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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

V-Twin Expo 2015

"2015 V-Twin Expo Delivers" - did it?

That was the optimistic headline on the post show release sent out after this year's (15th annual) V-Twin Expo had shut its doors on Sunday February 8th. Was it a justified boast or was it organizer hubris? 


Overall you'd have to say that it is a well justified boast, and given all the scuttlebutt of the past few years you have to say that it was one that the organizers were well justified to indulge themselves with.
Despite the fact that the past two or three shows haven't actually been too bad in terms of the balance between visitor and exhibitor numbers, and that the event has continued to attract most of the primary "must haves" in exhibitor terms, it is only now that Easyriders can say that their faith in their formula has finally translated into the statistic of an attendance rebound.
The trouble has been that perception is everything. In an industry where many have failed to grasp the fundamental difference between cause and effect, the perceived/received wisdom was in danger of becoming one in which the problems of the market were somehow construed as being the show's fault.
Jim Betlach and Joe Teresi are indeed mighty people, but omnipotence? Nah, sorry Jim, sorry Joe, your powers do have limits and somehow I just don't think the effects of the global economic crisis on people's parts and accessory buying habits and budgets is one that I can let you guys take the credit (or blame) for!
Many have been saying that the classic B2B trade show formula has had its day. But those who have been doing so have failed to grasp the point. The emergence of additional and alternate thinking and opportunities doesn't necessarily mean that established ways of doing things are necessarily obsolete.

MIDWEST MOTORCYCLE SUPPLY/ULTIMA PRODUCTS: The latest news from the Pevely, Missouri based distributor and manufacturer concerns a T-VO single cam engine replacement for twin cam A-series rubber mount engines. Available in 100, 107, 113, 120 and 127 cubic inch configurations, they deliver "dramatic improvements in durability and performance" according to Ultima's Head of Engineering Mike Garrison. Designed for all 1999-2006 A-motor applications with carburetors or Delphi EFI, Garrison says they feature a totally new case design, reed valve case breathing, two external oil pumps that are said to provide 60 percent more protection and an intake flange distance that is spaced to accept stock width T.C. EFI and carb manifolds. Designed to fit the stock chassis, Garrison said that "the crank trigger is based on our own proven three piece design. We are seeing dramatic improvements in durability and performance as the TVO eliminates one cam, two drive chains, two sprockets and the cam support plate.";

The differences between the markets of the '60s, '70s and '80s that gave birth to the classic B2B formula and the post-Lehman apocalypse internet dominated era in which we now live are indeed profound.
However, in the case of trade shows, those differences aren't born out of shortcomings of the "classic formula" but out of the ever morphing, ever diversifying, ever changing leisure and business culture in which we live and trade providing additional needs.
The B2B formula remains fit for its purpose.
Sure, there are now opportunities for new or additional show projects to do new or additional things, opportunities that weren't required in the pre-recession, pre-digital world, but there is no cause and effect that says new ideas render the old ones ineffective.
The fundamentals of buying and selling are just the same now as they were in the '60s, '70s and '80's, and regardless of the changes in the landscape of the marketing environment in which all show projects compete, there is room for both, room for face-to-face communion as well as print and digital communication between buyer and seller.

DAYTONA TWIN TEC: The South Daytona, Florida based performance specialist again ran popular entry level and advanced fuel injection seminars at V-Twin Expo. Recent new products include the Twin Tec fuel injection controller for '08-'13 Tourers that have the J1850 Bus. A fully programmable plug-in replacement for the 73 pin controller, the company claims that theirs in the only system to offer real-time and continuous autotuning with monitoring, control and override capability;

That communion can be in the buyers own premises, it can be in the sellers own premises, or it can be in the neutral and competitive environment of a show - all are good, all are valid - that hasn't changed and will never change because the fundamentals of buying and selling will always remain, urm, well, fundamental!
People still need to know what product buying options are available to them and many people still like to get their hands on products before sending money to a vendor, and still like to see the whites of the eyes of the guy they are buying from.
It doesn't stop them finding out a lot of stuff from the Internet, from a catalog, from a Rep or from a company show/hospitality function or other show formula, but neither is there anything intrinsic to those other options that renders events like V-Twin Expo redundant.
Its not as if V-Twin Expo hasn't heeded some of the calls for change - it no longer clashes with the Superbowl and (to my personal disappointment) is now just two days rather than the two and a half or three it used to be.

HAWG HALTERS: Recent new products from the Dahlonega, Georgia based specialist include Native Custom Baggers collaboration wide tire kits for Baggers that allows installation of a 180 or 200mm front on an 18 x 5.5 wheel. The kit fits 41mm front ends up to '13 H-D Touring models with new kits for '14 and up under development now. Described by company owner Mark Thompson as being "completely bolt-on" it is available as a base-builders kit with wide triple tree, hidden axle for stock lowers, custom 180/200 steel wrap around fender, fender mounts, slider covers and all necessary hardware in chrome or black. The base kit can be expanded with the addition of billet lower legs, single or dual brake conversion kits and a wide range of Hawg Halters billet brake calliper upgrades;

Though ironically next year's V-Twin Expo (February 6th & 7th) does clash with the Superbowl, so in 2017 it will migrate into the final weekend of January (January 28th - 29th) to put permanent daylight between them.
That notwithstanding, Easyriders Events have steadfastly refused to be drawn into an arms race of marketing BS and spending to try to control and manipulate perceptions.
Instead the focus has been on housekeeping in order to guarantee the long term financial viability of an event that is shaped by its market just as much as it shapes its market.
This year's eight percent growth in attendance may not seem like a lot, and from a relatively low base it isn't; but all those businesses that were engaged there (and that is by far the majority of the available exhibitor community in terms of market share of parts and accessory sales volumes and revenues) would take that over any further reduction, for sure.
The vast majority of the exhibitors I spoke with expressed satisfaction at the attendance seen on the Saturday, and that busyness felt like it started earlier in the (now longer) day, it felt like it sustained better towards the close of the show at 6:00 pm.
Indeed, many also noted a stronger Sunday than has been the case in the other years since the show cut back to two days, and since Drag Specialties axed their Sunday night SuperBowl party.

LEPERA ENTERPRISES: Recent new designs from the respected Californian seat maker includes the Spoiler Solo, a cafe racer style addition to their Stubs line for Dyna and Sportster applications. On '04-'14 Sportsters it can be used with either 3.3 or 4.5 gallon tanks and at 10.5" wide fits Dyna and Dyna Wide Glide models built between '06 and '14;

What is more, the trend seen in recent years towards a more discerning, knowledgeable, positive and motivated audience also continued, with exhibitors pointing to the quality of attendee encounters being better again - certainly better than when the attendee numbers were pushing five figures.
The show continues to reflect and be shaped by the changes in the market, with the bulk of the action there being centered on bolt-on parts and accessories, performance and tuning, and on the workshop - with service items and time continuing to be the backbone that rescued the market when the demand for big ticket items evaporated. This is a good thing though!
It means that the event is stable and sustainable because the market itself is stable and sustainable.

BDL: The award-winning Californian manufacturer's Ball Bearing Lock-Up clutch features a unique mechanism that is said to significantly lighten clutch pull at the lever while providing slip-free lock-up. The design replaces the factory pressure plate and springs with a modified model-specific diaphragm assembly;

It has started to attract a few new (yes, there were a few this year) and returning exhibitors (a few of those too) and provided everyone concerned stays realistic, then regardless of the success that other expo projects may have, I see no apparent reason why V-Twin Expo can't continue to serve the specialist needs of its specialist market in its own very specialist way.

2016 - February 6th & 7th
2017 - January 28th & 29th