Wait. What? Another show? Didn’t we just wrap up Outdoor Retailer Summer Market four months ago? That’s right, but hold on a minute and listen to why Winter Market is coming up so soon and why it should get all attendees excited for the big event next week.
1) The Innovation Awards Have Arrived
This Winter Market marks the launch of what will be an annual tradition for Outdoor Retailer and the November Winter Market in Denver: The Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards presented by Capital One Spark Business. The new awards are a no-brainer for the show and an industry that relies on innovation to stay vital. They recognize design, innovation and achievement in the outdoor industry. Thirty-two products and retail services have been selected by the panel of 12 judges to advance to the final round (read more about the process and meet the judges). Winners will be unveiled during a live ceremony on November 8 during the first night of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
The spark behind the awards is Outdoor Retailer Brand Development Director and industry legend, Larry Harrison, who has witnessed the evolution of outdoors for more than 35 years at the show. “I don’t know what innovation is until I see it,” says Harrison. “That’s why I am excited about the Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards. Here our community can identify and celebrate those individuals and companies that have made the outdoor experience more joyful and inspirational.”
The awards will become a fixture at the show because the origin of the Outdoor Industry is innovation born out of necessity. Climbers like Yvon Chouinard and the late Royal Robbins and were not looking to become entrepreneurs, they just wanted stuff that worked better than the nuts and bolts they found around their garage and used as climbing protection. Lucky for them, it turns out that consumers love gear that solves problems—and products fueled by passion do that far better than those created just to turn a profit.
Innovation continues to drive the ever-changing personality of the outdoor industry. Roam the halls of the show and you will see plenty of business people bringing a brilliant idea to the table because they needed it in the wild. Many of those wild-eyed dreamers have seen their new concepts blow up into trends that have now become industry-wide norms or brands that have expanded into the mainstream imagination.
Naysayers worry that the big boxes, big data, and big consumer shifts will doom the spirit of innovation that powers this industry. But as long as there is a need, and as long as there are people who find joy and solace in the outdoors, there will be that spark of necessity that the big guys want but just can’t understand. “We have called the trophies for the event The Compass Award, and that’s the role they play. Those who win it point the way,” says Harrison.
Capital One Spark Business is the presenting sponsor of the inaugural Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards. Outdoor Retailer and A+E Networks® have also partnered to develop short-form programming around the awards to air as part of the Outdoors programming block on FYI™ and HISTORY® networks, and Christian Murphy, A+E Networks’ Senior Vice President Enthusiast Brands & Programming Partnerships, will host the awards ceremony. For information on sponsorship opportunities around the Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards or in conjunction with the programming content, contact Krista Dill, director of sales, at Krista.Dill@www.outdoorretailer.com.
2) Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Is Here, Too
In January, the 65-member Grassroots Outdoor Alliance announced that it would be moving the location to and dates of its fall Connect Show to Denver. The organization, which works to promote the health and growth of specialty retail, moved out of Sandy, Utah, for the same reason OR left: the politicians of the Beehive State continue to turn deaf ears on the $88 billion outdoor industry when it comes to better synching with Outdoor Retailer Winter Market—a boon to retailers and exhibitors who see value in both shows. “Bringing Connect to Denver is a strong step forward,” said Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance (read our full Q and A with Hill, talking about the show here), at the time of the decision to move along with OR (the summer Connect show will be in Knoxville, Tennessee). “It simplifies the industry calendar, provides financial efficiencies for Grassroots members and vendors and delivers unquestionable value for those looking to do both buying and market discovery in a single location.”
Connect is a bare-bones, no-nonsense show, positioned early in the buying cycle that, as the name implies, connects retailers and key manufacturers as partners. The synergy between the two shows should be even stronger with them occurring one after another, allowing retailers not only to streamline travel, but also get a flavor for both comprehensive, varied offerings and happenings at Outdoor Retailer and the focused floor of Connect. “To be perfectly honest, what I am most excited about is that OR is colocated with GOA. That cuts down our travel by one trip,” says Mike Donohue, co-owner of The Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont.
3) You Wanted It Earlier in the Buying Cycle
The new dates for Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in November 2018, Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in January 2019, and Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in June are a direct response to attendee feedback during a long process of in-depth surveys aimed at finding better ways to serve attendees, especially busy retailers. This new three-show schedule is the result of SIA becoming a part of Outdoor Retailer and Outdoor Retailer resetting the dates to match sales cycles. And while that schedule may sound daunting consider two things: One, it’s what exhibitors and attendees asked for in order to better align with writing orders and two, there have always been three shows. It’s just that previously Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and what had been the SIA show made for a much longer week (and time away from the shop) in the middle of the season.
“The idea of three shows or the perception that we’ve added an additional show has definitely been a point of confusion. But we didn’t add a show. We bought a show,” says Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer show director. “The industry continues to have the same three shows that have always served the outdoor and snow markets, now just timed appropriately for the buying cycles. Previously, Winter Market and the SIA Snow Show would compete for the best January dates. Those dates weren’t necessarily set with the buying cycle in mind—the very thing trade shows serve—and both sides jockeyed for ‘better’ dates. Sometimes that meant earlier, sometimes later. It wasn’t science.”
While the change may not be perfect for everyone, it will start things off on the right foot going forward. And it will make life easier for retailers writing orders at the show. “I think the new schedule really helps with the buying schedule/due dates,” says Whitney Connell, owner of Hays and Co. Outfitters in San Marcos, Texas (look for her Thought Leader profile in the summer issue of Outdoor Retailer magazine, available at the show). “Most major product orders are due at the beginning/mid of January, so this gives us at least two months before due dates to plan and see what is selling best.”
4) There’s More Than the Floor
Outdoor Retailer is about far more than selling. It’s the opportunity for brands, retailers, athletes, media, activists, authors, influencers, experts, and educators in the outdoor space and beyond to come together and steer the direction of the industry and make a difference on issues ranging from point-of-sale systems to public lands. But don’t stay out too late: The Outdoor Industry Breakfast at 7 a.m. on Thursday will focus on optimism in the age of ecommerce with Leslie Ghize of the TOBE Report. The Conservation Alliance breakfast at 7 a.m. on Friday will feature National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey. You can deepen your ties to the Outdoor Retailer community and learn more by hoping in on the Retail Buddy Program or Shop with an Industry Vet opportunity, taking place every day of the show. On the show floor, The Camp will host panels ranging from dealing with Amazon to a showing of a “Parks and Rec” episode with comedian Jon Glaser. Outdoor Industry Association will be running a packed schedule of education programs. And don’t miss fabric and product insight in the Trend + Design Center. (Pick up the Outdoor Retailer Show Daily for a full listing of these events.)
“I am actually most excited about the education for Winter Market.” says Connell. “I missed out on the education during Summer OR and know there are some great things to learn about.”
5) Colorado Is Going Off
Come on. This is the outdoor industry and this is one fantastic time to be in Colorado. Skiing and snowboarding season has officially begun here. Wolf Creek, which gets the most snow in the state, won the Colorado opening day race this season, and starting the lifts spinning on October 13. Just an hour drive from downtown, both Loveland and Arapahoe Basin opened the next weekend. Plus, Denver is a fun city. Like hoops? The Nuggets are playing well and will be home during Winter Market, playing the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, November 9 and Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, November 11. If you’re a hockey fan and arrive early you can catch the Avalanche home against the Nashville Predators on November 7.