Despite a down economy and slow custom motorcycle sales, V-Twin Expo organizers say expectations remain high for this year’s show, scheduled Feb. 6-9 in Cincinnati.
Jim Betlach, V-Twin Expo producer, says the 2009 show again includes several time-sensitive and wide-ranging seminars.
Scheduled topics include how to sell to women, how to attract the under-35 age group, tips for success in tough economic times, insurance coverage and intellectual property protection, among others. The seminars will again use Don Emdee as the moderator.
“We always make an effort to ensure the show includes very valuable seminars from people who are directly involved in the industry, and give attendees the most value for their money as possible,” he said. “I think this year we’ve done another good job of covering some important topics just about every V-twin dealer can relate to.”
The show also will include its annual Industry Leader awards ceremony, along with several new product introductions and other events. Betlach encourages any V-twin company or dealer hesitant to attend the show to consider the benefits of name and brand recognition the Expo can provide.
“I think it’s a very important time to be in attendance at a show like this, instead of pulling back and cutting advertising expenses,” he said. “Even if you can’t be there in full capacity, it’s beneficial for any V-twin company to have their presence be known from dealers.”
Custom market struggling
Betlach says the companies that are struggling the most in the V-twin market are those associated with the custom motorcycle segment, from the OEMs to the smaller aftermarket companies. He estimates the majority of businesses that dropped out of this year’s show were affiliated with the custom market in some fashion.
“The people we’re losing are more of the small start-up companies, not the established ones,” he said. “Generally that happens every year, but this year we’re not getting as many new companies coming into the V-twin industry to replace the ones that are gone, and the momentum of the custom bikes has slowed significantly.”
One trend Betlach is seeing this year is that companies are downsizing their booth spaces, which has had a negative impact on overall show numbers.
“I’m losing a few people, but there are a lot more that are downsizing this year instead of leaving all together,” he said. “It only takes a few to downsize a little for there to be a negative affect on the show’s numbers. But I am optimistic that the continued slide of gas prices with the combination of some other things settling down with the economy that the show will gain some more traction before February arrives.”
Betlach says more Harley-Davidson dealers are attending the show, a trend he hopes to see continue.
“We work hard to get Harley dealers there, but the main problem we have is that they are usually just returning from their national dealer meeting, so that’s a time crunch for them,” he said. “The real aggressive Harley dealers understand that it benefits them to carry aftermarket products in addition to their H-D products.
I think we do see more Harley dealers each year as they see the value in it.”