BLOOMINGTON, MN (BRAIN)—With the lessons learned from a challenging 2009 still fresh on the mind, the mood among retailers and vendors gathered at Frostbike over the weekend was nonetheless one of optimism heading into the 2010 selling season.
“Everybody here is looking forward to a better year. I don’t think ’09 was absolutely as awful as everyone expected. There’s definitely a degree of caution, but not as much as last year,” said Ben Anderson, national sales manager for Kenda, as he showed the brand’s premium tires to passing dealers.
Quality Bicycle Products’ annual winter gathering drew about 1,000 industry folks to the distributor’s headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota, where temperatures stayed in the double digits and skies were clear for the three-day event, which included business and technical seminars, building tours and networking dinners.
Most retailers roaming the expo area set up in QBP’s warehouse said they scaled back on payroll, ran leaner inventory or shaved other administrative expenses in response to slow sales in 2009, but have already started seeing a turnaround this year.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a retailer who didn’t make changes in their business last year. We’re going into this year with a payroll that’s 20 percent lower than a year ago,” said Steve Doolittle, co-owner of Cool Breeze Cyclery in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Trek Bicycle Store Charlotte.
Still, for 2010 Doolittle has budgeted an aggressive 20 percent increase in sales, which would put revenue on par with 2008 and below 2007 numbers.
Although unseasonably snowy weather has already forced him to close on two Saturdays this year, January sales were up 40 percent at the Trek shop and even at Cool Breeze. That’s on top of double digit increases at both stores last December.
“We’re just now seeing year-over-year monthly comparisons that are looking pretty good,” he said.
Many vendors also reported positive indicators—preseason orders for Ridley’s 2011 cyclocross line were already up over 2010 less than a week after the program began and DT Swiss tallied record orders through QBP in both December and January.
“Right after Interbike, in November and December, the tide started to turn for us with orders. The gloves came off and people starting coming around some,” said Paul Guebara, sales and marketing manager for DT Swiss.
QBP made a few changes to the program this year, mainly bulking up Sunday’s schedule in order to maintain attendance on the final day, said Jo Wright, QBP’s director of marketing. Sunday activities included an industry roundtable on tips for sustaining business in today’s retail climate with Steve Flagg, founder and president of QBP, Stan Day, CEO of SRAM, Seton Claggett, owner and president of Trisports.com and Mary Jane Mark, owner of Mack Cycle.
QBP also added a vendor of the year award for 2010, which went to SRAM, in addition to its annual Clay Mankin Award, which was presented to Mike and Claudia Nix, owners of Liberty Bicycles in Asheville, North Carolina.
Frostbike organizers also got onboard with the social media trends this year, hosting a first-ever Tweetup for Twitter fans attending the event.
For more details on Frostbike including QBP’s outlook for 2010 from Steve Flagg, read the March 15 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.
Photo: Salsa marketing director Mike Riemer shows a prototype product that's a cross between a bottle cage and a rack as part of new line that reflects Salsa's recent rebranding.