Columbia pulls out of North American trade shows for 2007 and beyond

Columbia Sportswear has pulled out of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, SIA, Magic and WSA for 2007, while Columbia's wholly-owned brands, such as Sorel, Montrail and Mountain Hardwear, will continue to exhibit at select trade shows.
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Columbia Sportswear has pulled out of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, SIA, MAGIC and WSA for 2007. Columbia's wholly-owned brands, such as Sorel, Montrail and Mountain Hardwear, will continue to exhibit at select trade shows SNEWS® has learned.

To keep track of what brand is scheduled where requires a play card. For 2007, Columbia representatives tell us that:

  1. Sorel is exhibiting at SIA and will be at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. However, it will not be at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market or WSA.
  2. Montrail will not be at WSA, but will continue to exhibit at both Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets.
  3. Mountain Hardwear will continue to exhibit at Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets, as well as SIA.
  4. Columbia Sportswear (the Columbia brand) will no longer exhibit at Outdoor Retailer Winter or Summer Markets, SIA, WSA or MAGIC. The company is maintaining a meeting room at the 2007 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to meet with press.
  5. As for international trade shows, Columbia, Montrail and Mountain Hardwear will continue to exhibit at ispo Winter, ispo Summer and OutDoor Friedrichshafen going forward.

Columbia spokesperson Anne Lindberg told SNEWS® that Columbia is pulling out of North American trade shows because it has a "desire to respond to consolidation in the number of retailers and buyers in the market, along with buying patterns that are moving earlier in the season and at a faster pace."

Lindberg told us that Columbia would be replacing trade shows with an event that "will bring our channel partners to Portland for a world-class experience."

Naturally, trade show executives see the move by Columbia a bit differently.

"The interesting thing to see will be if this initiative plays well in Columbia's different market segments," said David Ingemie, president of SIA. "I would be concerned how one strategy plays for all the different markets. Each of the trade shows represents a completely separate market segment: MAGIC, Outdoor Retailer, SIA or WSA."

Peter Devin, group trade show director for VNU, which owns the Outdoor Retailer shows, added, "Although Columbia will be at Outdoor Retailer this winter in a small presence, Columbia has made the decision to cancel most of their trade show booth presence at shows going forward, as the company is working much earlier in the season with its larger customers.

"Outdoor Retailer has been and continues to work closely with the outdoor market and the Outdoor Industry Association to evaluate these evolving market shifts, and will hold the shows on the dates that can serve the broadest group of specialty outdoor buyers and sellers."

SNEWS® View: It is not hard to understand Columbia's decision from a purely bottom-line perspective. There appears to be little logic behind paying millions each year to attend trade shows that, for the most part, have become mostly meet and greet shows for the company and no longer serve as selling shows.

From the trade show perspective, no show can accommodate every exhibitor's ideal sales cycle. Even if a trade show shifts to earlier dates to serve larger vendors' buying cycles, there will be exhibitors that are not being served well or at all.

Take paddlesports, for example. SNEWS® has been hearing for some time now that since dealers are already taking deliveries on boats that are being shown at the trade show, the show takes on less and less importance when weighed against costs. And it's no secret that most of the larger brands -- outdoor, ski, footwear and apparel -- have already visited most of the larger retailers and even many of the medium-sized ones by the time a trade show rolls around. So, does the show move itself earlier in the summer? Perhaps, but then again, would hardgoods companies be served, and what of retailers who would be removed from their stores during peak selling months? There is, frankly, no ideal answer. So, larger brands must decide just how important a show is to its overall goals of market influence and position.

How will Columbia's move affect the trade shows? While Nike pulling from Super Show many years ago marked the beginning of the end for SGMA's once gala event, there is little fear that Columbia pulling from any trade show this season will have a similar effect.

In fact, we think Columbia might just find that its absence will affect its market share in the segment it has just shunned. SIA has data it has shared with SNEWS® in the past that supports the notion that larger brands that avoid a trade show and focus only on the bigger retailers lose market share simply because they are no longer as visible in a broader market segment.

Certainly, retailers and their customers have more replacement alternatives than ever before, which would appear to open some huge market doors for brands such as Merrell apparel, Timberland, Icebreaker, Ibex, Prana, Horny Toad, Gramicci and many others.

If Columbia is no longer at the trade shows, and is simply focusing on creating events in Portland to cater to existing large customers, we wonder where the company will turn to grow its business? Kohls, Dillard's, Target, Wal-Mart? And maybe that's just the point -- specialty markets might not be important to Columbia anymore.

>> What are your views and thoughts on Columbia pulling out of trade shows? Let us know by going to the SNEWS® Chat Threads with ongoing discussions. Click here to post your views and to read what others have said.

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