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Plenty of energy and optimism at iHobby Expo

By Hal Miller
Published: October 27, 2010

Though it didn’t break last year’s record in terms of attendance, the numbers for the 2010 iHobby Expo were close to the 2009 figures.

Dealer and buyer personnel at the Rosemont, Ill., show Oct. 21-24 totaled more than 1,700, similar to 2009. Total trade attendance — dealers, buyers and exhibitors — was down slightly as there were slightly fewer booths, but the public again came in droves, with a 2-day attendance of better than 19,800 vs. last year’s largest-ever crowd of 20,606.

Perhaps the biggest difference from last year’s show is the sense of optimism shown by some dealers and manufacturers, and the energy on the public days. Many dealers commented business was OK, with some up and others flat, which they considered good given the state of the economy. Several of them commented they expected the holiday shopping season to start late, possibly after Thanksgiving, but think customers will spend more money than they did in 2009.

Additionally, the dealers that attended were serious about buying. Several booths offering Ticket to Ride vouchers for dealer purchases reported needing additional vouchers beyond what they were originally issued. Mike Bass of Stevens International — also the Hobby Manufacturers Association president — said his company had its best show ever in terms of sales. He added other manufacturers and distributors he had talked to reported they had a good show, too, despite a Friday that was slower traffic-wise than Thursday.

Seminar attendance by dealers was very good. The Hobby University track, including retail experts Kizer & Bender and Bob Negen, and asset protection expert Dale West, drew between 40-60 people per session. The manufacturer-sponsored seminars also fared well, with extra chairs having to be brought in for Horizon Hobby’s “How to Use TV in Your Market” session.

The public attendance of almost 20,000 came despite less television advertising. Competitive Intelligence Advertising’s Dave Swanson, the show’s promoter, said TV spots were going for as much as 10 times what they were last year due to the volume of political advertising.

Companies that had interactive activities and products the public could try or see in action stayed busy on the public days. Traxxas, Horizon, Games Workshop, most slot-car manufacturers and others had lines of people waiting to see and use their products against the backdrop of screaming fans at the R/C demo track and robot battles. All make-and-take activities were also well attended.