By Lennard Zinn
The 66th Milan Bicycle Show is the first major show since the financial meltdown. The mood was not upbeat the first day of the show, but it was election news from the U.S. that raised spirits on day two.
That the show is very small was determined long ago when the booths were reserved, but the outlook on the market probably was largely created in October. Reflecting a common theme heard around the show, Lorenzo Piotto, marketing manager for Elite, said, “We are in a difficult period now.”
Some Elite distributors have delayed receipt of orders they placed at Eurobike and at Interbike. Piotto is pleased that Elite has maintained the same sales level as last year, thanks to an order of aluminum bottles with the Coca-Cola logo on them.
“Without that order, we would be down 10 percent,” he says.
The price of gas, which was running $11/gallon in Italy in September, even with a favorable Euro vs. dollar exchange rate, has produced a heightened interest in bicycle commuting.
At the show’s opening ceremony, the mayor of Milan described the recent focus of the city on building bike paths. This is not a simple task in a city founded nearly a thousand years ago, with a chaotic street plan based on the positions of the defensive walls surrounding the city at ever-increasing radius from the center over the centuries.
There was actually one other show I’ve attended since the financial crisis took hold, and that was this past weekend in Boulder – the Rocky Mountain Handbuilt Bicycle Show, held on the campus of the University of Colorado while a pair of USGP cyclocross races were being contested across town.
Attendance was sparse by both exhibitors and show visitors, but that’s probably due to it being a first-time show as much as anything else. Small framebuilders displaying there were generally unsure about how their business was being affected by the larger economy.
Given that one or two frame orders or not can make or break a month for many small builders, the sales volume is so small that any conclusion drawn from statistics from an individual builder would be misleading. In any case, the companies renting the 37 booths at the show generally were pleased for the opportunity to show their wares to the public in Boulder.