(This story was updated on 8/29/2023.)
Across the outdoor industry purse strings are tight. Stores have excess inventory in several categories. Many consumers bought the outdoor gear they needed with their COVID-19 stimulus checks and demand has softened in some sectors.
As the industry struggles with this post-pandemic hangover, one way to get the business juices flowing again is to bring brands and retailers under one roof for one big event, according to the leaders of Outdoor Retailer, which takes place June 19-21, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Outdoor Retailer is the national event for the entire industry to come together,” said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer senior vice president and show director. “The place that our industry needs to gather to get business done. There really is no other opportunity that creates the same level of efficiency and commerce for the industry.”
It’s fair to say, however, that there are plenty of brands that are nervous about the economy, said Jeff Davis, group vice president, Emerald. Those brands are examining every dollar they spend to make sure they’re getting a return on those expenditures.
“It’s up to us as organizers to really deliver the value back to the paying customer while they’re here,” Davis said. That value comes in the connections brands make with buyers. “It’s our job to facilitate that as much as we can.”
The difference between OR and other, smaller shows, according to Nicholson, is that OR provides expansive opportunities for networking with a broader range of people and discovering new brands.
“The regional shows are really important as part of the total ecosystem,” Nicholson said. “It’s not an either/or.”
New Layout at Outdoor Retailer
This summer, Outdoor Retailer has taken a new approach to the floor plan and layout of the show in an effort to improve the user experience for retailers and buyers.
The show is categorized by activity to aid retailers as they shop the show, look for new products, and connect with brands.
The floor plan will be arranged by activity-focused zones:
- Camp and Hike
- Overland and Travel
- Retail Services
- Run and Cycle
- Snow (Winter)
- Water (Summer)
“It makes it really easy and user friendly as they’re shopping,” said Nicholson. “If they’re looking for specific categories, they’re not trying to run across the show floor from appointment to appointment.”
A new area, The Hub, serves as a gathering space, and this summer will include The Camp education area, the tent zone, matchmaking, and workspace.
Another feature the organizers are touting this year is the Match program, where both brands and retailers can list the product categories they’re selling or that they’re interested in and the program can help them get connected. They can schedule appointments and create efficiency while they’re on the show floor, according to Nicholson.
“We know, because we see the data on the backend, the brands that leverage the Match program have a better experience,” Davis said. “They do better business.”
There will be about 700 brands participating at the show, with about 200 of those new to the show. The sourcing area, for one, is a lot bigger because international travel bans put in place during COVID have been lifted. As a result, designer registration is also way up.
Nicholson highlighted several brands that will be in the area called Venture Out, a curated section where retailers can discover exciting and emerging brands. She called out Pendleton, Outerknown, Gathr and Marmot as examples of interesting brands and companies.
About 70% of the retail attendees are specialty retailers from around the world, including a group from Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. Buyer registration is up year-over-year, Nicholson said.
“Which is a great indicator that the show is coming back, that the retailers are coming in and are really excited about the brands that are there,” she added. “It’s still the largest national show for the outdoor industry.”
Nicholson pointed out that the buying team from Backcountry.com will be back this year.
Another new development this year is the Outdoor Adventure X event that is kicking off the weekend prior to the OR show. In partnership with Outdoor Retailer, Emerald’s new consumer event division team is rolling out Outdoor Adventure X (OAX) on June 17-18 in Huntsville, Utah, at Snowbasin Resort.
OAX is a gathering of outdoor adventure consumers coming together for a weekend of family fun, camping, product demos, gear vendors, and education.
Attendees at the Outdoor Retailer Summer show get a free pass for Sunday’s OAX event.
“Something that we had been hearing from the community was this opportunity to have more engagement with consumers and better consumer insights,” Nicholson said.
“This is a new opportunity for us to align those things together while still maintaining the value and purpose of the B2B event at the Salt Palace.”
As for the education component, attendees can expect to hear discussions around Amazon’s gray market, PFAS, and overall industry trends, among many others.
All three show days feature expert-led keynote sessions, panel discussions, and trend presentations, plus daily community events and networking.
Education sessions will take place on the show floor in both The Camp, located in The Hub, and The Ranger Station, located in Venture Out. Keynote morning and mid-day sessions with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) will be held in the adjacent Hyatt Regency Salt Lake.
The Daily is hosting a roundtable discussion about what’s next for the outdoor industry post-pandemic on Tuesday, June 20, at 2:30 in the Salt Lake Ballroom at the Hyatt.
There will also be time to celebrate the outdoor community, with the Block Party event that will offer music and food. The annual Inspiration Awards will also be an opportunity to highlight businesses and people who are making a positive impact on the industry.
“At the end of the day this is an opportunity for our community to come back and gather and celebrate and recognize the people in business who are really working hard to inspire others to get outdoors,” Nicholson said.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.