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The Big Gear Show interviews Chris Zigmont



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Christopher Zigmont

Christopher Zigmont has a career’s worth of perspective from working leadership positions for and with brands like Specialized, Mavic, Pedro’s, SRAM, and Play Sports—the parent company of GCN and Shift Active Media. His career spans decades in our industry, but he’s never seen years like 2020 or 2021, still, a perspective like the one Chris brings can help us all as we navigate these still uncertain times.

The Black Bow Jewelry Company - Celebrating our 10th year

The Big Gear Show got on the phone with Chris to catch up as we look forward with renewed hope and a plan to meet up in person again at the inaugural, though one year late, at The Big Gear Show in Park City, Utah this August 3rd through 5th, 2021.

Christopher Zigmont

Nisa Meineke/The Big Gear Show
Can you give us some background about how you ended up where you are today in the bike industry?

Chris Zigmont
Absolutely. Thanks for the great question. I guess I can answer a couple of ways. Sometimes I feel like I’m the Forrest Gump of the bike industry, in that I just happened to be in a lot of the right places at the right times. My era in the cycling industry happens to align with a lot of great happenings; the successful commercial birth of the mountain bike, and all that has meant. MTB suspension, indexed shifting, 6, 7, 8, 8,10, 11, and 12 speed cassettes. Tubeless, electronic shifting (5 different times), factory wheel systems, gravel, E-commerce, D2C brands, and all sorts of things. There has been a lot of hard work, many exciting launches, plenty of mistakes too, but much of it has just been really being in the industry at a very, very interesting time.

Nisa Meineke
We know that you’ve been involved with a lot of these events because this industry is that way. How many large-scale multi-brand industry events have you been to over the years?

Chris Zigmont
I started working for Specialized Bicycle Components in 1985. I went to my first couple of trade shows before that as a retailer in 1984. Since then maybe a hundred, but I honestly never stopped to count them. There were some big years when the original CABDA was sandwiched between two Interbike dates, plus at least two European shows. Simple answer, an awful lot.

Nisa Meineke
What are some of the highlights that stand out in your mind and why?

Chris Zigmont
I have some great memories from trade events. One year at Mavic, we ran a media and celebrity “Alley Cat” race at night on the Strip for a wheel launch. That’s a stand out. Our hand laid parkay flooring one year in the PowerTap booth. Many rides with journalists out to Boulder City. Many highlights. But to me shows are much more about the connectivity between people, the B2B elements, meeting your retailers, meeting consumers, meeting other brands, and suppliers. The many years at Friedrichshafen connecting with European colleagues. I certainly am very fond of settings like PressCamp and DealerCamp, which are very intimate and outdoor. They bring in a lot of great retailers and brands. There were some fun years at Interbike.I even remember one year Interbike took us to Disneyland when the shaw was in Anaheim. I think about the highlights, they all involve being with people.

Christopher Zigmont

Nisa Meineke
We’re actually really trying to stress that element because there is always that question of are you coming? Are you not? What shows are you attending? I think it’s important for us all to get together after two years. So with trade shows, they’ve become an expensive challenge, and sometimes even a burden to brands for a number of years. What went wrong? And when did it go wrong in your perspective?

Chris Zigmont
Well, it’s interesting. They can be expensive, but they don’t need to be. I don’t know that they’re necessarily a burden unless you’re just not doing it right. You just have to decide for your brand, what role it will serve and how to use a show to meet your objectives. I think the nature of shows has changed over the years, and maybe they didn’t go wrong. They just changed their purpose and people failed to change with it. It used to be about writing business, presenting your new range and some media work. Certainly, the web, private brand shows, and eCommerce have changed the role of shows to some degree. A trade show is any kind of large gathering of the industry. They serve a lot of different roles, as a marketing event, education, and keeping retailers up-to-speed on the quickly changing landscape. Making sure that that is the function of the show, whether it’s a Sea Otter, consumer and trade fair, or something like The Big Gear Show, which has a focus on retailers. The key is using the tool (show) appropriately, and scaling it up or down to suit your brand’s needs. These shows don’t need to be a big expense. They don’t need to be a burden, you just have to make sure you’re using it the right way.

Nisa Meineke
Yeah, absolutely. It seems like we’re at the opposite end of the pandemic now and ready to shake hands, or at least elbow bump and share. What do you think is the best way for the collective industry to do this?

Chris Zigmont
Well, you said the right couple of things there; bike rides and elbow bumps. I think one of the things we know now, 14 months into a pandemic, is that gathering outdoors is a great idea. It’s safer, we still need to take care and take precautions, but it’s a great way to do it. The other thing I’ve always argued and worked very hard for experientially-focused trade and consumer shows. We’re not in the plumbing business, you know, we’re in the bicycle business! We’re selling experiences, fitness, and adventure. Fun things to do outdoors. We ought to be sharing and expressing that in an outdoor setting where we can ride the product and try it and explain it. We should get together and spend time together outdoors, especially if we can spend that time hanging on to handlebars, and grabbing a beer after to chat. This makes a lot of sense to me.

Nisa Meineke
The one thing that we’ve been dancing around is the fact that the supply chain has been impacted. If we can’t get the product there, it’s still a really good aspect to get people in front of each other. Do you have an opinion on that?

