DEL MAR, Calif. (BRAIN) — With gray skies and rain in the forecast, CABDA show director Jim Kersten may not have gotten the balmy Southern California welcome he hoped for as he set up for the inaugural CABDA West expo here in San Diego County this week. But he certainly took comfort in dealer pre-registration numbers ahead of Wednesday’s show opening — 1,150 attendees from 410 shops.
“When we first started putting this together I was going to be happy with 275 shops, so I’m very impressed with the turnout we’re getting. I knew we weren’t going to replicate Chicago numbers immediately our first at-bat out here, but it’s definitely better than I thought it was going to be,” Kersten said.
Many of those dealers are concentrated in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, but Kersten said retailers as far away as Denver, Salt Lake City and the Phoenix metro metro have also signed up. He expects drive-in traffic as far north as San Francisco, more than 500 miles from the event venue.
CABDA West is Kersten’s first event outside of the Chicago area since resurrecting the regional trade show in 2015. Staged at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Racetrack, the sold-out show will feature 185 booths representing 300 to 350 different industry brands, a full seminar and tech clinic schedule, and bicycle demos. Festivities start Tuesday night with an exhibitor party at host hotel the HIlton San Diego/Del Mar, adjacent to the racetrack.
Efficient Velo Tools owner and service expert Brett Flemming will present a keynote address in the hotel’s Del Mar Ballroom at 9 a.m. Thursday, the closing day of the show. Doors open at 8:30, and the first 200 attendees will be served free breakfast.
“I told Brett to talk about whatever topic he wants, but I want to light a fire under people’s asses about the service end of the business. We can’t do anything about tariffs, we can’t do anything really about margins, but we can do stuff about service dollars and bringing in money that way,” Kersten said.
The weeks leading up to the show were a juggling act for show director Kersten, as Emerald Expositions’ announcement in early December that it was canceling the 2019 Interbike show ramped up supplier interest in exhibiting at CABDA West.
“We did what we could. We were kind of landlocked because they (the racetrack) have another event going on for part of our days. So we were able to take over an extra building and shift our seminar space over there, which opened up some floor space. We were just about sold out before that announcement too. So what it really did was add about 30 companies to our wait list,” Kersten said.
He also had to come up with contingency plans should rain put a literal damper on the show’s outdoor demo area. The National Weather Service is forecasting at least a 40 percent chance of rain through Thursday in the Del Mar area.
“We have some space that we’re calling ‘The Ark’ internally,” Kersten laughed. “We’ll be able to pull everybody inside and miniaturize it. We’ll be able to move just about everybody inside with some demo capability there.”
For dealer education at CABDA West, Kersten has encouraged shorter, less in-depth sessions running about 45 minutes. “I wanted them to be more quick-hit rather than sitting in a room for three hours. I want people to be able to go to four or five quick-hit seminars and walk away with more knowledge,” he said.
“We’re also working with the PBMA on their workshops, so that’s where you’re going to go for a deep dive.”
Kersten has previously stated that he’s considering other locations for additional CABDA events, but told BRAIN this week that any announcement is unlikely to happen before he can analyze data from the inaugural West Coast show. However, he did not rule out making an announcement at the CABDA Midwest show set for Feb. 13 and 14 in Chicago.
The most important piece of data “is seeing where people come from and where they don’t come from. I have very good data on bicycle stores. We spend a lot of time keeping the list updated with openings and closings, so i know where the bike stores are. If we plot all points on a map and say we’re missing this big chunk of people, we’re going to work really hard to put a show within a couple hundred miles of them. Once we figure that out, we still have to find a venue with the size and time we need. It’s a combination of stuff that’s harder to do than I originally thought,” he said.
Seventy-five to 80 percent of CABDA West exhibitors are also signed up for CABDA Midwest, Kersten noted. “I think if we have decent turnout here, I expect to see them at both shows or maybe all three or four shows next year,” he said.
Editor’s note: Managing editor Toby Hill will be covering CABDA West for BRAIN.