Huge event at a fork on the slope

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ja­son Blevins

Snow Sports In­dus­tries Amer­ica’s an­nual Snow Show ar­rives in Den­ver this week, lur­ing an army of ski in­dus­try cham­pi­ons who de­liver a big eco­nomic boost to the city in a quiet time of year.

This year, those 17,000 dap­per snow lovers, in their next-sea­son’s jack­ets, will de­liver more than a $30 mil­lion im­pact to down­town as they buy and sell the lat­est and great­est stuff in one of the ski in­dus­try’s big­gest gath­er­ings.

While the snowy West will cer­tainly spike en­ergy among at­ten­dees this year, the ven­er­a­ble trade show — where thou­sands of ski shop own­ers pe­ruse more than 900 brands to fill their stores next sea­son— is un­der­go­ing a sig­nif­i­cant shift.

David Ingemie, pres­i­dent of the mem­ber-owned, non­profit SIA trade group for 35 years, is step­ping down. In­com­ing pres­i­dent Nick Sar­gent, a for­mer Bur­ton ex----

“Therewere no shows in front of SIA in 2000, and now there are 27 shows, ... most in De­cem­ber. That ex­pan­sion has in­creased the cost of the buy­ing and sell­ing cy­cle for all in­volved, whether you are a re­tailer, rep or sup­plier.”

David Ingemie, pres­i­dent of the SIA trade group

ec­u­tive, is in­her­it­ing a trade show grap­pling with dis­cord. Vet­eran at­ten­dees, such as The North Face, Black Di­a­mond and Dy­nafit, skip the gath­er­ing, while oth­ers, in­clud­ing Bur­ton and Arc’teryx, set up shop near the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

And in 2017, the show will shift from the late Jan­uary slot, which it has oc­cu­pied for nearly 20 years, to the first week of De­cem­ber. Switch­ing dates is de­signed to bet­ter meet the new buy­ing, sell­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing cy­cles of to­day’s shift­ing econ­omy while also mak­ing the once ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial trade show more rel­e­vant for ski shop own­ers, gear mak­ers and in­dus­try lead­ers.

The trade show cir­cuit is evolv­ing, es­pe­cially for events such as Snow Show. For decades, Snow Show was a vi­tal busi­ness gath­er­ing where gear mak­ers signed tens, if not hun­dreds, of thou­sands of dol­lars’ worth of or­ders from re­tail­ers ea­ger to stock their shelves with the lat­est new skis, snow­boards, jack­ets, boots and ac­ces­sories. But in re­cent years, re­tail­ers have or­dered next sea­son’s mer­chan­dise and man­u­fac­tur­ers have fac­tory or­ders set by Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

So the cur­rent Snow Show isn’t about buy­ing and sell­ing as much as it is a con­fab, a gath­er­ing of in­dus­try lead­er­swho sch­mooze, at­tend sem­i­nars and get ideas for the next year’s hard­goods and soft­goods trends. That kind of face-to­face time is im­por­tant for an in­dus­try that re­lies on re­la­tion­ships that span a con­ti­nent. But is it worth the cost of build­ing a two-story dis­play booth packed with ever-ex­pand­ing lines of mer­chan­dise in a pricey con­ven­tion hall and staffing it with a dozen high-level em­ploy­ees for four days in a city far from home?

“Who is go­ing to spend $50,000, $100,000, or even half amil­lion on a big, beau­ti­ful booth just to drink beer with friends?” asked Chris Sword, pres­i­dent of Boul­der’s Dy­nafit/Salewa North Amer­ica, who last year opted out of Snow Show for the first time in many years and is skip­ping the show again this week.

“The com­mu­nity as­pect of it is to­tally crit­i­cal, but in the end, you need to look at your goals and weigh what you need to do to ac­com­plish it,” he said. “On the sur­face, it’s a su­per ap­pro­pri­ate show for the brand and what we do, but at the end of the day, when you look at what’s ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive to ac­com­plish our goals, it just doesn’t pen­cil.”

It was an easy de­ci­sion in the 1990s, when those gear mak­ers re­turned to head­quar­ters with a stack of or­ders.

Nowa­days, Snow­Show’s sta­tus is slip­ping. Es­pe­cially when the 22,000-at­ten­deeOut­doorRe­tail­erWin­ter Mar­ket trade show in Salt Lake City is in early Jan­uary and a host of re­gional trade shows across the coun­try fill the Novem­ber and De­cem­ber cal­en­dars.

“There were no shows in front of SIA in 2000, and now there are 27 shows, ... most in De­cem­ber. That ex­pan­sion has in­creased the cost of the buy­ing and sell­ing cy­cle for all in­volved, whether you are a re­tailer, rep or sup­plier,” long­time SIA chief Ingemie said, not­ing that the shift to De­cem­ber will help pre­pare gear reps who ped­dle the next sea­son’s skis, snow­boards and gear at the two dozen re­gional trade shows that will now fol­low Snow Show.

“In­stead of just a trade show, it’s amar­ket­ing event,” he said. “It’s pre­sen­ta­tion and brand po­si­tion­ing and in­tro­duc­ing new prod­ucts and mak­ing the state­ment that needs to be made so reps can do a bet­ter job pro­mot­ing their prod­ucts (to re­tail­ers) at re­gional shows.”

