Consumers to attend Interbike

Interbike announced a new initiative today to allow selected passionate consumers to attend the show that has been business to business only until now. We got details from Interbike managing director Pat Hus.

Slowtwitch: Thanks for the chat.

Pat Hus: We appreciate the time and the diligence in telling this story in its entirety. By going through this exercise and telling the true vision of this new event, retailers and exhibitors can now form a much more informed opinion of what we are going to deliver. Suddenly it’s not quite as daunting.

ST: So what brought up the idea to add consumers to this current industry only show?

Pat: Funny you should ask that. The idea to add consumers is not a new one actually. In fact people have been asking for access for years now and we have had the discussion regarding it every year. For whatever reason the timing was just never quite right – until now. We started batting the idea around again with earnest last year and in one of our conversations the notion of inviting the consumer to the event came up. In our minds the only way to do this is to have the bike dealers be a part of the process. If we got them to see the opportunity then we really had something. This show has always been about the retailer and we feel it will always be that way. One of the best parts of this model is the idea that the dealer can actually bring their best customers even closer to them and their store. I had one retailer tell me he was going to charter a bus and pay for his top 50 customers to come to Interbike. Another one told me he knows of 12 to 15 customers that will go and buy bikes from that week. He is actually going to go with the customers and play tour guide on the show floor. This is the opportunity that retailers have to seize in my opinion.

ST: Retailers are not best known for seizing opportunities or embracing something new.

Pat: We recognize this and we are prepared to help and provide as many resources as possible. We are also enlisting the help of the NBDA (National Bike Dealers Association) to help us get the word out. We have 10 months to work on game plans with retailers and we will make sure that they all clearly understand the opportunities this event can provide.

ST: At Eurobike that has been happening for a long time now, but it is a different culture, plus your format is different.

Pat: That is very true. It is a different culture indeed. It is one that can attract not just an enthusiast but also a casual commuter to come and see the latest and greatest. Bikes in Europe have reached utilitarian status and we are just not there quite yet. Their approach to consumers very different than ours - they invite the world and they get over 25,000 consumers on a dedicated consumer-only day on the Saturday of their event. We don’t really want that, especially given the fact that this is a new concept to Interbike. We’d rather start smaller and deliver a very qualified enthusiast buyer to the show on the last day of the 3-day event. If you ask most exhibitors, Friday is always the slowest day and in many case people are trying to tear down their booths by 1:00 pm. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to us as these companies have spent thousands of dollars to be there. Why would you be in a hurry to get out of there? We want to add value to that final day and we feel this approach will do this. Exhibitors and retailers will have close to 10 months to makes plans and figure out a plan to take advantage of this new offering.

ST: The consumer day at Eurobike still has the problem of exhibitors breaking down early. Will there be some additional pressure on exhibitors to hang out? After all it would be a bummer for those VIP consumers if they saw folks packing and running or coming up on empty spots.

Pat: We will definitely be enforcing the non-tear down aspect of our exhibitor contracts and we will be diligent in enforcing these expectations. We agree that seeing companies tear down would be very bad and we do not want to see that happen. I don’t think companies will be wanting to tear down when the aisles are filled with hungry enthusiast wanting more information.

ST: But aren’t some of these hungry enthusiasts not already at Interbike? Because as a retailer, who am I to deny a person who bought 5 high-end bikes to me the request for a pass to Vegas?

Pat: We can’t deny that many of these customers have been granted access to the show in the past through their retailers or through an exhibitor in some cases. Now that retailer can give legitimate access to that customer that bought 5 high-end bikes from him. If I were that retailer I would look to cover the cost of entry for those types of customers for sure. It’s seems like a great way to gain even further loyalty from that customer to me.

ST: As a retailer would you offer cost of entry to the show or travel to the event?

