LAS VEGAS-It's over. The ``fat lady'' has sung her final refrain for a stand-alone trade show and convention for the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association. As expected, after weeks of consultation on a number of levels, the NTDRA has decided to merge its annual exposition into the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association/Auto International Association (SEMA/AI) show in Las Vegas beginning in 1997.
Flanked by SEMA President Charles R. Blum and NTDRA President Ted Wiens Jr., incoming NTDRA Executive Vice President David Poisson made the announcement Nov. 4, one day before the opening of the 1996 Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week show.
Next year's event is scheduled for Nov. 4-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Mr. Poisson cited the need for ``an infusion of excitement'' into the NTDRA's annual dealer gathering-which has dwindled in attendance over the last few years. He also noted that the NTDRA's participation in the massive automotive trade show will expose dealers to products they wouldn't necessarily see at their own show but may need for their businesses to grow and remain profitable.
All three association executives described the merger as a ``perfect fit'' for the NTDRA's members and trade show exhibitors.
``We're approaching this as a permanent (liaison), and wouldn't do that unless we thought it was going to be a success,'' Mr. Poisson told TIRE BUSINESS in an interview preceding the press conference.
The SEMA show, like the NTDRA's annual convention, traditionally has sponsored tire-related training and educational seminars. But as part of the merger agreement, SEMA has ceded that responsibility and control exclusively to the NTDRA.
By paying one entrance fee, NTDRA members will have unrestricted access to the SEMA show and to its companion trade show in Las Vegas-the APAA/ASIA/MEMA show, sponsored by the Automotive Parts and Accessories Association, the Automotive Service Industries Association and the Motor Equipment Manufacturers Association.
Mr. Poisson acknowledged the concern of some members that the trade show merger could result in a ``loss of identity'' for the association. However, he predicted that ``this will raise the NTDRA's profile.''
To determine an equitable split of revenue for next year's SEMA show, Mr. Poisson said the associations will use a figure based on the average from the three highest NTDRA shows over the last five years. In subsequent years, the NTDRA will get a percentage of the SEMA show's overall take, based on the following revenue streams:
Sales from trade show exhibits and booths, based on an average from previous NTDRA shows;
A 50-50 split between SEMA and the NTDRA of registration revenue on the tire/wheel side; and
The NTDRA will keep all revenue from its independent show-related activities, such as training seminars-which mostly will be conducted on the day before the show opens.
Asked if he anticipated the NTDRA would see a drop in revenue, Mr. Poisson said it should be comparable to other years. ``I can't imagine show revenue being less than if we ran our own show.''
Mr. Wiens said five years ago the NTDRA garnered 70 percent of its operating income from the annual convention. Now, that figure is about 25 percent.
In some respects, he said, the association will have its own show yet be able to reap the benefits of increased crowds and heightened enthusiasm on the part of show exhibitors.
Both Mr. Wiens-a member of SEMA for 26 years, a second-generation tire dealer and a native of Las Vegas-and Mr. Poisson expect an increase in dealer attendance at the NTDRA's portion of the 1997 show. Last year about 1,200 independent tire dealers attended the AAIW shows. And in 1992, the last time the NTDRA held its annual convention in the gambling mecca, almost 14,000 dealers attended.
``If we retain half as much as that,'' Mr. Poisson noted, ``it would be a 40-percent increase over our 1996 show'' in Atlanta.
Because the SEMA and related shows have continued to grow by leaps and bounds since their inception in 1992, just where the NTDRA portion of next year's show will be is still somewhat up in the air.
As of now, it will be housed outside the Las Vegas Convention Center in a quonset hut-type free-standing, air-conditioned building that the 1996 SEMA show is currently using for registrations. As far as prominence is concerned, it is ``by no means second-class real estate,''Mr. Poisson pointed out.
There is an outside chance a 200,000-sq.-ft. addition to the convention center will be ready by then, in which case the NTDRA would be in that section.
Association officials are shooting at a 500-booth objective for the NTDRA's portion of the show, and Mr. Poisson said the cost for exhibitors would be slightly more expensive per square footage of show space.
One of the few wrinkles yet to be ironed out is which Las Vegas hotel the NTDRA will use as its ``show headquarters'' for member lodging and events such as the Breakfast with the President and the general session. But, boosted by new construction, there will be more than 100,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas by Jan.1.
Although Mr. Poisson seems to have little doubt the merger will be a success, the NTDRA does have other options, should the show marriage go on the rocks.
He said the association could still consider a joint show with the International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA) in Louisville, Ky.; go with a stand-alone show as in the past, but perhaps not annually; do a series of regional trade shows; or hold its show every other year, opposite the Reiffen International Tyre Fair in Essen, Germany.
The NTDRA would still like to see the ITRA be a part of the SEMA show scene, especially since the associations share 700 common members, according to Mr. Poisson. ``This is a good venue for them.... This should be attractive to the ITRA because it's where everybody's going to be.''
``I see no down side coming from any of this merger,'' he added, ``and the (NTDRA) will be a growing part of SEMA for a long time to come.''