Outdoor Retailer opens its 2019 shows starting late this month. Courtesy Scott Martin

Retailers provide feedback on Outdoor Retailer

Brian Kelleghan of Longmont-based Bison Designs is glad the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show will be three and not four days since it moved out of Salt Lake City.

“They don’t have the attendance,” said Kelleghan, owner and chief executive officer of Bison Designs LLC, which designs and manufacturers outdoor accessories, and an attendee of the show for about 30 years in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and now Denver. “The last two days were seriously, there were virtually no attendees. Three days instead of four, that was a good decision.”

Kelleghan would prefer that the Snow Show be combined with the Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer markets that provide a platform for outdoor brands, manufacturers and retailers to display the latest products on the market from equipment and gear to apparel and accessories. The shows are business-to-business outdoor sports trade shows that provide intelligence on trends, innovations and technology for the $800 billion outdoor industry.

“They should combine it all and make it one big show because it makes exhibitors like myself — we are going to be somewhat vulnerable to missing people if we go only two to three days — an incentive to go,” Kelleghan said.

Kelleghan and other retailers who have attended the Outdoor Retailer international conventions over the past 35 years have seen a few benefits, along with some drawbacks, to how the shows operate in Denver versus Salt Lake City. There, Utah’s stance on public lands policy, an ending contract and a boycott by outdoor brands in 2017 resulted in a move to Colorado with the Snow Show the fourth Outdoor Retailer show in the state.

The move was conducted over 14 months instead of the typical two to three years, said Luis Benitez, director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office in Denver.

“The shows in January and July are known entities, a known volume and scale,” Benitez said. “We were pretty nervous we’d miss something. … Many of the learnings were technical and scheduling things.”

Luis Benitez, director Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry, poses near the Colorado Convention Center where Outdoor Retailer is held. BizWest file photo

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, Visit Denver and the city of Denver worked together to welcome show attendees, and organizers aimed to recreate the trade show space at the Colorado Convention Center to be similar to that of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, which it was outgrowing, Benitez said.

“We wanted to make sure the industry felt welcomed in our state and community,” Benitez said. “The industry has shown up very well and embraced the move. It was more of you move to a new neighborhood, the neighborhood wants to show up and welcome you and make sure you feel at home.”

Show organizers chose Colorado for its bipartisan politics and embrace of the outdoor recreation industry, plus the availability of hotels, restaurants and entertainment options, said Amy Roberts, executive director of the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association, one of the Snow Show partners, along with Snowsports Industries America.

“We were looking for a state that had the policies and political leadership that reflected the values of the industry,” Roberts said.

The state has a large number of outdoor recreation opportunities, making it even more appealing, said Marisa Nicholson, vice president and show director for Outdoor Retailer.

“We ultimately decided on Colorado and Denver because of the amount of outdoor activities that are represented there and how that is represented in products and brands,” Nicholson said.

The three shows launch new products and brands, promote existing offerings and create new accounts by bringing together retailers, reps and suppliers who set up their vendor booths, covering more than a half million net square feet and three floors at the Colorado Convention Center. So far, 800 to 1,400 vendors and 20,000 to 30,000 visitors have come to each of the Denver shows — organizers estimate they will bring $110 million to the city every year.

The Outdoor Retailer Snow Show will be Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2019, opening at 9 a.m. all three days and continue to 6 p.m. Jan. 30-31 and 4 p.m. on Feb. 1. The Snow Show covers a long list of outdoor activities from backpacking and camping to hiking, skiing, snow sports, water sports, mountain biking, running, fishing, health and fitness, yoga, nutrition and pet products.

The Snow Show and Summer Market in 2019 will represent the first year the timing of the shows match the outdoor sales cycle, both when products are introduced and buyers make their decisions, Nicholson said. The Summer Market will be moved from July and August to June (in 2019, it will be June 18-20), and the Winter Market already moved this year from January to November and was the first such show this year.

“Theoretically, the Outdoor Retailer and Winter Market were during the same timeframe in January,” Nicholson said. “When we made the move to Denver, we recognized it was not beneficial to the industry to host two shows within a couple of weeks of each other.”

As of mid-December, 800 vendors signed up to be part of the Snow Show, but more are expected to join by January — last year, the Snow Show had  more than 1,000 vendors and 37 countries represented among the vendors and attendees, Nicholson said.

