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A Happy Happy debut for industry’s show future

AIMExpo management already targeting better attendance in Year 2

There were moments that defined the inaugural American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando in October: the full Chapin Theater to kick off the event, the wave of people walking into the expo hall on day one, the impressive attendance at the Powersports Business Institute @ AIMExpo, seemingly unending Happy Happy Hours, consumers waiting for the doors to open Friday afternoon, riders standing in line for demos at AIMExpo Outdoors! and the final curtain call, which led to an applause from the exhibitors closing out the show.

Those moments told officials from show host Marketplace Events that its first-ever powersports show was a success, even if total attendance was short of what the group had planned.

“The best thing I tell people is that the fact that when Greg White made the show closing announcement at 5:00 on Sunday and signed off, immediately after that the whole show floor erupted in applause. That was a pretty telling circumstance for us,” said Larry Little, vice president and general manager of Marketplace Events’ Motorcycle Group. “I mean, it was really very heartwarming for us. It said a lot of things. It said that they believe in the product that we put on the floor, and I think that everybody believes that we’ve established the future for the business.”

The reviews that came in the weeks that followed echoed the positive comments the Marketplace Events crew heard on site. On LinkedIn, dealers and exhibitors alike shared positive messages about their experiences and their plans for next year’s show, and the same was heard by the AIMExpo crew at EICMA in Milan and throughout industry events.

Word on the street

“We were at the MIC Symposium the week after the show. It was quite interesting that the people there were pretty vocal about how good AIMExpo was to the people that weren’t there, because we had people come up and say, ‘Hey, congratulations, I hear you had a great show,’” Little shared. “So their industry peers were telling them ‘You need to get your butt down there next year because it really is the future for the business.’”

The only grumble Little and Mike Webster, president of Marketplace Events’ Trade Show Division, heard during and after the show was about attendance. The show saw 13,219 total visitors — 7,781 consumers, 2,417 dealers or industry professionals, 2,789 exhibitor attendees and 223 credentialed media professionals. Exhibiting companies totaled 392, and 49 countries were represented by attendees.

“We clearly didn’t hit our targets. We had much greater aspirations,” Little said. “It’s a launch year, and quite honestly, we did all the things that we thought would get the dealers there and the consumer turnout. Believe me, we know we didn’t hit our targets.”

Despite what AIMExpo sees as a low turnout for Year 1, the group is already looking to increase both trade and consumer attendance numbers for 2014.

“We’re going to be surveying exhibitors, dealers and consumers to get some feedback from them, but I think we’re going to expand our partnerships with exhibitors,” Little said. “So many of the exhibitors said, ‘How can we help get more dealers to turn out?’ So we’re going to ask some questions and try and put something together that makes it easy for them to do that for us.”

That dedication to the future of the event shown by many of the exhibitors is what the AIMExpo group is looking to establish. After years of building the show with exhibitors and the rest of the industry in mind, Little and Webster believe AIMExpo delivered on the promises the show made and allowed exhibitors to become a big part of the event.

“The exhibitors want to know how they can lend a hand and how they can help get dealers there, so they feel like they have ownership the show, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen, but it’s not always a given,” Little said.

Suzuki’s presence both in the expo hall and at the outdoor demo ride facility proved beneficial.
Suzuki’s presence both in the expo hall and at the outdoor demo ride facility proved beneficial.

Though many exhibitors said they would like to see more dealers at the show next October, reports came in that those dealership representatives who were in attendance were principals and general managers who were seriously looking to do business.

Many dealers who attended also reported that they were so pleased with the event that they plan on bringing more staff members next year. AIMExpo is hoping to leverage those dealers’ experiences to grow its audience.

“We just have to come up with different methods by which to retrain the dealers on the value of a show like this, because what they’ve had in the past had not delivered for them. So we have to make sure that they understand how AIMExpo is different and why it is a value for them, and what they gain on-site that they can bring back and put in play in their dealerships immediately, which includes the education program, which was very, very successful,” Webster said.

A demo ride record

As far as the consumer portion went, the AIMExpo Outdoors! site was a hit, with constant lines and some demos fully booked.

“Suzuki basically told us that they established a new record high for how many butts they put in seats in one day, and they were very happy about that, between both the ATV rides and the street bike rides combined,” Little said.

Little and Webster said that throughout the event and since, reports have assured them that the industry overall considers the first AIMExpo a positive step in the right direction for the future of the industry.

“Generally speaking, the mood and the tone and the comments were consistently positive throughout,” Webster said.

With 2013 wrapped up, AIMExpo is already preparing for Year 2 of the show. Despite a soft no-pressure renewal program, more than 100 exhibitors re-signed in Orlando for 2014, and more have come in with commitments since then. The agreement with the Italian Trade Commission has also been renewed, and Italian companies, likewise, are ready to fill the Italian Pavilion again.

The second annual AIMExpo is set for Oct. 15-19, 2014, again at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.


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