Being from Colorado, I may be a bit biased, but looking back on the first SIA in Denver, I'd have to say that it kicked ass. From the moment the gun sounded on January 28 with a ribbon cutting by Denver's mayor and Colorado's governor, among other luminaries, it was clear that the show has found a home in a location that actively supports the industry.
Just about everyone stepped into SIA's new digs somewhat warily, like entering a scalding hot tub for the first time, but after easing in from 37 years in the desert, most people that made the trek to the Rockies found that the water was just right.
"SIA was good, [but] it was a different show," says Rome Marketing Manager Ryan Runke. "I think the biggest thing was the lack of lurkers at the show. It was much more business on the floor, which is good. Rome had a very successful show."
Booths were rocking around the clock, and definitely much earlier in the morning than in Vegas. The response from the business side was solid – a good sign in a tough economy where we all need to be on our game to survive. "The show was really good and really busy," says INA International Brand Manager – Action Sports Ronnie Tambourine. "We were really impressed with the amount of business that got done compared to years past. We were busy the entire time."
SIA hasn't released attendance numbers for the show, but the turn out definitely felt down from years past – a reality that seems obvious considering the economy – but on the exhibitor side it was sold out with over 3,100 exhibitors from 800 brands on hand.
While Denver definitely lacks the after hours amenities of Sin City, there were plenty of events going down nightly that kept Denver's cabbies busy. It actually seemed like there were more options for parties and events than in Vegas as companies worked to establish a foothold in the city and make up for the fact that Vegas's fall back diversions are no longer with us. Look for the Hyatt Grand bar to take over the Circle's Bar standing as THE late night spot for brews and bros.
"Denver did an exceptional job of welcoming us and serving our needs in after hours, information, transportation," adds Chaos's Beth Cochran. "But the hotel rates have got to change— it scares retailers and makes it hard for our team costs."
Cochran's sentiments, along with concerns over flight costs, were the biggest negatives echoing after the show, and a large reason why many West Coast retailers did not attend this year. In addition, the proliferation of regional shows offers an attractive alternative to many retailers as well.
Yet retailers came from far and wide, including Europe, Japan and Canada to catch up and check out what SIA pulled together and brands have to offer. "I thought the show was great," says Ryan Robertson, owner of Calgary's Royal Board Shop. Although there are several regional shows in and around Alberta, Robertson made the drive down to Denver because he feels it's necessary to have one show for the entire industry to come together.
The capper for the trade-show was the two-day on-snow demo that followed, and more than 3,000 people registered for the event. After four days of talking shred, it was time to actually get out and enjoy some turns at Winter Park with friends and colleagues from far and wide, many of which never get to ride together. While the snow pack was more reminiscent of November than February, it was an excellent chance to put the marketing spins from the show floor to the test where it really matters and for retailers to figure out what they want in their line up for next year.
The most interesting thing about the industry's barometer on SIA's new home was watching the pendulum of opinion swing from before the show, when the discussion was more than peppered with haters, to the first days of the show, as everyone was still taking a wait and see attitude, to the feedback at the on-snow and after when the mood was solidly upbeat for a return to the Mile High City next year. A good thing considering the show is booked here for the next ten years.