Add a trip to EICMA to your bucket list

Just when I thought I had seen more business than ever being done in the six mammoth exhibition halls at EICMA, the industry’s annual mega-trade show in Milan, Italy, I trudged up to my gate at the Milan airport. There, the business chatter continued, with a parts distributor alongside an apparel vendor who was holding court next to an OEM executive.

In Milan, they like to talk, and it even overcomes us from the other side of the pond. With more than 6,000 credentialed journalists, the competition was aplenty. Editors from two trade publications in the U.S. were invited, and it was an opportunity I’d take 1,000 times over. Simply put, if you can ever find a reason to attend EICMA, do it. By the first day at the 71st running of the event, I was hooked — and I had not yet stepped into any of the six mammoth exhibit halls.

We started off with some local flavor, attending a 2014 MV Agusta bike launch at a famous fashion house. With revered superstar racer Giacomo Agostini on hand to sign the brand’s special edition F3 800 Ago, I knew I would be in for a whirlwind week. He might as well have been Michael Jordan at a Nike event. Later, it was off to the Leonardo da Vinci Science and Technology Museum in Milan, so Ducati could unveil its new Monster 1200 and 1200 S. The hordes of media members waiting to get into the museum made me continually question: “These guys are all media?!” Finally, a trip to a fashion show facility allowed us to see Honda’s four new models for 2014: the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP, CB650F, CBR650F and CTX1300.

The opening two days of the event are for media members only, but with nearly 7,000 of us, the quarters were often shoulder-to-shoulder during product releases. Every 30 minutes a new product launch was held, with models at home in the fashion capital of the world revealing new bikes and products for the first time.

The OEM booths were particularly impressive, and the Italian brands were especially over the top considering the demise of the two-wheel market in their country. From what I could gather as a rookie attendee, you’re not really in the game unless you have a booth at EICMA that stops folks in their tracks. Asian brands like CFMOTO and KYMCO did that especially well, and the Big 4 were much larger than big in Milan. The more over the top, the better. Basically, whether it was a helmet manufacturer, tire maker or OEM, each exhibitor seemed to try to outdo its neighbor with its booth setup. Sure, that happens at a lot of shows, but only EICMA has local chefs doling out chocolates and other desserts behind their VIP walls, as Ducati did.

One thing that I learned quickly in Milan was the power of the Piaggio Group. I wasn’t on hand to witness the seizure, but the Guardia di Finanza, the military police responsible for financial law enforcement, began the first consumer day of the show by seizing 11 scooters — showcased by seven different Chinese exhibitors — whose design constitutes an imitation of the Vespa, according to a Piaggio press release. Piaggio’s trademark protects the shape of the Vespa, and the long and short of it is when in Italy, don’t pull on Superman’s cape.

I’ve been asked plenty “How as the EICMA show?” And my response is, and always will be, “You have to see it to believe it.” My response was something similar when I heard a familiar voice on an escalator, only to have Steven Tyler right behind me, talking to a friend about searching for a helmet.

We’ll be sharing a variety of stories from EICMA on these pages throughout the year. And check out to view photo galleries from EICMA.

And back at the office …

While I was globetrotting in Milan, Liz and Tom were up to their usual tricks, cranking out stories that will help you run your business better. Read Liz’s Grom-o-mania story on the cover if you haven’t yet. Tom also produced a bang-up piece on the 2014 YFZ450R sport squad. We also have coverage of the MIC Symposium and the UTV lineup at GIE+Expo in Louisville with some data you’ll want to know about.

Rapid-fire retailing always a hit with me

My son Patch — he’s 10 — had worn a hole in his tennis shoes, so we recently spent a not-so-terrible day at the Mall of America searching for a replacement pair. I try to limit my MOA trips to once annually, as do many of my fellow Minnesotans.

Our landing at the MOA (I still prefer to call it the old-school Megamall) came as a result of a lack of selection of shoes at other stores. The go-to chain shoe store didn’t have anything that intrigued a 10-year-old boy, and the chain department store landed in the same boat.

We didn’t have much luck at our first couple of stops in the mall — although a brief respite at Auntie Annie’s pretzels cures any mall-going ills — but then we hit the jackpot. Brand? Got it. Funky new colors that appease a fifth-grader? Splotches of lime green look great. So colors were good. Size? That’s always a tough one. I spent much of my high school years hawking shoes at a sporting goods store (“What size can I get you?”) and know that inventory is everything when it comes to shoe — bike? — sales. Miraculously, the sales associate handed us a pair of shoes with a perfect fit.


But if it’s a Saturday morning at the Megamall, checkout lines can be a lesson in patience. Tightly staffed operations and an influx of customers can make for a logjam, right?

Just as I had begun dreading the walk to the register, the associate asked me if I would be paying with a credit card. When I answered in the affirmative, he told me I wouldn’t need to wait in the checkout line. Instead, we could complete the transaction sitting on the same benches where we had just tried on the shoes.

The associate asked me to swipe my credit card through some sort of pocket-sized gizmo. I signed the screen with my finger, he picked up the receipt from a wireless printer, and we were off, encouraged to have a wonderful day.

Yes, you had selection, you had product, and you had my best interests at heart — you got me in and out of your store in a swift manner. And for that, I can’t wait to see another hole in my son’s shoes, so we can go back to our now-favorite shoe store.

In what ways are you making your dealership a “can’t wait to go back” experience for your customers? Whether you’re selling a $30 pair of gloves or a $20,000 bike, do you provide an experience that makes people want to tell others about your store?

Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at


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