Officials cited the escalating U.S.-China trade dispute as a major factor in canceling the show, laying off organizers and cutting contributions to nonprofit partners. But those inside the bicycle industry point to a longstanding decline in Interbike’s relevance.
Emerald Expositions, the owner of Interbike and Outdoor Retailer, announced yesterday it will cancel the 2019 Interbike trade show in Reno, Nev. The move shocked many within the cycling industry but surprised few.
Darrell Denny, executive vice president of Emerald Expositions’ Sports Group, cited industry struggles in wake of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, which plays host to most of the industry’s manufacturing.
“The past four years have been difficult for the U.S. bicycle market,” Denny said. “The substantial increase in tariffs on bike-related imports during 2018, and announced for 2019, is compounding these challenges. As a result, we are rethinking how to best serve the cycling industry and will conduct a review of the possible timing, locations, and formats with dealers, brands, distributors, reps, designers, and media over the coming months.”
Emerald said in a statement it will “research alternative plans for 2020 and beyond” but did not offer specifics.
“Interbike used to be the place for leading brands to launch new, innovative products to the world,” said Kurt Barclay, GearJunkie digital marketing manager. Barclay regularly attended Interbike as a brand marketing manager with QBP, a massive bicycle and component manufacturer and distributor. “The last five years have shown a serious drop in participation from brands and a loss of interest from the bike community in general.”
With yesterday’s announcement, Emerald also revealed several high-level departures within the show’s executive team. Show director Justin Gottlieb, sales director Andria Klinger, art director Andy Buckner, and marketing manager Jack Morrissey will all leave Emerald at the end of this year.
What’s more, Emerald also notified nonprofit Interbike partners PeopleForBikes, Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, and National Bicycle Dealers Association it will not be making sponsorship payments in 2019, according to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN).
News of Interbike’s cancellation comes amidst a jumble of surprise announcements from Emerald Expositions. This summer, Emerald moved Interbike from its longtime Las Vegas home to a smaller Reno venue. Many saw the move as a financial and logistical necessity.
Then, in an unexpected move last month, Emerald CEO and president David Loechner resigned. And just this week, Emerald announced it was cutting the triannual, four-day Outdoor Retailer trade show down to three days in 2019.
Despite all these moves, last month Emerald reported increased third-quarter revenue and net earnings for 2018.
But like the retail bike industry as a whole, Interbike has watched a steady waning from its heyday nearly 30 years ago. Razor-thin margins for longstanding brick-and-mortar independent shops have buckled under pressures from online marketplaces. And the deals and product reveals for which Interbike was once a hotspot have also increasingly moved to real-time, on-demand digital workflows between manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.
“I started going to Interbike in the 1980s,” said Christophe Noel, a longtime industry professional and freelance reporter. “At one point it was the most rad show on Earth and so inappropriate. It was awesome because it was just so bad. The death knell was when the big companies stopped going, then the little guys, then the companies no one had ever heard of.”
Emerald hopes to work out a possible future for Interbike. Meanwhile, industry professionals will look to healthier niche events like the Sea Otter Classic and North American Handmade Bicycle Show.