Specialized pulled out. Raleigh downgraded. Muddy Fox cancelled at the eleventh hour. Because of the domino effect, other big brands have also given this year's Future bash a miss. Yet with 30 000+ hardcore bike enthusiasts breaking the door down to get in over the weekend this power-house of a show is suffering badly from lack of industry support. Could a merger with the Cycle & Leisure Show ever work?

Will BIKE 2001 be a trade show too?

Kona has a much smaller stand this year than last. Giant is sponsoring the test track, has lined up some of their bikes and parked their massive team truck at the back of the hall. But they don’t have a stand with shiny bikes on display.

There are precious few of these brand ‘showcase’ stands. Those that are here (Pashley, Middleburn, Raceface, Orange, Hope) are doing well. People want to touch the latest and shiniest kit as well as buy clearance stock at bargain bucket prices.

"We’ve never made a secret of our support for this show," said Michael Bonney of Orange. "It’s the right show for us. It’s great that the other brands are giving it a miss. We’ve got everybody to ourselves now!"

Whereas the enthusiasts are enjoying themselves on the test track, and mixing with all the top riders, there’s precious little new stuff for them to ogle and that could have an effect on next year’s attendance.

"There’s not a lot here," said Chipps Chippendale of 9feet.com who is doing pieces for his commerce-and-community site every day.

"I’m going to be struggling to find new stuff to say by Sunday. I’ll be reporting ‘going out for a curry’ gossip, which is fun, but where’s the shiny new products?"

Bike 2000 at the NEC today, Saturday and Sunday is a show that hasn’t quite gelled this year. There’s less retailing floor space here than last year but the percentage is higher because there are less key suppliers present.

"It’s a no win situation," show organiser Chris Holman told BikeBiz.

"We want the big brands just as much as everybody else but for whatever reason many chose to stay away this year. But we’re not going to discount to fill the hall yet then we get stick for being too expensive."

Trade talk before the show was that there were deals to be had on space. Not true, said Holman.

Some potential exhibitors were holding out for £70 per sq metre deals but these deals never materialised, said Holman, and so brands such as Vans weren’t at the show.

Many of those retailers who have supported the show for years ("This is probably our last year here. It costs too much," said Tim Noy, co-owner of Leisure Lakes) and who booked at rate card last year say they are peeved this year because Merlin, for instance, got a hugely discounted rate despite this being their first year at the show.

"There were some small discounts given for first time exhibitors," admitted Chris Holman. "But they were like 5 percent off rate card and not much more.

"If we offered cut throat deals we1d never get back to rate card next year. The NEC costs us more each year £205 000 by 2002 so we ‘ afford to do silly deals. It’s just not true."

Would more of the big, sexy brands attend, and would Future’s show be rejuvanated, if it merged with David Hyde’s Cycle & Leisure Show?

It’s something Mike ‘Prada shoes’ Burrows, hovering around the Giant test track area, has long wanted to see happen.

"Heads need to be banged together. It’s crazy having two shows," he told BikeBiz.

Darren Mabbott of Silverfish, who was showcasing Raceface at the front of the show, agrees:

"Let’s have a four day show. Two days public, two days trade."

Would Future be up for the idea, bearing in mind this isn’t the first time the idea has been discussed by Holman and Hyde?

"I’d consider it. In principle I don’t see why not," Holman told BikeBiz.

"I’d be happy to sit round the table and discuss it."

But would David Hyde have any truck with the idea? He now has an established, money-making show, would he risk it all to go in with Future?

"I’m always willing to talk to anybody. But I don’t consider Bike 2000 competition to us. And I’m not sure it could be combined in a satisfactory way. There are technical problems. How do you open trade stands to the public? And the massive gangways you need for the public hordes don’t work in a trade show."

"What we tried last year [a public/trade day] was wrong. We could have had thousands of people there but we weren’t allowed to advertise it."

"At the end of the day an industry deserves its own trade show."

However, Hyde isn’t burning any bridges.

"If ever Future wanted to sit down and talk, and if the industry wanted it, we could talk. I hope Bike 2000 is a success. Future is publicising cycling. That promotes the industry."

It’s also a good selling show. Want proof?

Chilli Video (an inhouse video label for SSM, PR consultants for the show) has sold 600 videos so far. These are retailing at £14.99 a throw, with two thirds of the total being sold via IBDs at the show, although Chilli also have their own stand.

Sandy Stevenson of Chilli: "This show is brilliant."



Merlin frame on the way out of the show

Tim Noy (middle)

Darren Mabbott of Silverfish

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