V-Twin Expo set for clash-free weekend at end of January
The two day, annual V-Twin Expo is being staged earlier than usual in 2017 - on January 28th and 29th at its usual Cincinnati, Ohio venue; avoiding the Super Bowl and other event clashes that are blamed for holding back attendance in prior years.
There has been considerable market speculation about the status of the event in 2017, with rumors about exhibitor pull-outs and disquiet about the show’s prospects.
“There have been some vendors who have decided not to exhibit at V-Twin Expo in 2017,” Show Manager Jim Betlach said to AMD Magazine at the end of November, “but that happens and the show continues to be reflective of market status and it continues to be the only one of its kind.”
Betlach went on to say that “very often the show decisions that vendors take at any given time are driven by their own business cycle requirements and don’t affect V-Twin Expo’s status as still being the primary custom parts and accessory industry shop window and the largest, indeed only dealer event of its kind in the world.”
At the time of going to press the exhibitor list showed a healthy range of exhibiting companies that most in the market would regard as cornerstones of our industry. Taken with the selection of new exhibitors and returnees booked for January 2017, and Betlach’s observation that it is “vendor cycles” that are affecting exhibiting decisions as much as anything has some credibility.
Confirmed exhibitors include ‘majors’ such as Drag Specialities, Ness Enterprises, Barnett Tool & Engineering, Baker Drivetrain, Avon Tyres, Belt Drives Ltd., Bassani Exhaust, DynoJet and DynaTek, HardDrive, James Gaskets, JIMS, K&N, Khrome Werks, Kibblewhite, LePera, Mid-USA, Rinehart Racing, Rivera Primo, RC Components, Zipper’s Performance and others – at late November it stood at some 120 exhibiting companies in total and as the show nears that figure will increase as it always does.
“There’s no question that 2016 has been a soft year for vendors. In fact, the past two or three years have not seen the market kick-on from the recovery. It simply has not sustained. A lot of people blame the election, which always has an impact every four years, but mostly I am hearing that it is the economy that is holding the market back,” Betlach said.
“Yes, the changes to how people get their information and buy their products have has an effect on the market. But the channels have always been under pressure one way or another. It is the consolidation we have been seeing and the financial issues faced by some vendors is also having an effect.
“When the economic realities of the real-world situation in which custom shops and vendors are operating is not good, then regardless of what the so-called experts and economists say about jobs and growth those realities affect people directly and we have certainly been seeing that. Everybody is seeing that.
“It isn’t just the V-twin industry either, the whole of the motorcycle industry is soft. What is concerning is that unlike through the downturn, even staples and service items have been soft. We need to get the election behind us and get back into a climate where people want to have fun and start riding their motorcycle again.”
There will be many who agree with Betlach’s sentiments, but many who will also continue to point the changes taking place in the events landscape, especially in the January and February timescale, and to the demographic changes that some say are rendering the show concepts of old redundant.
While there may be some truth in that, events such as SEMA and the CES suggest that it is more a case of market scale that is affecting motorcycle dealer shows; which is also why, to a large extent, some distributors are seeing own-events where they believe they can maximise the business they do with their existing dealers as important stop-gaps.
One senior and well respected V-Twin Expo exhibitor that AMD Magazine spoke to (who wished to remain anonymous) told us “Look, we’ve all seen this before. It isn’t rocket science. While new motorcycle sales are soft, we are all going to be scrabbling. When Harley get back on the horse, and they will, then everyone else will be able to also. Follow the money. If we see money come back into the market, then confidence will follow. That may sound like stating the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs stating.”