing and racing alongside the exhibition space, Sea Otter has projected further growth next year and expects to accommodate 550 exhibitors.Taipei
2018 Exhibitors - 1,150 (+4.5%)
2018 Attendance - 36,918 (-12%)
Taipei also changed dates this year, moving from March to November. Reports suggest that this halved the number of overseas visitors who were forced to choose between it and the Taichung Bike Week, which is just a month earlier. The 2019 show has been moved back to March, just five months after the 2018 edition.
Taipei is less consumer and more manufacturer focussed than Eurobike and Interbike so is probably less damaged by the fluctuating news cycle. As the Asian bike market grows, so does its number of exhibitors but we’re not expecting visitor numbers to recover for 2019, the two shows are simply too close together.The future of trade shows
As habits and technologies force brands to present their new products differently, trade shows will have to adapt to survive. A more savvy audience demands real world experience of bikes, not just pictures on a stand and a geometry chart and the industry has to factor this in to how they release their products.
The big shows are now competing against a rise of brand shows and press camps. Brands feel they can offer a more personalised (and probably cheaper) experience for their IBDs by bringing them in house and away from the bustle of a trade show. They also are able to capture the media for a whole day as opposed to 30 minutes at a time. These come with their own pitfalls though. Journalists get burned out on travelling to so many different brands and, in fact, most publications simply can't justify losing a journalist for the best part of a week on one product, so plenty of brands miss out on blanket coverage. On top of this, questions around collusion and ethics will creep in when brands are able to dictate to the media after flying them around the world to a dream destination.
We’ve even started to see digital shows from some brands, where new products are displayed via video conference. Again, this is no doubt another cost saving venture but it is also easier for shops and the media who don't have to travel to see what they need.
For the big shows, demoing seems to be the way to go. Sea Otter is in good health thanks to the draw it has on the public and Crankworx's Expo area gets bigger each year, with new products starting to appear there.
One of the reasons for Interbike’s move to Reno was its proximity to Northstar Bike Park, where a public demo was held to form part of the Interbike Marketweek. Similarly, Eurobike holds its Media Days in the weeks preceding the show to give journalists a chance to write with greater authority on the products released at Eurobike. A number of brands are invited with a bunch of journalists to a resort and the week is spent getting 'first impressions' on new bikes that can then be shared as embargoes lift around Eurobike. This option encourages brands to hold back their releases until Eurobike as they are almost guaranteed a good level of coverage.
So is there a place for trade shows in all of this? I would say yes. It's been a particularly bad year for shows but they haven't helped themselves with some questionable decisions. Despite it all though, the internet simply can't substitute for a face-to-face meeting and the ability to get your product in front of the whole industry at one time is invaluable, especially for smaller and up and coming brands. They may no longer be the highlight of each season, and they will almost certainly have to shrink to be sustainable but shows are unlikely to completely disappear soon.