What’s the difference between Connect and Outdoor Retailer?
This is a remarkably common question, as a lot of people who’ve never been to Connect just assume it’s like any other trade show. The reality is that Connect takes a narrow slice of the typical trade show experience and executes it on a super high level. It’s pin-drop quiet, blissfully low on marketing sizzle, and—because we book everybody’s appointments for them in advance — is really just a show-up-and-work kind of thing.
Attendance is selective, bringing in a limited number of vendors and retailers, and everybody that’s there is fully focused on being “transactive.” It’s about buying and selling, and that’s it. We make the job of the buyer easier and more efficient by bringing in the majority of their favorite brands. They do a huge chunk of their seasonal buying at Connect, and that frees them up to focus on discovering new brands when they go to other trade shows like Outdoor Retailer.
Why is it such a big deal for the outdoor industry that Connect and Outdoor Retailer and being held at the same time, for the first time?
It really is a momentous thing because through communication and cooperation we’ve finally put the industry’s best buying event side by side with the industry’s biggest trade gathering. And we’ve done it at the right time in the buying calendar. That in itself is a pretty big deal and makes for an excellent headline. But behind the scenes, there’s a bigger story about how the whole thing has been fueled by a broad awareness and acceptance of the fact that we need to evolve as an industry. Adapting our calendar and giving the industry the right tools at the right time is just the first part of that ongoing conversation.
How many Grassroots retailers do you anticipate will attend Outdoor Retailer following Connect?
All of them. The big and noticeable difference is likely going to be depth of retail staff that people will see at Outdoor Retailer. Over the years attendance at OR was whittled down to mostly only principals, instead of a team of owners, buyers, and other key staff… with the show backing up to Connect – buyers and key staff will again join owners at Outdoor Retailer.
What do you like about the Outdoor Retailer show’s move to Denver?
We love it. We absolutely love the venue and we love the city of Denver. Great people, great location and a great backdrop for the outdoor industry. But it’s expensive. All that awesomeness does come at a price: trade show costs are just as much of an issue for retailers as it is for vendors.
What’s the single biggest benefit to Outdoor Retailer of Grassroots retailers attendance?
I sincerely believe this is a great moment for rising brands to be discovered by specialty retailers. And it’s also a great moment for specialty retailers to be reminded about the value that Outdoor Retailer provides the outdoor industry. There’s so much going on at OR … the panel discussions, the events, the working media attendance, the political activity … and all of those things combined create a gathering of immense importance and relevance to the entire outdoor industry. Collaboration and cooperation is really our pathway forward, and our ability to use those tools are going to directly influence whether we are able to continue growing and succeeding as an industry. On a related note, I also think that a lot of brands and their employees only interact with the broader outdoor industry when they go to OR, and keeping all those folks informed about industry trends is really a tremendous value for all of us.
What’s the single biggest benefit to Grassroots Outdoor Alliance of attending Outdoor Retailer?
It’s all the same things … When retailers get out of their stores and have a chance to see the whole industry, when they bring their whole buying team to the largest outdoor industry gathering, they get a much richer and deeper awareness of what’s going on nationally.
Like any economic sector, our industry is a complicated and interconnected place, and the more relationships and understanding our industry members have, the healthier we will be in the long haul.
How big of an economic sector does Grassroots Outdoor Alliance represent in the outdoor industry?
Grassroots Outdoor Alliance retailers account for around $400 million in gross outdoor industry sales annually. And when you add all of the non-member retailers that attend Connect, that number likely doubles.
That said, gross sales is just one way of describing what Grassroots Outdoor Alliance represents. When appropriate, we are the voice of independent specialty retailers and do our best to represent the needs of all independent retailers nationwide. With the quality of the experience we provide, and the combined voice and national perspective, we definitely punch outside of our weight on a variety of topics.