Mick Bennett lives and breathes cycling. He won gold at the 1974 Commonwealth Games
and secured many national titles in his 70s heyday. Before taking on the role of setting up and running the Business Design Centre's annual cycle exhibitions he spent 17 years at Alan Rushton's Sport for Television, being technical director of the Tour de France visit to the SE of England, and a number of Tours of Britain.
Prior to this he was an IBD. For seven years he traded as Bull & Bennett Bike Sports in Sutton Coldfield. He therefore understands what makes bike shop owners tick. And he wants IBDs to visit Cycle 2003, but he recognises many will still be reticent.
"When I took up the challenge of becoming Exhibition Director of Cycle over three years ago there were those who cautioned me about just how difficult a task I would have in trying to unite the industry behind a national cycle show staged in London. It was said: "There are too many shows already". "September is the wrong time of the year for us." "IBDs already have too much on their plate." "IBDs can see the same products by attending the various company road shows on their own doorstep."
"I can sympathise with some of these sentiments. However, if I analysed what I had to do each year to make the profits I needed to pay the mortgage, when I owned a bike shop, it did not take me too long to list my priorities.
"I made money by selling products to my customers. Without the right products at the right prices to generate sales my business would go under. How would I arrive at the right selection of products for my shop without
spending an inordinate amount of time away from the shop just looking for them?
"Putting my IBD hat on again, I want to spend a couple of days at a trade exhibition where I can see and compare as many of the new products that will be available to me in the new season - and not just one or two examples of what the range looks like. I want to see a full range of products.
"I also want to be able to have the chance of talking not only to the sales rep on my patch but also to some of the bigger cheeses that have responsibility for the brands that drive the business.
"By attending a large, representative trade exhibition I can also get a feel for the new trends that are likely to shape consumer demand. It gives me a chance to talk to other IBDs who are in the same boat as me - ask them
their views on a variety of subjects that are common to us all - not just about product selection but on a number of topics that are crucial to retail success.
"The vast majority of IBDs are not in immediate competition with one another and so I've always found that they are willing to 'talk shop' without any fears of losing business to a competitor.
"Being a devotee of cycling, attending a show of the stature of Cycle also gives me a buzz. It is not just about how good all the products look on the stand - buy me, buy me - but also the prospect of meeting so many other people, including celebrities, who share my enthusiasm.
"There is a vibrancy and expectancy about a show that offers such a variety of attractions. I'm there to gain information to improve my business, to select products, meet people - but if I can enjoy the experience as well, then even better. I can't say that the prospect of traipsing around the country to a variety of
hotel venues every week to see just a few cycle brands feels me with the same enthusiasm - or is anywhere near as cost effective and time efficient!"
Cycle 2003 starts Wednesday afternoon with a full trade-only day on Thursday. The show opens to the public Thursday evening and continues as a public show until Sunday.