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Dec. 24, 2007 – Surviving a challenging climate

January 2, 2008
Filed under Features

In what is believed to be the second straight year of declining V-twin sales, it’s not hard to imagine the market segment’s biggest showcase event wouldn’t feel some of the impact.
But so far, the V-Twin Expo appears to be largely similar in size and scope as in previous years, according to Jim Betlach, the show’s executive producer.
In an interview with Powersports Business, Betlach said there are some manufacturers that have appeared at past shows that are not returning this year, but overall the number of companies scheduled to appear is only slightly under last year. Plus, the event is drawing a number of new companies, including Orange County Choppers.
In 2007, more than 500 companies showed off their V-twin motorcycles and aftermarket accessories and apparel at the Cincinnati Duke Energy Convention Center. This year, Betlach expects the company count to approach 500 for the annual event, which will be held Feb. 2-4 at the same site.
“I feel great,” Betlach said of the scheduled turnout for the 2008 show.
It’s no wonder since many signs point to a sizeable drop in new unit sales for the V-twin market in 2007. Big Dog Motorcycles, believed to be the segment’s largest manufacturer in terms of annual production, said its sales were off 20 percent compared to the previous year heading into the fall. A Powersports Business dealer survey taken in July showed overall V-twin segment sales were off even more, with 65 percent of dealers saying their new unit sales were off by an average of 27 percent compared to 2006.
But the V-twin industry’s downturn isn’t expected to be reflected at the annual expo, which featured more than 1,000 booths last year and is expected to be near that again this year.
“You would not notice any difference in the show,” Betlach said, comparing this year’s event to last year’s. “The only thing you’re going to notice is positive changes.”
Those changes include some realigning of booths on the first floor and a slightly reduced seminar schedule.
“It got to a point where I had several vendors tell me you’re taking a lot of people off the showroom to attend these seminars,” Betlach said.
Besides cutting back on seminars, Betlach also moved around some booths on the first floor to accommodate more seating area around vending areas, another area of complaint from past years.
Expo-goers who spend several hours walking the showroom in years past found any such seating hard to find. “The guys are like, ‘Let’s get off our feet for awhile and go across the street to the hotel to have lunch,’” Betlach said. “Well that could turn into, ‘We’re here, let’s go have a drink’ and pretty soon they don’t come back. We want to keep them at the show.”
Like last year, the show will be held on the two floors of the convention center, with the second floor containing booths, a restaurant with seating area, the registration area and a display of new product. Plus, as in years past, the annual V-Twin Industry Awards Reception will be held Saturday, Feb. 2.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Betlach said of the Expo, which will remain largely unchanged despite the challenges within the V-twin segment. “The show has been so good that we work pretty hard at keeping it all business.”
— Neil Pascale

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