Crowdsourcing next year's Dealer Expo

Mary Slepicka
Publish Date: 
Mar 19, 2013
By Mary Slepicka

THE 48TH ANNUAL Dealer Expo has come and gone. How’ve you been? Sales doing OK?

We’ve been a little busy around here. I think the staff’s in need of some vacation time. I know I am.

Building a show isn’t easy, and it ain’t cheap. Everything from the renting of the venue itself down to the draping behind the booths to the carpet stickers to the security staff to the signage to the microphones the seminar speakers use — it all costs money, and is customarily supported by the payments companies make in order to set up a booth and/or sponsor an event or a feature. (Big kudos to operations director Lorri Monty; we remain in awe of your logistical prowess.)

A “trade show” must shed the constraints of the past and be an event, a happening that opens your eyes, smacks you upside the head and blasts you with the simple affirmation that yes, anything is possible.

As Mike Vaughan so eloquently explains in his column this month, a trade show reflects the state of the industry it serves. Since the heydays of 2006-07, the industry lost 5,000 dealers and retailers, vehicle sales were slashed in half and about 20,000 people (we estimate) left the industry altogether to find employment elsewhere. I see that a former distributor executive has just returned to the motorcycle aftermarket after spending a couple of years in the irrigation business.

Show management has just released the onsite attendance figures. There were 5,400 registered attendees at the 2013 Dealer Expo; 1,400 were franchised dealers and 1,700 were non-franchised retailers. Another 500 identified themselves as specialty P&A retailers, and 450 registered as service-only shops.

Just under 200 registered as online-only retailers. The number of people attending from each business hasn’t fluctuated widely in the last three years; franchised dealers send an average of 2.8 people to Dealer Expo; independent dealers, 2.4; online retailers, 2.2; specialty P&A stores, 2.2; and service shops, 2.4.

So what does this mean for Dealer Expo? Well, first, given that there are fewer buyers in the market, I’m sure show management would like to see more of you — if not just to buy product, then to attend seminars or to just take it all in and gain a greater awareness of what the industry has to offer your store. And they hope that by seeing more of you they will be able to convince more companies that they should exhibit.

But the concept of the traditional trade show is changing. And in this day when we communicate via text, email and social posts, it’s a rare and treasured opportunity when you can gather in one place to have a true conversation in real time. A “trade show” must shed the constraints of the past and be an event, a happening that opens your eyes, smacks you upside the head and blasts you with the simple affirmation that yes, anything is possible. (Continued)