As the winter trade show season kicked into high gear last week in the midst of one of the warmest winters on record, the recent cold snap had many wondering if (and hoping that) the late arrival would be sufficient to clear the floors enough to help energize Fall ‘07 pre-season orders. Many saw the arrival of winter, while late, still coming before the all-important psychological cut-off point of President’s Day and so may yet salvage some of the season. There was less concern about the timeline in Europe as the season generally lasts longer there, but most execs were still not overly excited about making the trek to ISPO next week where a weak sporting goods market promises to be particularly tough on winter sports this year.

With the SIA Show kicking off a week that included ASR and the PGA Merchandise show and finished with the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, the talk in the aisles was dominated by the topic of the weather and its impact on the business. SIA and OR, where winter sports were hard hit, was a bit of a different atmosphere than PGA, where the new square driver technology and warm weather is seen as strong indicators of a potential healthy spring, and ASR, which is basking in the glow of a very hot skate (or vulcanized, really) footwear business.

With many a weary trade show traveler in evidence, talk in the aisles again sparked conversation and debate about the number of overlapping shows and the length to which each of the vendors and retailers must go to get to each. With so much consolidation in the industry, it is no longer valid to shrug off the reality of so many shows spread across the country in the same week since many senior managers now cross over into so many segments of the sporting goods industry. There were only two shows (SHOT and Surf Expo) this season that were in close proximity to each other, but they couldn't have been further apart in terms of the markets served.

There is strong evidence that the market is pushing back against all these competing shows and we may see even more energy in that direction moving forward. WSA may see its most challenging show yet this week as athletic brands and retailers increasingly skip the bi-annual event, but the other shows held out west must also keep an eye on the growing number of retailers from the east that are finding regional venues to serve their needs.