What do independent tire dealers want from the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association's convention and trade show? That's the million-dollar question following the association's 76th annual gathering in Atlanta.
Despite an aggressive and innovative attempt to pump up the excitement and value of the show for attendees and exhibitors, the event fell far short.
The numbers tell the story. Exhibitor and dealer attendance slid by nearly 30 percent from the year before.
The show attracted 3,800 dealers and exhibitor personnel compared with 5,400 in 1995 when the event took place in New Orleans. The New Orleans numbers themselves were a steep decline from 1994 when total attendance tallied 6,339.
The Atlanta show also saw a decline in exhibiting companies, their number dropping to 530 this year from 740 a year ago.
It's clear drastic changes must take place if the NTDRA wants to continue providing a meaningful show for its dealer members.
Fortunately, changes undoubtedly will occur.
Beginning Jan. 1, the NTDRA will get a new leader in David Poisson, a dynamic association executive who is taking over for the retiring Philip P. Friedlander Jr.
Mr. Poisson has an extensive association management background. He is brimming with ideas and confidence.
One of his first efforts, even before officially taking over as executive vice president, will be to try and work out the logistics of combining the 1997 NTDRA show with that of the popular and growing Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week, both of which will be held in Las Vegas only three weeks apart.
If the two events are combined, it could be just the catalyst needed to begin drawing dealers, suppliers and manufacturers back to the show, and hopefully make them feel compelled to return year after year.
Yes, it's quite a challenge. But the time is ripe for change. With its new leadership, we think the NTDRA is up to the task.