Progress and Conservatism
Eighty years ago, a fledgling industry organization held its very first trade show. Every tire dealer in the country was invited to Cleveland, Ohio, to partake in what was being hailed as the first exhibit of its kind.
After forming in February 1921, the National Tire Dealers Association (NTDA) held a three-day meeting in October of that same year, themed "Progress and Conservatism."
The shows continued on, even though the name of the organization – NTDA to the National Association of Independent Tire Dealers to the National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association to the current Tire Association of North America – changed.
The shows continued on, even though the organization’s headquarters – from Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C. – changed location.
The shows continued on.
Yes, it’s safe to say that TANA’s trade show is vastly different than the first one held in Cleveland’s Engineers Building so many years ago. After bouncing show locations all across the country, enjoying successes and suffering failures, TANA’s annual convention and trade show continues on. And since a partnership with the SEMA Show in Las Vegas five years ago, TANA has seen its trade show – and effectiveness – blossom even more.
Fast forward to 2001 and TANA is ready to celebrate its 80th anniversary with a bang at the International Tire Expo (ITE) in October in Las Vegas. And this one might be the greatest one the organization has ever seen.
"This year’s show could be our best-attended ever," said Ross Kogel, Jr., TANA’s executive vice president. "The combined ITE/SEMA Show has jumped 13 spots on the worldwide list of trade shows in just the past four years, and now is the 20th-largest association trade show in the world.
"We have a polished team of people to handle to show in Vegas. Even more important, the board of directors has been helpful. We have 600 years of industry experience on our board of directors. That’s been this organization’s saving grace."
The ITE will be held Oct. 30 – Nov. 2 in Las Vegas. Again, the Las Vegas Convention Center will be the locale, with the Aladdin Resort and Casino serving as TANA’s headquarters hotel for the second straight year.
"From TANA’s perspective, far and away the biggest change – and our best decision – was to hold the ITE side-by-side with the SEMA Show," Kogel said. "The resulting growth and the satisfaction of exhibitors and attendees alike have been some the Association’s biggest achievements in the past decade."
Attendance is Key
So much goes into the success of a trade show. Location, time of year, weather, production staff, and don’t forget about value. There are so many variables to work out, but the one indicator that the ITE is thriving: attendance. Since the ITE merged with SEMA, the number of attendees is up 340%.
"The cause of our trade show growth has been attendee-driven," Kogel said. "Almost every year we’ve had an increase in attendance and the overall trend is for tremendous growth. Attendees bring exhibitors. More people are coming to the show. If you take a poll of the industry and ask why the show is growing, they’ll say it’s the increased attendance.
"The key to the show is this: it’s a city for the tire industry. You can visit all the decision-makers and meet influential industry people. This show saves tire dealers time and provides a one-stop shop for them to get information."
Getting people to come was the hard part. The last few years that TANA’s (then know as the NTDRA) show was independent, attendance declined. Sharply. Now the show is back, with sold out exhibit space. In fact, while the exhibitor floor space remains the same, the show sold out this year faster than any other year. That’s a tribute to the attendance.
Attendees and exhibitors are intertwined. You can’t have one without the other because neither will come to a show without the other. And while you can make the argument that you need good attendance to get the exhibitors, quality exhibitors are mandatory for getting attendance.
"Our show is successful because of experienced tire dealers. Regardless of business size, we continue to see our attendance grow based on the most experienced professionals in the tire industry making the trip to Las Vegas," Kogel said.
"From the smallest tire dealer to the highest-ranking executive in the manufacturing sector, attendees have one trait in common. They have been in the tire business for decades and are the most senior members of their respective companies – 89% have over five years experience in the tire industry, and 93% of attendees have over three years of experience."
The ITE has also been able to draw on a wide-range of attendees and exhibitors to remain successful. According to TANA, 42% of registered tire industry buyers work for a single-location company, while 75% work for a company that has five or less locations. And 63% of buyers are from a company with less than $5 million in annual sales.
The ITE also gets a good mix of attendees, with 35% coming from east of the Mississippi, 36% from west of the Mississippi and the remaining 29% from abroad.
Along with the trade show itself, TANA will have a host of special events throughout the week.
Tuesday of that week is the Hall of Fame Breakfast, in which the new class of inductees to the Tire Industry Hall of Fame will be introduced. NASCAR race driver Dale Jarret will be the keynote speaker to an expected audience of 700-800 dealers.
Wednesday morning’s Breakfast with the President will see Steve Disney take over the TANA presidency from Nick Hodel. Thursday morning’s Tire Dealer Appreciation breakfast concludes the special events.
"Tires at Two" seminars will be held Tuesday-Thursday at 2 p.m. in the convention center. Dealers can choose from 11 seminars that provide management, sales, technical, financial and human resources training.
But it all gets kicked off on Monday Oct. 29 with TANA’s 80th anniversary party at the Harley Davidson Caf⊕. "We plan to celebrate in style," Kogel said. "I think it’s a tremendous accomplishment and a tribute to the organization. Eighty years is a long time. I think we’re very proud of our success and long standing in this industry.
"We want to celebrate all the past presidents and the boards of directors. We want to tie the present to the past. We want to make sure that the family lines can be clearly seen, and we want the attendees to see and understand the history of the organization."
Added out-going President Nick Hodel: "TANA has been the tire industry’s voice for 80 years. In just the past five years, we’ve turned the assocation’s trade show around, established a new government affairs office and rebounded to become financially stable. Clearly there is a lot to celebrate."
On Into the Future
Anniversary or not, Kogel’s theme rings loud and clear: not only will TANA’s trade show continue on, the show will continue to grow.
"We wanted to attract more exhibitors, and we did. We wanted to attract more attendees and we did. We wanted to upgrade our special events and we did," he said.
"This organization has been very important to this industry over the years. But I don’t think there has ever been a time when the tire industry needed an advocate more than it does today.
"One of the key reasons this industry has survived is the people in this business, changing with the times, fostering information and talking with others. Every industry is always changing and those businesses that stay up to date are the ones that survive. This is an industry of people."
Monday, October 29
Tuesday, October 30
Wednesday, October 31
Thursday, November 1
Friday, November 2