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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Comment by Editor-in-Chief, Robin Bradley

V-Twin Expo cancellation

The news that Easyriders Events has cancelled its 2018 V-Twin Expo at Cincinnati may have come as no surprise to many, but everyone should be sad that market conditions and consolidation has brought us to this place.

First staged in 2000 as a reaction to the relocation of the all-industry Dealer Expo to Indianapolis and to recognize the specialty needs of the then fast-growing V-twin parts and accessory and custom bike building sectors, V-Twin Expo has been a “child of its times”.
Fast forward 17 years, and my, what changed times these now are! I have always guesstimated that the market hit “peak-V-twin”, certainly in aftermarket terms, in the spring of 2006, by which time there had already been mutterings about the market not sustaining into the final months of the year prior. The impacts of hurricane Katrina and Detroit’s liberal splashing of so-called employee discount levels were cited as issues, but hey, it’s okay, they are just short-term, specific and isolated factors, normal service will be resumed next year.
In fact, 2006 was the first year that those who were listening were starting to hear rumblings about credit apps failing and mortgage defaults becoming an issue. I remember staying in the U.S. after the V-Twin Expo in advance of ‘Indy’ two weeks later (an ‘Indy’ which more resembled an Asian ATV swap meet than a professional powersports expo), and being in a Harley dealership in California and seeing some sharply reduced stickers – a shock after the years of gouging.

If memory serves right, it was in 2007 that we saw the highest number of booths at V-Twin Expo. As the shockwaves caused by the EPA’s plans to tighten on-highway emissions standards and the cycle of ever deepening financial issues took a hold of consumer confidence and spending, by the time of the “Lehman Apocalypse” of October 2008, layoffs and closures were already commonplace, and the parts and accessory industry atrophy, that we are still enduring to this day, had set in.
The V-twin industry and its specialty Expo had a long way to fall, and barring a couple of false dawns, it has dropped like a stone ever since.
In recent years the number of visitors and exhibitors at V-Twin Expo had continued to decline in line with the market’s diminishing sales opportunities and when, three years ago, Harley’s own recovery stalled and went into reverse, the writing was on the wall.
In tandem with the consolidation of the channels through acquisitions, the impact of e-commerce and the changing of the demographics that had underpinned the phenomenal growth in the V-twin industry since the early 1990s, it was, regrettably, only a matter of time before Easyriders had to face the altered realities in which we are all trading.
Personally, I don’t think AIMExpo has had much effect on V-Twin Expo, largely because of the timing and because, until this year, it was being staged just about as far away from the V-twin industry’s midwestern heartland as its possible to get.
However, there is no question that the emergence of the current pattern of expo style distributor, dealer and vendor events has had a massive impact, along with the wider consolidation issues and collapse in available budgets.
Down the years the opportunity that the V-Twin Expo provided has been a mainstay of my business opportunities, and I for one will miss it – not least because I still do firmly believe that there is a need for there to be speciality events as well as wider, multi-discipline shows.
As one person put it to me once, dealers need to tend their own gardens as well as look over the fence at what others are doing!
On behalf of all those who, like me, have valued the business opportunity that the V-Twin Expo has represented down the years, and have seen it as the defining “child of these times”, I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Jim and Meredith Betlach and their team for all their dedication and hard work, and to Easyriders owner Joe Teresi, for what they have done for countless businesses these past 17 years.
I’m sure I am not alone in sharing the regret that they no doubt feel keenly that it should end in cancellation rather than the sunlit uplands of a vibrant future, but they can be mighty proud of the legacy the show leaves and the contribution they made to the lives of so many of us.

Robin Bradley