Brands and retailers attending the Outdoor Retailer Winter show this week highlighted innovative new products and spoke of the importance of having an event to unite the industry.
Happening from Nov. 14-16, OR Winter is taking place at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. With more than 200 businesses exhibiting, including the sourcing section, the show floor is a mix of new brands and well-established companies.
A wide variety of outdoor brands are exhibiting at OR, with products ranging from performance apparel and camping chairs to high-end ski gloves and technical rescue gear.
Sean Smith, show director for OR, highlighted the innovative products on the show floor from the emerging brands.
“The newness is actually what’s really exciting,” he said. “Any industry will start to die out and get stale if there’s no newness. You need those up-and-coming brands to challenge convention.”
Reason to Return
Some people are back this year because they’ve had success at OR shows in the past or they miss the social aspect of an industry event.
Ponch Membreno, commercial director for Mainers, a company in the Maine Outdoor Brands association, said Outdoor Retailer has provided a tangible benefit to his business.
At a previous OR, his brand caught the attention of influential online outdoor lifestyle retailer Huckberry. “They placed a big order this year,” he said.
According to Membreno, when Huckberry highlights a brand, the attention can lead to a large boost in sales.
“They’ll start selling in their online store in December, which means we’ll get a lot more marketing attention. It’s huge.”
Gary Neptune and Bibi Gottschall, former owners of Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado, said they were attending OR primarily for the social aspect of the event. Neptune said he’d been coming to OR for more years than he could remember.
“It’s wonderful to see people,” he said. “You do business and build relationships. (The trade show) increases the size and depth and connections within the whole thing. It’s important for the industry to feel that way.”
Neptune said he thought the changes OR is making for next year with the hosted buyer program and the cap on the size of booths was a good move.
“That makes sense,” he added. “Then the small guys can have a shot at it.”
Melinda Perry, wholesale sales manager at Thread Wallets, said that while the show might be a little slower, “the people who want to be here are here. We want to be here. We support the outdoors.”
Perry added that she was excited about the changes OR has proposed for next year, including the large hosted buyer program and capped booth sizes.
“So that the smaller brands like us are getting a chance and having a presence,” she said.
(See lots of photos from brands and retailers from the OR show floor in our slideshow below.)
Inventory Issue Easing For Some
Among some brands the problem of too much inventory persists, though there is a general sense the issue is easing.
Technical snow gear brand Ortovox is still seeing growth as more people want the experience of backcountry skiing and snowboarding, according to Tom Mason, North American manager for the brand.
Ortovox has seen an increase in business among those consumers who want to graduate from resort skiing to something more challenging, Mason said.
Apparel sales make up about 65% of the brand’s sales, with backpacks about 15% and technical rescue equipment the remaining 20%.
Kevin Kaiser, co-founder of hammock and camp chair company Grand Trunk, is seeing a lot of retailers with too much inventory, but that could be improving.
“There is hope. More retailers are saying they’re getting to a neutral inventory position,” he said. “We hope for 2024 that that inventory goes down and they’re more open to buy, they have more room to look at new brands to bring in as they sell out of some of their other brands.”
Kaiser said Grand Trunk does about 70% of its business in the wholesale channel and is hoping to grow that percentage. The brand sells in about 1,000 doors nationwide and is growing.
“We’re continuing to add large and mid-sized retailers,” he added.
Grand Trunk expects to end the year up in the single digit percentages compared to last year.
“It all depends on if Santa brings a lot of hammocks to kids this Christmas,” Kaiser said.
(The Basecamp Bash at evo’s Salt Lake City campus was a huge success, with a long line out the door and a packed event. See photos in our slideshow below.)
Doing Business, Building Relationships
Among the newer brands on the floor, many of them are reporting that this year business is looking up, Smith of Outdoor Retailer said.
“The interesting thing is they’re not like larger companies, the smaller ones who are here don’t have inventory issues,” he added. “They haven’t oversold into the retail base. They’re also nimble, able to move quickly.”
Smith said the emerging brands are finding value in the show because they have an opportunity to stand out and gain the attention of buyers. Many brands on the show floor were having high-quality interactions with key accounts, he added.
“The value of the show is the connections,” Smith said. “The value for the small and new brands is for a retailer to walk into their booth and say ‘that’s really interesting. That may be something I need to carry in my shop.”
(See more photos of brands, speakers, and attendees on Day Two of OR in our slideshow below.)
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tiffany Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com.