The smaller gear com­pa­nies— es­pe­cially in the ap­parel busi­ness — seem hap­py­with the­move to De­cem­ber, even though many man­u­fac­tur­ers aren’t keen on the cur­rent plan to have a show both next Jan­uary and in De­cem­ber 2017 as the shift be­gins.

Dan Abrams, the pres­i­dent and founder of Den­ver-based Fly­low Gear, has to have his or­ders sent to fab­ric mills by mid-De­cem­ber to get his com­pany’s ski gear shipped to re­tail­ers by Au­gust.

“Mov­ing up the show helps a lot,” Abrams said, not­ing how that might not work for larger brands who have to send their or­ders to fac­to­ries even ear­lier. “So for them, SIA was just for mar­ket­ing. But to who? To the in­dus­try? For smaller brands like us, we use the show to get or­ders, but that’s us, a scrappy brand that fits our whole booth in a van and spends four times the cost of the booth and space on sam­ples.”

For re­tail­ers, mov­ing the show to De­cem­ber works for tim­ing their or­ders on soft­goods, but that is the meat of the sell­ing sea­son. Di­vert­ing work­ers from the shop floor in the hol­i­day sea­son to­ward a trade show could be trou­bling, said Kat Joban­pu­tra, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the 180-store Spe­cialty Sports Ven­ture, the retail arm of Vail Re­sorts.

“It’s got its pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives,” Joban­pu­tra said. “I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it.”

Joban­pu­tra and Sword echo a com­monly heard plea: SIA should work with ri­val Out­door Re­tailer— owned by Emer­ald Ex­po­si­tions, a top trade show owner— to co­or­di­nate their shows.

“I’ve said they should col­lab­o­rate. I’ve said that to both of them, but there are a lot of chal­lenges there,” Joban­pu­tra said. Sword sug­gested the SIA fo­cus on hard­goods — skis, boards, boots and bind­ings — while Out­door Re­tailer fo­cuses on soft­goods and ap­parel.

Un­like Out­door Re­tailer, which seems to al­ways be con­sid­er­ing a move to an­other city, Ingemie says mov­ing Snow Show from its long­time home in Las Ve­gas to Den­ver in 2010 “was the best de­ci­sion SIA has ever made.”

The 11-year deal for Snow Show still rep­re­sents the largest con­ven­tion book­ing in Den­ver’s his­tory. The an­nual event helps the city’s con­ven­tion plan­ners, who of­ten work sev­eral years ahead in book­ing large-scale events in the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

The op­tion to shift the date of Snow Show to De­cem­ber has been on the ta­ble since SIA first ar­rived in Den­ver six years ago. The early De­cem­ber slot is even slower for con­ven­tion busi­ness than the late Jan­uary week­end, so the shuf­fle was not a prob­lem, said Richard Scharf, pres­i­dent of Visit Den­ver, the city’s con­ven­tion and tourism bureau.

While cities such as Salt Lake City have to prom­ise ho­tel de­vel­op­ers as much as $75 mil­lion in tax in­cen­tives to keep shows such as Out­door Re­tailer from mov­ing to a larger lo­ca­tion, Den­ver has never had to of­fer pack­ages like that, Scharf said. There are 3,000 rooms within a block of the con­ven­tion cen­ter and thou­sands more a short stroll away.

Visit Den­ver and SIA will be­gin ne­go­ti­at­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion as soon as this year, Scharf said.

“It’s just a great show for Den­ver. It’s a good-sized show and meets at a great time of year, and the an­nual as­pect for us is huge,” Scharf said.

Bur­ton, the most dom­i­nant player in snow­board­ing with a lion’s share of all board, boot, bind­ing, ap­parel and ac­ces­sory sales, broke from the Snow Show con­ven­tion floor last year, set­ting up in the City Hall mu­sic venue on Broad­way for Snow Show, which this year runs Thurs­day through next Sun­day. The Ver­mont com­pany hosted fash­ion shows and con­certs in the cav­ernous bar, dis­play­ing its ever-grow­ing line of prod­ucts to re­tail­ers who nib­bled catered food and drank from open bars. The com­pany is do­ing the same thing this year.

“Ev­ery­one was blown away with how we brought that space to life,” said Bur­ton pres­i­dent John Lacy.

Show­ing all of the brand’s ex­pan­sive line was lim­ited on the Snow Show floor, said Lacy, not­ing that the com­pany’s Anon gog­gles and its re­sort-part­ner­ship divi­sion have re­mained in­side the Snow Show cam­pus.

Lacy said the bump up to De­cem­ber is a pos­i­tive sign that SIA is at­ten­tive to the chang­ing dy­nam­ics of the snows­ports retail in­dus­try.

“This move gives a lit­tle bet­ter bal­ance to the re­tail­ers writ­ing or­ders and how we bal­ance man­u­fac­tur­ing and mak­ing sure our in­ven­to­ries are scarce,” he said. “They have to try new things, andwe have to chal­lenge the in­dus­try as whole and see what ben­e­fits we gain from shak­ing things up.”

LeeWright, above, cleans a gi­ant pair of gog­gles while set­ting up Elec­tric’s booth in prepa­ra­tion for last year’s SIA Snow Show at the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in down­town Den­ver. The enor­mous eye­wear was used to pro­mote the gog­gle­maker’s quick-change lens sys­te­mand press-seal tech­nol­ogy. Below sits a dis­play of POC hel­mets and googles dur­ing Snow Show in 2012. This year’s event runs Thurs­day through next Sun­day. Den­ver Post file pho­tos

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