Where does the ITRA show go from here? That's the question asked by most showgoers and exhibitors, and a dilemma facing the International Tire and Rubber Association board in the wake of the group's annual conference and exhibition, June 9-12. Moving the event to Nashville, Tenn., was viewed as positive by most. But the June dates conflicted with the busy production season at most tire shops—a fact reflected in the show's weak attendance.
The ITRA board is locked into Nashville for June next year, but the future of the show beyond that is up for discussion.
The board already has pondered a variety of options for 2001 and beyond, including:
Continuing as a stand-alone show in Nashville, Louisville, Ky., or Orlando, Fla., in April;
Shifting to a biennial event, with a conference-only program at other sites in non-expo years;
Linking with an existing trucking-related show, such as The Maintenance Council's annual exposition; or
Creating a new commercial transportation-oriented show, tapping more heavily into the new-tire and service business.
The board's decision becomes urgent when one considers the retreading universe.
A quick analysis of the North American retreading industry shows the number of truly independent retreaders—those not franchised or otherwise closely affiliated with either Bandag, Goodyear, Hercules, Marangoni, Michelin or Oliver—has shrunk to about 475, or roughly 40 percent of the retread shops operating in North America.
For years, Bandag has shunned the ITRA show, choosing to commit its promotion budget to exhibiting to the end-user at trucking industry shows. As Goodyear, Michelin or others reach ``saturation'' points in terms of dealers, might they consider a similar path?
One salvation could be the international angle. Whether by coincidence or careful planning, the ITRA expo is becoming an exhibition of the Americas.
The Latin American connection is hard to overlook. About 10-15 percent of the 1,908 attendees come from Central and South America, and a number of South American suppliers exhibit in order to meet customers from that area.
The number of exhibitors this year was down about 15 percent from 1998. What's more, of the 208 exhibitors listed, 83 were directly retread-related and nearly a third of these had foreign roots. Considering the growth of the medium truck tire sector, which accounts for 70 percent of tread rubber usage, it makes sense for the ITRA expo to ally itself with the trucking industry.
The largest commercial tire dealers are nearly all retreaders as well.
With trucking companies wanting to outsource their tire and wheel service needs, what better venue than an ITRA-trucking industry trade show?