The 16th annual V-Twin Expo on February 6th - 7th at the downtown Cincinnati, Ohio exhibition centre will again see "all the major players" in the Harley-Davidson and custom v-twin parts, performance and accessories aftermarket represented "one way or another," according to Show Manager Jim Betlach.
Founded in 2000 by Easyriders, V-Twin Expo remains the only specialty trade expo dedicated to the Harley aftermarket, and after an uptick in attendance and business done there in 2015, the organizers are expecting another "healthy" expo this year.
"The exhibitor booking and attendee registration cycles are locked into a steady annual pattern that sees the show remain pretty much stable in exhibiting company number terms," explained Betlach.
Feb 6-7 2016
Duke Energy Convention Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
"It gets busy for us from around September onwards, and by December most of the exhibitors have booked, and, barring an inevitable late flurry of activity, we know what shape the show will be in."
AMD was speaking with Betlach in early December and he told us that, at that stage, it looked like the show would be around the same size as 2015 and each of the prior two or three years, "give or take a booth or two either way.
"With lots of exhibitors having exited the v-twin market for one reason or another since the show was at its peak in real estate terms around 2007 and 2008, and lots of others having reduced their spend in line with the realities of the market we all serve, then inevitably the show is smaller in square foot terms than was the case a decade ago.
"However, I look back at the exhibitor list from then and see that the market had attracted a lot of fringe players and a lot of companies whose business models have just proven to be unsustainable. The core of the market remains, with service, performance and bolt-on to the fore. V-Twin Expo will again accurately reflect the choice of primary vendors available to dealers. The core of the market is clearly viable, so to suggest that the V-Twin Expo itself is not, is plainly therefore wrong.
"We will again have all the main vendors in the market represented at the show, one way or another. Based on the business done in 2015, the attendance numbers, and the level that dealer pre-registrations are running at, I would say that the market could be going to see another modest uptick in activity this year, and that V-Twin Expo will again successfully reflect that."
At the time of writing Betlach said that the show had actually again had more returning exhibitors and more new vendors booking booth space than there had been net withdrawals, or reductions in booth sizes, and that while he personally remains in the "Camp of Regret" where cutting the show down to two days is concerned, he acknowledges that it was the right thing to do and that it appears to have worked well.
"While always quiet in dealer attendance terms, the third day wasn't without value - but the overwhelming view of our exhibitor community was that the duration of the show needed to be reduced, and judging by the crowds and atmosphere seen on the Saturday and Sunday last year, it was the right thing to do," Betlach says.
Betlach has always been disinclined to address directly the effects of "theoretically competitive" event offerings on V-Twin Expo down the years, and his has always been much more of a purists take on the show scene and old school disinclination to discuss other people's businesses - preferring to focus on Easyriders' own.
However, he does think that "having survived an attempt to court our business base by an event just up the road two weeks later, I don't think that an event that is in an entirely different part of the country, at an entirely different time of the year and with an entirely different attendee profile, is going to be a threat to V-Twin Expo. We've seen no impact at all.
"Quite the reverse, it is good for our industry to see AIMExpo trying to be fully inclusive and reach out to the custom market. But they are two completely different formulas, each with its own specific advantages."
Addressing the change of ownership seen at AIMExpo this year, Betlach also thinks that this is a good thing for the future of the industry. "One of the strengths that V-Twin Expo has always had is that its ownership is with an organization that is 100 percent dedicated to the show's market. Now the MIC owns the 'mainstream/metric' expo, the industry now has full control over its long-term trade expo destiny for the first time. This can only be good for trade show policy in the long term," Betlach says.
This month AMD Magazine again highlights news from V-Twin exhibitors by way of a further introduction to some of the new products that will be on show there in February.