CINCINNATI — There may have been doubters the first three years that the V-Twin Expo was held at the Convention Center here, but many of those changed their mind last year. “Last year, was the turning point,” said one aftermarket executive, who didn’t exhibit at the show this year. “It’s obvious this year that the show is a hit, and we expect to be here in a big way next year.”
Exact attendance figures weren’t available immediately after the Expo, but dealers crowded the main showfloor and the third floor overflow area Saturday and Sunday. Traffic was lighter on Monday, but exhibitors seemed delighted with the number and quality of dealer attendees.
“It’s the best show we’ve been at in 26 years of doing business,” says Mike Taylor, president of Barnett Performance Products.
Mike Corbin, president of Corbin-Pacific, the manufacturer of motorcycle seats and accessories, says the show is like a reunion for motorcycle aftermarket businesses because Cincinnati is the place where the industry really was launched. “We like it here and it works for us,” says Corbin.
The Dealer Expo was held in Cincinnati for 26 years before it moved to larger quarters at the Convention Center and RCA Dome at Indianapolis in 1998.
Motorcycle manufacturers like the event, too. “I thought it was a great show,” says Wil Garland, CEO of American IronHorse, the Fort Worth, Texas, bike maker. It was the first Expo for Garland, who took the reins of IronHorse last July.
In fact, IronHorse could very well increase its presence next year, he said. This year, IronHorse had a 20 x 30 foot exhibit, but Garland would like to add space for several more bikes.
That may not be possible, even though the convention center will add another 40,000 sq. ft. of space on the main floor for next year’s show. As part of the Convention Center’s expansion program, the space will be added on the main floor, but the Expo will lose the booth space it had this year in the third floor ballroom.
There will be a net gain of about 150 booth spaces, and the available space all will be on the main floor, making the exhibits easier to visit, according to Jim Betlach, show manager.
Garland said traffic was heavy at the IronHorse booth throughout the show, although he doesn’t have a traffic count. “My folks were busy all the time,” he says. The booth was staffed with four people throughout the show.
While Garland talks with dealers at the show, that’s not his primary objective. “We weren’t here to find new dealers,” he says. “We were here to have interested vendors talk with us. That’s where I really see an upside for us, as a company.
“I’m really a buyer more than a seller at the show. I’m finding out what’s new and hot out there and how I can price better.”
So, what will Garland do differently at the Indy show later this month. “I’m the new kid on the block,” he says. “We’ll evaluate at this year’s Indy show, to see if we have to go there again. At Cinci, we know we’ll go. It’s a great use of our time and resources.”
Another happy motorcycle manufacturer was Mark Blackwell, general manager of the Polaris Victory Motorcycle operation.
Victory’s large booth drew plenty of traffic from interested, qualified dealers, he said.
The custom builder segment also seemed to do well, according to Bill Rucker. One of the co-founders of American IronHorse, Rucker now heads Rucker Performance, a custom manufacturer in Fort Worth, Texas.
Rucker Performance was launched last year, and this was the first dealer event that the company was able to show product.
Tucked away at the end of a long aisle, the company still drew attention from dealers, said Rucker, and the show provided a venue for him to get his message to dealers.
Major distributors such as Drag Specialties, Custom Chrome and the Bikers Choice unit operated by Tucker Rocky all did well at the show, according to reports from the companies.
“Cinci was fantastic. It really was incredible,” says Greg Blackwell, vice president of marketing for Drag Specialties and Parts Unlimited.
“Our dealer attendance was up 30% over last year, and we were very happy last year,” says Blackwell.
Drag requires dealers to physically check in at the booth in order to receive special show discounts. Close to 1,000 dealerships were signed in at the Drag booth, according to Blackwell. “Those were independent dealerships,” he points out, “not just people. There could have been a lot more people.”
The Drag booth used its 30 x 60 more efficiently than last year, eliminating the huge semi-trailer truck from the floor.
“I was really impressed with the enthusiasm and interest and knowledge (of the attendees),” says Blackwell. “Those guys were there to do business; that’s cool, that’s why we were there.
“And the booths were awesome. Look at Arlen Ness’ exhibit and Avon Tyre and Performance Machine. They get you excited.
“You want to come to this event because it shows dealers how to merchandise. It shows them how to display parts. They should walk away saying, ‘I need to do this in my dealership.’”
Drag executives will evaluate its presence at Indianapolis this year. “We’re very anxious to gauge how many dealers walk into our Drag booth at Indy. We know we’re going to get a lot of V-twin dealers at Cinci; how many will go to Indy is hard to gauge.”
Blackwell said the first few years were slow for the V-Twin Expo, but it showed very good promise from the start. “We saw that last year and this is really the year. We’re looking at expanding. We’ve been involved since Day One and other people are talking about getting involved, but there’s a waiting list for next year. The train's already gone by."