COREbike was cancelled this January due to COVID-19 – making 2021 the first year the show has not taken place since it launched. Rebecca Morley looks at how this has affected the industry
COREbike has been a vital part of the cycling industry calendar since it launched back in 2005, each year enabling brands and distributors to connect with dealers and showcase the latest additions to their product ranges. But with the pandemic causing events to be postponed and many eventually cancelled in 2020, organisers made the decision last October to cancel the 2021 gathering at Whittlebury Hall – making this the first year CORE has not taken place since it launched.
“Of course, it was absolutely the right decision to cancel the 2021 event but everyone at Silverfish is missing attending COREbike and feeling its absence,” says Richard Schofield, marketing manager at Silverfish. “Every year, CORE provides an opportunity to reconnect with our customers and the brands we partner with.
“With snow on the ground and with the whole year ahead of us, January is a great time to spend time in a nice warm hotel, to present new and exciting product ranges, and to help retailers plan for the year ahead. However, if we’ve learnt one thing throughout this pandemic, it is that we have to adapt. For the sales and marketing teams at Silverfish, that has meant changing the way we reach and talk to customers. Since the early days of the first lockdown, we’ve put much greater emphasis on our digital marketing and communication channels; the Silverfish website, email databases and social media.”
Specifically, to fill the gap left by COREbike, Silverfish has worked with its brands to produce video content, Schofield continues. The first of these 2021 highlight videos are now available on the Silverfish YouTube channel and the distributor will look to add more videos as the season progresses.
“The outlook for events doesn’t look great, certainly not in the short term. With demo events curtailed, we’ve shifted focus onto shipping bikes from our comprehensive demo fleet directly to stockists for them to provide customer test rides. Product launches will inevitably be more digital than face-to-face but we are looking forward to the challenge of making that experience as compelling and useful as humanly possible.”
James Moloney, senior marketing manager at Extra UK, says: “We’d all hoped that COREbike 2021 would signal the beginning of post-COVID normality, unfortunately as we drew closer it was looking less and less likely. This didn’t only leave a proverbial hole in our dealer communications, but also added another strike to what had been an already challenging period for everyone. COREbike is the key event for us to showcase all of our latest products to the trade each year, but also provides an opportunity to reconnect with customers, colleagues and the media.
“Like many other distributors, we explored a number of different ways to digitally replicate the COREbike experience. After much consideration, we’ve created a suite of videos that we hope will allow us to showcase some of our key lines for 2021 in a concise but engaging way. We’ll be releasing these videos over the coming weeks to support product launches and promotional activities.
“Throughout this year, it’d be great to see trade shows and events return to some sort of normality as they’ve always been a great way to engage both with our trade audience and end consumer. That being said, as a business, we would only want to do this if and when it’s safe to do so, for the safety of our staff and the wider public.”
Each year the show has served as a chance for companies, dealers and the media to come together – but social distancing measures would have compromised the social aspect of the 2021 event as well. Face-to-face communication has been greatly missed by many, not just in the absence of shows, but all year round.
“We have missed COREbike for sure,” says Lloyd Townsend, managing director of Ison Distribution. “The great hospitality from the venue along with the coming together of friends and colleagues from around the globe has been a noticeable void this year.
“It’s most probably the direct connection between enthusiastic dealers (and press) with brand staff that is most difficult to replace. Customers being presented with key lines and finding out about upcoming brand developments is something that is hard to do without an event like COREbike, especially so with dealer visits being so very limited.
“We have started to prepare a series of brand video presentations to help deliver some of the benefits that dealers and media might usually find when attending an event like COREbike. We hope to join with other COREbike exhibitors to offer dealers and press a really useful single COREbike online resource where they can easily locate and access information videos from a multitude of leading brands.”
But despite the lack of events over the past 12 months, many businesses across the bike industry have seen a boom in sales. Figures from June 2020 revealed that 1.3 million UK consumers had bought a bike since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, helped by cycle shops being able to remain open throughout each lockdown.
“Given the nature of frontline retail both currently and over the last year, I am not sure the lack of events has really affected the industry,” says Andy Budd, field sales director at ZyroFisher. “The majority of our frontline retailers have been so busy they would not have been able to take time out to visit shows or events. How the industry takes new products to retailers has really changed and evolved over the last ten months with many product launches and presentations being done virtually – in much the same way as our brands have been showcasing new product to us.
“Where we are missing out is getting our brand owner in front of retailers, which is always such an important part of COREbike and the same could be said of consumer-orientated shows and events. The feedback brands gain directly from retailers and consumers alike is invaluable and very often shapes the future of the brand and product development.
“Personally, I have missed the face-to-face interaction with retailers and the feedback and relationships we gain from this. I would also like to say that it has not gone unnoticed just how challenging it has been for our frontline retailers (business owners and shop staff alike) over the last year. I have nothing but admiration and respect for what they have done and are doing to keep the UK’s cycling population on the road and our industry. It’s a huge fist bump from the team at ZyroFisher.”