By Eric Smith
Snowsports Industries America (SIA) is getting back into hosting large-scale, live shows—albeit with a different target market than its former signature event.
About two and a half years after SIA sold its annual B2B event Snow Show to Outdoor Retailer, the Park City, UT-based industry trade association announced Friday it had agreed to acquire the consumer-focused Boston and Denver Ski and Snowboard Expos from BEWI Productions Inc.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the move is significant for SIA, which not only gets back into the live event business but can bring its mission of promoting snow sports to a wider audience.
“Part of the natural evolution of the changing landscape of the industry is finding a way to create direct connections between our members and consumers,” Maria McNulty, COO of SIA, said Friday morning. “Consumer expos were a natural fit, especially given that we have in-house expertise on how to run shows. Taking that expertise and being able to apply it to the B2C space made a lot of sense.”
McNulty spoke with SGB from an awards luncheon at the Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo, where she said SIA President Nick Sargent was about to discuss the news for the first time. As the press release stated, and as Sargent was telling the crowd, the acquisition allows SIA to both broaden and deepen its connection with consumers.
“We asked ourselves how SIA can best connect our industry directly with today’s consumer and consumer expos make a ton of sense in this regard,” Sargent said. “Consumer expos create experiential and direct interactions with winter sports enthusiasts and potential enthusiasts. These expos are intended to benefit suppliers, specialty retailers, and all industry stakeholders equally. We look forward to building upon the legacy and tradition that the BEWI shows have come to represent while unveiling a new modern, consumer-oriented approach to this celebration of winter.”
Founded in 1979, BEWI is led by its founder and president, Bernard “Bernie” Weichsel. Each year, the company produces the Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo and the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Expo, which bill themselves as the “unofficial kickoff to winter.”
The expos connect snow sports enthusiasts not only with the latest and greatest winter/outdoor products but also with ski resorts, specialty retail shops and really any company that caters to their winter sports needs.
“I could not be happier that SIA will continue to bring consumer shows to the people of Boston and Denver,” Weichsel said in a release. “BEWI has been a long-standing partner to the winter industry and has provided the local consumer with important access to retailers, resorts and brands and created an overall excitement for winter.”
This acquisition is another example of SIA’s ongoing evolution. The organization in September announced it would open membership to new segments of the industry: retailers, sales reps and resorts. Adding consumer shows to the mix was a natural extension of that approach, and acquiring existing shows rather than creating them organically turned out to be the best route, McNulty added.
“In looking at what our options were, it also made sense to look at successful existing shows,” she said. “Bernie had expressed that he was looking to make a change at some point and that he was looking for someone to carry on his legacy and all the hard work that he’s done over the last 40 years with the BEWI. We really see it as an honor and an opportunity to take that and modernize it and work to update it to something that’s going to really deliver value to both the consumer and the resorts, reps, retailers and suppliers.”
The move also brings SIA back to its roots, in a way. The 65-year-old organization sold its long-running Snow Show to Outdoor Retailer, a division of publicly traded Emerald Expositions Events Inc., in 2017.
OR hosted the slightly renamed and retooled “OR + Snow Show” in January 2018 (which that year was combined with OR Winter Market) and again in January 2019 (which was a standalone snow sports show).
OR hosted Winter Market in November 2018, but the company scrapped its plans to hold Winter Market this year and instead combined that show with the January event, hence the newly coined “Outdoor + Snow Show.” That show, OR’s third, will be held January 29-31, 2020, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, followed by the SIA/WWSRA On-Snow Demo at Winter Park Resort on February 3-4, 2020.
While McNulty said that when SIA sold the show in May 2017, she couldn’t have imagined the organization getting back into live events—one reason being that SIA was prohibited from running B2B shows after selling to OR—it was actually the sale of Snow Show that allowed SIA to “expand its bandwidth” in the last two years.
Another example of that expanded bandwidth, in addition to this latest move, was the recent addition of annual trade missions to China, as McNulty and Sargent outlined exclusively for SGB last year in Snow Sports Industry Eyes China As Last Untapped Market.
“When we sold the show, we were able to refocus on SIA being a trade association and offering valuable services to our members through education and research, by focusing on participation, climate, advocacy, tariffs—all of those critical things that we need to do to help support our members’ business,” she said. “But we also saw that we needed to do more and that more we thought needed to be in the consumer space. It’s a cool opportunity and it’s a perfect fit.”
The organization will bring on the BEWI’s small staff and could see the need for additional talent down the road, McNulty added.
The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year and is subject to certain closing conditions. SIA will host its first Denver and Boston shows in the fall of 2020 and said it could eventually create a “nationwide network of consumer-focused events for the industry.”
“The plan is to make the shows even more relevant to all the different stakeholders, whether you’re a retailer, a resort, a rep or a brand,” McNulty said. “We want to reinvigorate them and modify them so that they’re really relevant to all those different stakeholder groups, and so that everyone sees the value of the direct interaction with the consumer.”