What do you look for in a cycling industry event? - BikeBiz
16 years on, the Cycle Show is still evolving. Kieran Howells talks to organiser Stephen Morgan to find out what the annual event has in store for the future

What kind of event piques your interest? Most events offer something that shops will find valuable, but each appears problematic in its own way. House shows are a great way of delving into a distributor’s full range, but they do come with their pitfalls. One day out of the shop is reasonable, but when every distributor in the UK decides a house show is the way to break new products, those days begin to add up – as do the costs of transporting you and your team around the country.

Experience days pose a similar conundrum. Knowledge is your best selling tool, and the only way to really know your subject matter is to try it. Feedback for such events is usually positive but again, this takes time and resources away from your shop floor. In a rocky market, can you justify such absences on a regular basis?

To truly justify the time investment from dealers, a show needs to act as an IBD Swiss army knife. It needs to present a comprehensive and well-curated range of brands and distributors, each with product managers on hand to discuss products, it needs to feature areas for attendees to get to grips with the products in their own time, and it needs to offer dealers some form of useful education – be it seminars, demos, classes or open discussions from industry leaders on relevant topics. Few shows offer such a combination, but the ones that do have established themselves at the core of the calendar. One such event is the Cycle Show.

Having spotted a gap in the market for both trade and the public back in 2002, founders Mick Bennett and Bob Chicken set about creating the bare bones of what would, in the next 16 years, become one of the biggest and most prestigious cycling industry events in Britain.

 In its early years, the show moved through a couple of London’s event venues, including the late Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Then, in 2011, the decision was made to grow the show and make it more accessible to the whole of the UK with a move to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, where it lives to this day.

The NEC’s central location allowed the show to cast its net wider and capture visitors from further afield, and, just like buying a house, moving out of London gave it the premium of space. The team was able to expand the Cycle Show’s offering by developing outdoor test tracks, including a 1.7km woodland track.

It’s not just the venue that has changed over the years; the contents of the show have developed and evolved with the times. A few years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Cycle Show was predominantly a roadie’s event. Today, this is far from the case; organiser Upper Street is adamant that in the modern retail arena, it’s important that the Cycle Show reflects every aspect of the industry, from new models to expanded cycling disciplines and other niches.

“We’re very conscious that we deliver an experience for our consumers and trade alike,” says Upper Street event director Stephen Morgan. “We listen to what that audience is asking for to make sure the show delivers. An ‘adapt or die’ mentality is adopted – we have to move with the times, mirroring the interests and passions of our visitors while being able to attract new demographics to the show.”

Although the public has always made up a significant part of the Cycle Show audience, the trade is where Upper Street has been focusing its attention this year.

On 27th September, the trade will have exclusive access to all areas of the Cycle Show, with the time and space to truly get what they need out of the experience without battling the crowds. While the trade has always had a place within its ecosystem, 2018 will present a rounded schedule for dealers, and it looks like this is something that will continue to grow in the future. As Morgan highlights, the ability to change and adapt is relevant to both the show and IBDs. “Part of the reason the industry has been going through a tough time is the need for change. I think you’ll find it hard to speak to anyone who doesn’t agree that retail is changing,” he says. “People’s needs and interests are changing, the way people want to be sold to, or the experience that they expect is ever-changing for us all.”

If valuable insight is one of the key pillars of an immersive cycling industry event, what is the Cycle Show doing to ensure that its content is up to scratch? “One of the ways we do this is through the invaluable trade content delivered on our stage, and the opportunity to network and talk about ideas with others in the same situation,” says Morgan.

“The talks are curated to essentially build on the bottom line and increase revenue and sales. The show also works as a catalyst for motivation. You come away feeling inspired and ready to try something new.”

Making the decision to focus on shop resources seems to be paying off for the Cycle Show. “We saw roughly a ten per cent increase in our trade visitors year-on-year at the 2017 event. The trade day seminar programme was also well attended,” says Morgan. Ultimately, the show strongly believes in cultivating communities; whether that be trade-based or customer-based, and continuing to develop and pull these elements together seems to be the aim for the future.

“The Cycle Show is in a great position to invoke change and inspire. As a show, we need to be at the forefront of this change and help wherever we can to make it happen. We genuinely believe in what we do and want to help direct the industry to a place where it thrives and continues to promote the sport that is so intrinsically woven into our world,” Morgan concludes.

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