For the first time ever, the annual Bicycle Leadership Conference was held in Monterey, California, from April 15-17 to coincide with another big industry gathering, the Sea Otter Classic. Typically, the BLC has been held in February in warm weather locales such as San Diego or Phoenix with the goal of getting people out of their businesses so that they can work on them, sharing notes with their peers in the industry on topics of mutual importance and finding better ways of working together. Monterey cooperated by playing the part of warm weather locale very nicely this year. Attendees also played nicely with a great spirit of openness.
The BLC is run by the BPSA (Bicycle Products Suppliers Association) and as such is primarily focused on supplier-related issues. In the past, it has varied in format and has been more equally weighted between supplier and retailer topics. Regardless, retailers are still welcome at the event and are encouraged to attend. It’s a great conference with a true “who’s who” of the bicycle industry present.
As you’ll see in our highlight video below, that was produced by Markus Neuert of Cyclefilm for us, this year’s event was notable for the refreshing openness among the attendees in sharing information about their businesses – especially given the economic climate we’re all operating under. Attendance is primarily executives from all of the major bike, component and accessory manufacturers and, understandably, some have been hesitant to share sales figures in the past while the president of their major competitor was sitting in the third row listening. What did we learn as a result of this openness? Well, I learned that despite the serious drop-off in sales in the last quarter following the economic drop-off that occurred a few weeks after the last Interbike, things aren’t all gloom and doom. Most retailers seem to be holding there own and still benefiting from the continued popularity of hybrid and pavement bike categories and labor in maintaining older bikes – a great indicator of the sustainability of the transportation and utility bike segments that were strengthened by the high gas prices of last year. With that said, there may be a looming factory inventory level issue ready to rear its head later this year depending on how sales go this Spring and Summer. Chris Speyer, of Raleigh, used a great analogy in describing the challenges that inventory can be during his industry statistics presentation (paraphrased): “Inventory is like fish: great when it’s fresh, but starts to stink if you don’t use it quickly.”
Notes: John Nedeau is VP of Global Sales for SRAM in addition to being head of the BPSA as he is listed in the video, and Al Budris was the conference director for the 2009 BLC.