The International Tire and Rubber Association has some soul-searching to do in light of a disappointing dealer turnout for its 40th annual World Tire Conference and Exhibition earlier this month. Despite the ITRA's best efforts to put on a worthwhile exhibition and seminar program, attendance was noticeably down from the year before, as was the excitement level.
Now conference planners must decide what can be done to entice more commercial tire dealers and retreaders—who still make up the core of the association's membership—to next year's show.
In an effort to compensate for the declining number of retreaders in recent years, organizers have wisely widened the focus of the former Louisville Retreaders Conference to appeal to scrap tire recyclers as well as commercial tire dealers. They also have waged a largely successful campaign to attract international attendees.
With each move, ITRA has done a good job of broadening the scope of the conference in business areas allied to retreading.
This effort, in fact, prompted the association last year to change its name from the American Retreaders' Association, thereby dropping the words ``American'' and ``Retreaders'*'' from its logo.
Next year, the ITRA plans to expand its exhibition further by combining it with the Service Station Dealers of America show—thereby adding 18,000 more prospective attendees to the association's guest list.
Expanding the scope of the conference in this manner may bring in additional attendees from fields other than retreading or tire service. But ITRA officials must not allow such diversification to water down the event's value to the association's dealer and retreader members.
This would only serve to further erode the numbers of tire dealers and retreaders who find the conference a valuable, must-attend event.
The challenge now for the association is to breathe more excitement into the trade show and seminars and meet the needs of its diverse audience without slighting any groups.