ATLANTA-The National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association is vigorously pursuing convening its annual trade show and convention next year under the umbrella of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) trade shows, held every fall in Las Vegas. Currently, the NTDRA show is scheduled to take place there in November three weeks prior to the AAIW event and, if pushed back, in all likelihood would be a trial run only for 1997.
But coming on the heels of the association's just-concluded trade show, Sept. 5-7, in Atlanta-where total attendance and number of booths plummeted almost 30 percent from the NTDRA's 75th anniversary show the previous year in New Orleans-the most oft-heard chorus was: ``Something has got to be done!''
As the visibly smaller Atlanta show unfolded to a sparse opening-day crowd, several NTDRA officials, including current President Ted Wiens Jr., told TIRE BUSINESS that the association's executive board had unanimously voted to combine the NTDRA show with AAIW next year. Consequently, David E. Poisson, who is set to become the NTDRA's executive vice president Jan. 1, had begun negotiating with AAIW administrators to link with the shows, and had received their approval.
With word spreading among showgoers that the association was indeed considering entrance to the AAIW venue, many NTDRA officers and tire dealers alike expressed a desire that the NTDRA show become a permanent part of the mammoth AAIW shows.
Several years ago, Industry Week consolidated the previously separate trade shows of the Specialty Equipment Market Associa-tion (SEMA), the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, the Automotive Parts & Accessories Association, and Automotive Service Industry Association.
The glitzy aftermarket event, spread over more than 2 million square feet of show space, last year had 7,764 booths and drew its best-ever attendance: 58,000, including about 1,200 independent tire dealers.
In comparison, the NTDRA's Atlanta show had 3,800 attendees-down from 5,400 in 1995-and 530 booths vs. 740 last year.
While the association has the go-ahead for the AAIW event, a number of logistical problems must be solved first, though in an interview with TIRE BUSINESS, Mr. Poisson said: ``There's a way to negotiate anything....''
He admitted that trying to go up against the AAIW shows next year within practically the same time frame was courting disaster. ``I just can't conceive that exhibitors would want to come out there and exhibit at our show if they have a commitment to go to'' the AAIW.
In 1997, Mr. Poisson said, the NTDRA really has only two options: either join the AAIW event, or cancel its Las Vegas show-``except that I don't have a suggestion about how to compensate for the loss in revenue.''
What he has in mind is creating a ``tire expo pavilion concept,'' emhasizing the role of tires in the automotive aftermarket. And he said based on published comments from executives of the major tire makers, ``they believe there ought to be one show.''
He said he has commitments from several tire makers to exhibit at both the AAIW and NTDRA shows, if they combine.
Two of the biggest hurdles facing the NTDRA are getting out of its 1997 show contract so that it can join the AAIW event, and then finding suitable exposition space near the AAIW shows-something that, at this juncture, is practically nonexistent.
Mr. Wiens, former president of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and a wholehearted advocate of combining the trade shows, said hotel space does not present a problem, but that exhibition space is more limited. A new convention center is under construction, but there's only a ``50-50 chance it may be done in time for us.''
If the NTDRA were to decide to permanently join the AAIW, it would face other obstacles as well, according to Mr. Wiens, such as its contractual commitments to hold conventions in Dallas in 1998, and in Chicago a year later. However, he is convinced that those obstacles can be overcome.
For his part, industry newcomer Mr. Poisson envisions a combined rubber industry show that would include the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the NTDRA and the Louisville, Ky.-based International Tire and Rubber Association, which for the past year has been in talks with the NTDRA about possibly combining their trade shows.
Mr. Poisson plans to meet with Marvin Bozarth, the ITRA's executive director, in Louisville the week of Sept. 16. ``We would love to be able to bring the ITRA along as part of Industry Week. And I know (AAIW) would love to have us there together....''
He said Mr. Bozarth has told him the ITRA is not ``standing pat on Louisville'' as the site for its annual conference, and that a poll of ITRA members indicated ``a preference for going to Las Vegas over Louisville.''
For both exhibitors and attendees, Mr. Poisson said he believes there is no better site than Las Vegas, where trade shows are the biggest industry-after gaming. And Industry Week, he said, offers independent tire dealers the best opportunity they're going to have to see all of the things they need to compete in the '90s and beyond, all assembled under one roof.
``I feel very strongly about that,'' he added. ``But I feel just as strongly that ITRA ought to be there right alongside us.''
A number of ITRA officials, including Mr. Bozarth and President William Babek, attended the NTDRA convention, which, by most accounts, tried extremely hard to present a meaningful, exciting show.
For the first time ever, the NTDRA hired an international marketing firm to promote the show. It also earmarked more funds than usual for educational seminars, cut its registration fee in half, then halved that again to entice local dealership employees to attend the final day.
Yet little-even two free meals offered showgoers-seemed to draw in the crowds. That despite special hands-on ``Product Info Expos'' every 30 minutes on the show floor, and $200 cash drawings every hour.
It also promised refunds to dealers not satisfied with the show, and offered exhibitors the equivalent of one year's NTDRA dues if show attendance didn't increase by 50 percent over last year's.
On Sept. 10, an association spokesman said that, to his knowledge, no one had yet taken up the NTDRA on those offers.