LaCANADA, Calif.-Sounding a little like Victor Kiam in those Remington shaver commercials, National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association President Paul A. Bobzin has made a promise to tire dealers and their suppliers: a completely revamped, exciting, value-packed NTDRA convention and trade show this fall in Atlanta-or their money back. The association's executive committee has given the nod to changes aimed at offering ``measurable improvement to dealers' profit.'' And if show attendance doesn't increase by 50 percent over last year's convention in New Orleans, it said exhibitors will receive the equivalent of one year's dues in the NTDRA's Supplier Group. (Overall attendance in New Orleans was down 14.1 percent from the previous year's show.)
It also is offering dealer attendees a 100-percent refund of their registration fee if they're not satisfied the convention is of benefit to their businesses.
``I'm not just pumping `BS' into this thing,'' Mr. Bobzin said from his home in LaCanada, where he operates LaCanada Tire Center Inc.
Is he worried the NTDRA will lose its shirt on these money-back guarantees?
``You always will have a few who'll take you up on the offer, but I doubt many will,'' he said confidently.
Based on its annual in-house survey of suppliers and trade show attendees, the NTDRA was told it ``had to do something drastic about the show,'' according to Mr. Bobzin. So he enlisted an outside firm to do another study by interviewing 300 independent dealers, asking non-attendees why they didn't go to the show and participating exhibitors where the association needs to improve its act.
Did he get an earful.
While still in the early planning stages, he said the NTDRA is taking ``very, very bold steps'' to breathe new life into its show, because, of 2,100 firms that sell to tire dealers, only 211 were at the 1995 trade show. ``And that's miserable,'' he bluntly stated.
At his urging, the NTDRA has hired an outside company to manage the show-one that is not specifically a trade show firm. Small but dynamic, it ``specializes in creating excitement and value,'' he said.
But Mr. Bobzin really hopes to convince all the major tire manufacturers and private brand marketers, as well as other suppliers and dealer-driven marketing groups-such as American Car Care Centers Inc., Metro 25 and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s Affiliated Dealer Program-to hold their annual dealer meetings in conjunction with the trade show.
Special scheduling would allow dealers to attend several meetings without any additional time away from their businesses.
He'd also like more product seminars and demonstrations at the show, and is even considering cash drawings every hour and free lunches for dealers on the trade show floor, all designed to ``generate excitement'' and tell dealers: ``If you're in the tire business. . . you cannot afford to miss the Atlanta show.''
An NTDRA press release about the ``new'' show said it will provide exhibitors space to conduct product seminars and closing rooms for private meetings with show attendees. ``These small groups will allow dealers and their personnel to learn about the latest cutting-edge products and equipment.''
To help exhibitors reach a global market in Atlanta, the NTDRA also said it plans an international promotion program to draw trade delegations from Central and South America, Europe and Asia. A total of 44 countries were represented at the New Orleans show.
Booth selection for the Atlanta show will be by mail rather than an on-site, pre-convention event, in an effort to save exhibitors money, according to the NTDRA.
One frequent complaint about the 1995 show was the cost for dealers to attend-especially what some said were exorbitant charges in New Orleans for hotel rooms and meals. Mr. Bobzin said he's hoping to negotiate better rates for 1996 show attendees.
Last year's show did not have enough people, suppliers, tire dealers or value, he said, and what little promotion the event received was conducted ``in-house, and was a mistake.''
That little word value repeatedly crept into his conversation.
In his candid assessment of the NTDRA, Mr. Bobzin said: ``We do a good job creating services. We're there to provide services, to help tire dealers sell more product, make more money and protect their interests from things like the government and other issues.
``Our purpose is not to have a trade show. The show helps to bring in money to create more services.
``Where we are weakest is in the promotion, in putting on the guts of the show-at creating value.''
Meanwhile, Mr. Bobzin said he has been in contact with American Retreaders Association President Bill Babek about continuing talks on a combined rubber industry convention/trade show.
Discussions thus far have been ``positive-we're going in the same direction,'' Mr. Bobzin said, and another meeting likely will take place in March.