Chris Zigmont
Absolutely, we’re a few weeks away from opening a retail store ourselves… If I were to base it on what’s available today, you wouldn’t do it. But you have to take a much longer view than that. This is not the first supply chain hiccup we’ve had as an industry. I tried to explain this the other day to somebody else. Our generation has never really had to deal with something like this, but we’re gonna have to make do with what we have, and keep some things running that you wish you could replace. Love the bike you have until you can get the new one. But eventually, we’re gonna get there. So I do think we still need to get together. We are coming out of a global pandemic. We haven’t seen each other face-to-face for quite a while. Some of the best conversations are those that happen at the end of a ride or at the end of the day. We need to have those meetings and all the better if they’re in person. I do think that the supply chain is going to sort itself out. It’s going to be a bit bumpy for a little while, but I’m ready to fly to Utah with my bike. I’m sure everybody else is feeling something like this, as well. If we get a chance to try some new stuff, great! If we just get a chance to ride together and talk about what might come next year, that’s okay, too.

Nisa Meineke
Perfect. What do you say to those with the stance of ‘brands’ can’t just fund a party’. Is that what the historic shows’ value devolved to over the years?

Chris Zigmont
I think it comes back to what I said before it, maybe folks just aren’t doing it right. With cycling, we’re selling fun, we’re selling an experience. It’s not about the bike, it’s about the ride, right? And that should be fun. So if we’ve created an atmosphere where people are letting their hair down and riding a bike, sharing ideas, maybe having a couple of beers and talking about it? That’s a good thing, but that can’t be the whole purpose of it. There still needs to be some great conversations, and business conducted, and opportunities that get discovered. Brands that know how to operate at a consumer show or a trade show, know how to create a fun atmosphere and get the stuff done. Smart brands know how to do that.

Christopher Zigmont

Nisa Meineke
How important is it to think as a collective or community versus brands trying to dominate their own category?

Chris Zigmont
The collective community is really important. The strongest and maybe most overused word in cycling right now is unity. But it’s an important word. It means a lot. It means a lot in a bunch of different areas. We are an industry, we are a community and communities need to gather. It’s super-valuable to gather with competitors and non-competitors alike and make an impact on our industry. That’s going to happen at the point of sale anyway, I think it happens better. As a brand, you learn more about the landscape. It’s really hard to sit at home, on a zoom call, and really see you fully understand all these things going on in our industry.

Nisa Meineke
At this trade show, we’re trying to further the thinking around this being a collective industry. It’s not just outdoors, just paddle, just bike. I don’t know about your garage, but our garage is all combined in each category. We’re trying to learn from each other in that facet, too. Do you think that that’s an important element we’ve been missing?

Chris Zigmont
I think when you look at multi-discipline shows in the world, retailers and suppliers can definitely take home some key ideas and learnings from other disciplines and other areas than your category companies. You don’t have to look far to the larger multi-discipline retailers executing well across categories. There are nuggets here for all retailers. We should be sure to learn and deploy some of the things we learn from other categories and disciplines back at HQ or at the shop.

Christopher Zigmont

Nisa Meineke
If you were back at one of your alma mater’s, how would you approach a new industry event like The Big Gear Show?

Chris Zigmont
That it would be a pile of fun. I’d leave a lot of the trade fixtures at home. I’d be prepared to have a fantastic time outside, be prepared to deliver indelible ride experiences, and break bread with as many people as I possibly could. I fully believe that the experience on the handlebars is everything. To be honest, even if that meant trotting out last year’s stuff, or encouraging people to bring their own, I would do it. I really think it’s about the conversation. The connection. It’s that cup of coffee early in the morning when we watch the sunrise in Park City, those are special times and I would travel for them.

Nisa Meineke
You’ve been to events—and even promoted them—in Utah. What would you tell a retailer that’s on the fence of whether or not they should attend an event like The Big Gear Show?

Chris Zigmont
Well, I’d say a few things. First, I recognize that as a society and population, we’re going to have a certain number of people that have a sense of trepidation about traveling again. I respect those feelings. I hope by then everybody has had the opportunity to take the decision to be fully vaccinated. But it’ll still take a while still to ease those concerns about traveling. I understand and encourage them to be cautious. BUT what I would say is, if you haven’t been to Utah, I have not found a better place. I’ve been lucky enough to produce events there. I’ve been lucky enough to work events like the Tour of Utah. I spent both winter and summer time there. I don’t think you’re going to find a better backdrop or atmosphere. If you haven’t been in a while, I’d recommend coming back.

Christopher Zigmont

Nisa Meineke
Yeah, absolutely. Are you coming? What are you looking to get out of it?

Chris Zigmont
Well, certainly I’m going to be there. I wanted to be one of the first to experience the show. I love everything I’ve read about it. I’ve certainly had lots of great chats with Lance about the format and what it has to offer. What my secret hope is that I learn a lot from the gear and paddle side. As I mentioned earlier at the top, our family is opening up a new brick and mortar retail business and I hope to diversify a little bit and not just be a pure cycling retailer. I hope to deliver at the nexus of bikepacking and outdoor gear, and a few other things. There’s a lot of lightweight camping gear that will make my customers happy. I’m hoping to learn a lot more, and see what other opportunities are out there.

Nisa Meineke
Perfect. Well, do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to communicate?

Chris Zigmont
Well, just that, you know, I think The Big Gear Show in the format you guys have created probably couldn’t come at a better time. We are all breaking out of our COVID-19 cocoon, and it’s a refreshing change to see a new look at a trade show and a trade gathering. I just would encourage everybody to think about it as a clean sheet of paper, and maybe the right answer to a trade gathering.

Christopher Zigmont

About The Big Gear Show
The Big Gear Show is America’s first open-air trade show in Park City, UT, created solely to meet the needs of outdoor shops and gear builders. The event is a demo and buying experience built for outdoor, bike, paddling, and climbing buyers and makers. The show will feature a curated group of 500 hand-selected retailers and 250 brands across the outdoor and cycling industries. The demo is fully integrated into the event, so buyers get to paddle, ride bikes, and test gear throughout the event. There is simply no better place to discover new brands and products.

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