Bicycle exhibitors and bike dealers attending Interbike, the national bicycle industry show in Las Vegas, had mixed reactions Friday when show organizers allowed consumers into the business-to-business show for the first time.
Companies showcasing products were concerned that consumers would take valuable time away from their conversations with bike shop owners, who attend to order bicycles, gear, clothing and supplies for their retail stores.
“We’re glad to see the consumers and have them kick the tires. But I want to make sure it doesn’t dilute the chance to talk with dealers,” said Joe Kurmaskie, of Portland, Ore., who works for Arkel, a Canadian company that manufactures bicycle pannier and touring gear, and counts on getting orders from bike shops at Interbike.
On the plus side, exhibitors and bike shop owners were glad that the inaugural “Interbike by Invitation” program Friday allowed only the most hard core bicycle consumers onto the floor. At $50 per consumer, bike shop owners were allowed to invite a maximum of two patrons per store.
Consumers were also allowed into Interbike if they were participating in today’s RTC Viva Bike Vegas 2013 Gran Fondo and willing to pay $20 to attend the trade show starting at 11 a.m. Bike fans who attended Wednesday’s CrossVegas bike race in Las Vegas were also allowed into Interbike at 11 a.m. for $25 if they brought their race event ticket stub.
Interbike spokesman Justin Gottlieb estimated there were 600-700 guests under the Interbike by Invitation program and another 600-800 consumers who attended either through the Viva Vegas bike ride event or the CrossVegas race. Overall, about 25,000 people attended the annual show, which included 800 bike companies representing 1,200 brands.
“This program was driven by many of our exhibitors,” Gottlieb said.
One of Friday’s rules that irked some bicycle consumers was that they were not allowed to buy products. In past years, many consumers would obtain Interbike badges through exhibitor contacts and buy bikes and gear on the afternoon of the final day. That was not allowed Friday.
Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association, said the group’s bike shop owner members were split over consumers attending Interbike.
“From the dealers’ perspective, they want to know what’s in it for them? Theoretically, more excited consumers help build the bicycle market,” Clements said. Dealers were happy that products were not going to be sold because they become angry when bike gear is sold below retail price points.
Some exhibitors welcomed the consumers with open arms.
“The more the merrier,” said Michael Foley, owner of the Sock Guy, a bicycle sock company from Carlsbad, Calif. “These consumers are at the top of the pyramid and if they like the product, they will tell their friends and family. It’s better than advertising.”
Steve Toll, who makes an innovative noseless bicycle seat in Tampa, said he was happy to chat with consumers about his product along with the bike shop owners.
“This is a great opportunity to talk with people,” he said. “You’re selling a product to people. Just be nice to people all the time.”
Dave Zimberoff, global marketing director for Chicago-based SRAM, the world’s second biggest bike parts maker, noted consumers are allowed to attend Europe’s biggest bike show. “We hope to expose our message to a broader audience today,” Zimberoff said. “We’re not going to take sales out of the dealers’ pockets.”
Consumers were stoked to walk the floor. Jimmy Nguyen, 30, of Los Angeles, is riding in today’s Viva Vegas event and thirsted to see the latest and greatest in the bike world. “As a regular consumer, I want to see what’s up and coming.”
For Skip Hess, chief executive of the Electra bicycle company in Vista, Calif., the bottom line was, “The more people we can expose our craft to, the more people we will make happy. Dude, we’re Las Vegas’ best attraction today.”