Pat: Of course that would be up to each retailer to decide. It seemed to us and based on feedback from a few retailers that this might not be a bad idea. Most retailers felt that the $50 was not a big hurdle for the customers they had in mind to attend. A dealer will need to be registered to attend themselves before access to inviting their customers will be available.

ST: The special VIP customer badge though should take out some of that uncertainty in terms of whom you are dealing with.

Pat: We feel strongly that this will be the case. We should see much greater efficiency on Wednesday and Thursday with fewer consumers in the halls on those days. Now when they walk in the booth and their badge says “Special Guest of Richardson Bike Mart of Houston, Texas”, the exhibitor will know to shift gears and adjust the conversation accordingly.

We will also be looking to shift some of our key education sessions to Tuesday and Friday from Wednesday and Thursday to allow retail buyers to be more efficient on the first two days of the show and accomplish what they need before Friday. We’ll also be looking to get agreement on expanding the show hours to 8:00 am to once again allow retailers more time to accomplish their buying goals. This is not yet confirmed but we will be asking the question with our advisory panels and exhibitors.

ST: How will your program be structured, and when will the retailers find out how many slots they will get?

Pat: We are finalizing the details on all of this as we speak. The exact numbers per retailer will likely be provided after the first of the year. Obviously based on the location of the show dealers in the southwest will be allocated more invitations than those dealers in Vermont. That being said, if we need to re-allocate based on demand we will be able to do so throughout the registration process. We know that dealers from as far as Florida and New Jersey have been asked for years to get their customers access, so I suspect we will get people from all over the world wanting to come. If you add in the draw of participating in the Gran Fondo on Saturday and the huge attraction to Las Vegas and I think you will find a lot of people interested in making the pilgrimage.

ST: What about manufacturers? Will they have an allotment of consumer slots?

Pat: The details on this will be announced at a later date, but yes we are planning on an allotment of invites for exhibitors as well.

ST: We of course would also not object to having some spots for our readers. How would we go about that?

Pat: We will have some promotional invites available for select media partners, etc and we can talk about how those can be used to your advantage. It will be very limited though as we want the primary access to be through the bike shops.

ST: What are your expectations what this consumer idea will do to your attendee numbers?

Pat: We have some gut instinct numbers in mind, but of course it is very hard to tell this early in the game. Because everybody that wants to attend will need to register and pay in advance of the show we will have very accurate accounting in advance of the show. Our gut tells us that we could see anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 enthusiast consumers in the hall that day.

ST: Are you taking bets?

Pat: You are funny my friend. Would you like to start a pool? We’re not taking bets, but I would be interested in your take and what you think might actually happen.

ST: Hmm, let me think about that. Meanwhile though can you talk about the big move the South end of the strip?

Pat: The big move is coming along great. We have actually starting the floor-planning process earlier than ever this year. We have a lot of work to do to get everybody placed and to create all of the new and enhanced neighborhoods we have planned. The venue with all of its new opportunities is really exciting and we have a ton of new stuff planned. As soon as we have confirmations on these new happenings we will make announcements. Suffice it say we will have a very busy week at Interbike next year. Stay tuned to for all of the updates and all of the details on the Interbike by Invitation.

ST: Which hotels do you think will now see the bulk of the Interbike traffic?

Pat: I think with the consumer piece we will see hotels all over Las Vegas impacted. People can and will stay all over town vs. just the Mandalay. That said I think you will find a heavy concentration on the MGM properties found on the south end of the Strip.

ST: Where will the folks sty who used to bed down in the Imperial Palace and Harrah's?

Pat: There is the Ex Caliber and Monte Carlo which will provide rates comparable to IP and Harrah’s. Both of those hotels are owned by MGM Resorts as well.

ST: Anything else new and exciting?

Pat: We have several new things on the table for 2013 that are in the works. Stay tuned in the coming months for more information as we roll them out.

The 2013 Interbike show will begin with OutDoor Demo from September 16-17, 2013, in Boulder City, NV, followed by the Interbike Expo from September 18-20, 2013, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV.