Here’s What’s Happening With Consumer Snowmobile Shows…

HayDays 2022 - the grand-daddy of consumer snowmobile shows.

Big crowds arrived for Hay Days 2022 in Minnesota. Sno Barons S.C. photo.

Related: Don’t Be Suckered By Early Snow

What’s up with snowmobile shows? Are we all showed out? Or is that showed off? Even before the past two pandemic years, attendance at many consumer snowmobile shows was slipping. It seems the days may be going when anyone could put on a show and everybody came.

Certainly some shows are faring better than others. Hay Days 2022 in Minnesota, billed as “the official start of winter” attracted good crowds. But reports are that attendance hasn’t flourished for the Big East Show (Syracuse) or the International Snowmobile Show (Toronto) and the Novi Show also may not have fully recovered either. Meanwhile, the 2023 Manufacturers Sneak Peek shows across Canada were recently cancelled for spring 2023. With the show business apparently getting more tenuous, both show goers and show exhibitors seem to be increasingly wary about showing up. What’s going on?

Ready to welcome sledders at a previous Manufacturers Sneak Peek Show.


Exhibitors Taking A 2nd Look At Snowmobile Shows

It’s easy to point the finger at the pandemic hiatus, supply chain shortages, rising manufacturing costs and general inflation, all of which challenge the show status quo. Certainly, these factors compel exhibitors to be more selective about attending shows. And also more demanding about measurable return on investment for the large, upfront expense of buying & setting up exhibit space, staffing it and transporting product to display. To say nothing of the out of pocket costs of staff meals, lodgings and travel. Especially when many vendors have limited or no stock available to sell. And most are already paying for existing and more viable direct to consumer alternatives to move their goods.

Exhibitors are the mainstay of all snowmobile shows/

Exhibitors at a previous Toronto Snowmobile Show. Photo by Craig Nicholson.

Show Goers Getting Wary

The quality and quantity of relevant exhibitors is a major draw for show goers. So a show’s immediate attendance and long term reputation can be seriously impacted by fewer booths, scaled back displays and missing vendors. Word spreads quickly on the consumer grapevine when a show admission fee doesn’t satisfy attendee expectations for comparing products, shopping for deals or generating a pre-season buzz.

Show goers at the 2022 Novi Show – photo by SledMichigan.

eCommerce Challenges Snowmobile Shows

Like many other traditional retail models, snowmobile shows are staring a harsh reality in the face. New generations of consumers are already committed online buyers. The rest of us have accelerated our own shift to e-commerce over the past couple of years, starting with online permits and trail guides. So brick & mortar retail are taking a huge hit. Is it any surprise that consumer snowmobile shows are also caught in the line of fire?

Polaris corporate booth ready for guests at the Toronto Snowmobile Show.

Today, the plain fact is that most manufacturers and distributors have not only a considerable online e-commerce presence. They are also spending much or all of their marketing budgets digitally. This means it’s both harder to justify or approve funding for consumer shows from tighter and metric-driven marketing budgets.

Snowmobiler checking out Arctic Cat at the Toronto Snowmobile Show.

My Last Word

Unfortunately, for those of us who still love to receive print issues of our snowmobile magazines in the mail, these publications are in the same boat as snowmobile shows. Unable to attract the major and consistent print advertising necessary to pay the bills, our fav mags are cutting back on pages and number of issues or stopping the presses permanently. Only powersports media companies who’ve anticipated these seismic shifts by diversifying successfully into other opportunities like TV & video production, and online & social media platforms, will make the cut.

Within this context, I fear consumer snowmobile shows are going, going, gone to extinction. Regardless, snowmobiling is still going strong. Participation is up. The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association reports sled sales held their own in for model year 2022. And snowmobilers are as passionate as ever about hitting the snow this winter. But just as we want our sledding to be direct to trails, more riders are also looking for more direct to consumer commerce to buy game changer snowmobile products. So we’re going to have to develop new and better ways to show off our fav winter activity!

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The tips and advice in this blog are the opinions of the author, may not work in every situation and are intended only for the convenience and interest of the reader, who has the personal responsibility to confirm the validity, accuracy and relevancy of this information prior to putting it to their own use.


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