The bicycle product preview process for suppliers and retailers used to be so simple: both would attend Interbike, new product would be presented, and orders would be written. Case closed. For a growing number of companies, that process now starts in April at the Sea Otter Classic. Suppliers have press events or leak information to the press and tease consumers with new innovations, and then shift gears into their private events in July and August. While this presents some challenges on both sides of the equation (not to mention tradeshow producers), I think it can also benefit both groups in some important ways. Let me explain.
We’ve heard from many retailers over the past few weeks that the show was more productive this year because they were able to finalize their 2012 product purchasing plans. They told us they began seeing product before Interbike, reviewed that information with their staff back home, considered options, and then finalized orders at the show after seeing the whole marketplace. This model makes sense to me. It allows the smart retailer to digest the various presentations, get support from staff, compare products to the competition, and then present orders at Interbike after a final review. It takes away the pressurized guessing game of pre-season and on-the-spot ordering and puts control back in their hands. In theory, as dealers see product earlier in the sales cycle they are better able to manage their inventories, provide smoother transitions for model year changeovers, increase margins, and further enhance vendor relations with key suppliers.
On the supply side, we received tremendous feedback that their sales teams had written more orders or collected more business than at any show over the past 10 years. Why? I believe that it goes back to the way retailers are thinking and acting. Independent bicycle retailers need to have time to absorb product information, compare it to what else is out there, and prepare their own analysis before submitting the order. Placing orders at private dealer events forces dealers to commit to orders with that supplier in a vacuum, without having seen the entire competitive landscape and any new trends. Allowing this slightly longer, but more-informed process to happen will net suppliers better, more well-thought-out orders that better reflect what will happen at retail. Ultimately, isn’t that what everybody wants? As time goes on and retailers learn about product prior to the show, it will actually reinforce Interbike’s vital role as the right place to finalize product decisions and place more intelligent orders.
The industry has evolved. Now armed with some early product knowledge, dealers are exposed to the full marketplace, competitive offerings and trends in one place: Interbike. They can make educated final decisions, meet with suppliers and place orders on their own terms. Orders and commitments become real at Interbike.
Thanks for supporting this year’s show and we look forward to seeing you at an even bigger event next year!