The three shows also were moved from the weekend to mid-week to accommodate retailers’ needs to be in their stores over the weekend, Nicholson said.

“People felt like they could get business done in three days and that it would create efficiencies if the show was three days instead of four days,” Nicholson said. “There’s opportunities to network, discover new products and make new relationships. There are tons of opportunities that the show offers.”

Vendors get early retailer feedback to guide what they produce and sell, access the media to promote their stories to consumers, and attend training sessions, leadership seminars and educational and issue-related sessions on conservation, sustainability and public policy that affect the outdoor industry.

“It’s great to see products and innovations that will be in store,” Roberts said. “There is the business of the show and community coming together to move the industry forward in a unified way. … It is the biggest trade show Denver has now.”

Jim Lamancusa, founder of Cusa Tea in Boulder, presented at the Outdoor Retailer for the first time last year and will do so again in 2019. BizWest file photo

Jim Lamancusa, CEO and founder of Cusa Tea in Boulder, which produces organic instant tea, has attended four shows so far, two in Salt Lake City and two in Denver, to help promote his small, local brand, he said. He liked that the Denver show offers more space to bring in more brands, he said.

“A lot of retailers don’t know we exist yet,” Lamancusa said. “I look at everybody who attends the show, vendors, shops, anybody that’s a tea drinker. … I’m just trying to get them to try the product and hopefully become a consumer.”

Lamancusa appreciates that he was on the main show floor for the Summer Market in Denver but found it limiting when he was stuck in a downstairs hallway during the Winter Market. The booths are set up in the main convention floor space, as well as the hallways for additional space, he said.

“It was really difficult for people to find us,” Lamancusa said. “It’s difficult to find you if you’re not on the main floor. They need more and better signage for the booths in the hallways.”

Lamancusa, like Kelleghan, agrees that the show should be shorter, finding that the last day of the four-day shows was slow, while the other three days were packed and busy. But still, “if you are an outdoor person, it’s the show to be at. Every time I go there, it makes me excited to go outside again,” he said.

“You get to see the whole industry in one location. You get to see all the trends and products without traveling the country,” Lamancusa said.

Michele Leifer, vice president of sales and marketing for Backpackers Pantry, a family-owned Boulder company that produces gourmet freeze-dried camping food, has been going to the shows the past five years and has also gone in years past, while the company has been attending the shows for 26 years.

“I think Denver is a better city to handle a convention of this size,” Leifer said. “The convention center is beautiful. It’s set up really nice on dual levels as opposed to being so spread out. … I like the amount of natural light in the building. I like the downtown atmosphere.”

To add to that atmosphere, Outdoor Retailer added public, consumer-facing events in 2018 to bring in the public to part of the show, including a concert and film festival. During the Snow Show, there will be Icelantic’s Winter on the Rocks on Feb. 1 at Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Backcountry Film Festival, “Night of Stoke,” on Jan. 31 at the Bellco Theatre at the Colorado Convention Center.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to work with our partners to allow the public to have the opportunity to celebrate this industry while we’re in town,” Nicholson said.

Brian Kelleghan of Longmont-based Bison Designs is glad the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show will be three and not four days since it moved out of Salt Lake City.

“They don’t have the attendance,” said Kelleghan, owner and chief executive officer of Bison Designs LLC, which designs and manufacturers outdoor accessories, and an attendee of the show for about 30 years in Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and now Denver. “The last two days were seriously, there were virtually no attendees. Three days instead of four, that was a good decision.”

Kelleghan would prefer that the Snow Show be combined with the Outdoor Retailer Winter and Summer markets that provide a platform for outdoor brands, manufacturers and retailers to display the latest products on the market from equipment and gear to apparel and accessories. The shows are business-to-business outdoor sports trade shows that provide intelligence on trends, innovations and technology for the $800 billion outdoor industry.

“They should combine it all and make it one big show because it makes exhibitors like myself — we are going to be somewhat vulnerable to missing people if we go only two to three days — an incentive to go,” Kelleghan said.

Kelleghan and other retailers who have attended the Outdoor Retailer international conventions over the past 35 years have seen a few benefits, along with some drawbacks, to how the shows operate in Denver versus Salt Lake City. There, Utah’s stance on public lands policy,…