The seventh annual Early Show, hosted by Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Early Show (formerly ROI), took place during the week of June 11. The Early Show is evolving along with the expanded mission statement of Grassroots with this year’s show offering a much more interactive format and educational opportunities intended to enable independent, specialty retailers to strengthen their competitive edge.
Ninety-four buyers from the 32 specialty outdoor retailers comprising Grassroots arrived ready to work at Utah’s Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. This year, each retailer traveled carbon-neutral, thanks to an offset purchase by Chaco through Native Energy. Vendor numbers totaled 30 for the 2007 Early Show, which included 86 sales managers, reps, and merchandisers.
Dave Matz, president of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, said that the energy of the Early Show was excellent.
"Retailers are posting good numbers, and vendors are pleased to see the commitment of the individuals as well as the group," he said.
For the first time, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) presented to the Grassroots group. This is an indication of the two organizations working more closely together going forward, Matz confirmed.
OIA’s Ann Obenchain presented an overview of the new educational workshops designed for outdoor retailers to enhance the knowledge base for store managers and buyers. The workshops will be offered at this year’s regional and national shows, and at the OIA Rendezvous in October.
Additionally, this year’s breakout sessions -- done in a round-table format for the first time -- added depth to the Early Show.
"This year’s breakout sessions were filled with great information and were in a format that invited attendees to share their experiences, methods, questions and examples for the benefit of all," Matz said.
Breakout session content included:
- Geoff Brugler of Appalachian Ski & Outdoor: "Take a Load off Your Shoulders and Put It On Someone Else’s or How to Write An Employee Manual in under Six Months"
- Jason Gee of The Leisure Trends Group: "The Power of Numbers - An In-depth Look at Grassroots Retailer Sales Data"
- Joe Butler Sr., of Black Creek Outfitters: "The Pros and Cons of Operating an Experiential (guide/instruction) Program as a Part of Your Retail Business"
- Tom Jones of Wilderness Sports: "The Math behind the Merchandise: Key formulas of retail inventory management"
The Early Show is perhaps best known for the advance preview of new products slated to be unveiled at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, and this year was no exception. Early Show product presentations are often unique in their format, and this year Patagonia raised it one more notch.
"Patagonia did a major presentation of the Spring 2008 line on the opening day of the Early Show this year, complete with live models," Matz said. "Needless to say, this presentation was a significant departure from how most buyers usually see the line with their reps."
The Patagonia presentation included personal access to the company’s product line managers, who offered the story on each collection from concept to finished product. What’s more, John Collins, Patagonia’s vice president of sales, was able to give an overall presentation of Patagonia’s vision, challenges, successes and focus for the coming year.
"This kind of access to the key people within an organization is fantastic," Matz said.
The vendors receive important feedback during a critical time of the selling cycle as well.
Contourwear, a first-time Grassroots vendor attendee, said that she felt a strong commitment level from retailers.
"The commitment was really strong among Grassroots members to foster new relationships, share best practices and openly discuss business challenges we all face," said Julie Liveris of Contourwear. "We felt that there was an incredibly open mind set among this group. They are continually looking for ways to satisfy their customer base and take care of the bottom line."
All vendors showed product on Tuesday through Thursday at the Snowbird facility. As in years past, SNEWS® asked Grassroots members for their "hot picks" for brands and products that stood out to them during the three days. Here is a quick peek of those who garnered the most attention, along with comments plucked from the quotes we read:
- Patagonia Footwear – "Exceptional."
- Pacific Outdoor Equipment – "Continues to make strides in their pad business."
- Timbuk2 – "Offered some excellent colors, designs, and more Limited Edition bags."
- Lowa – "Really like the new styles. Updates on the AL-X line a significant improvement! Colors are much improved; black/mustard and anthracite/orange are great. Good lime green in women's."
- Contourwear – "The new Adventure Travel Pack (seven pieces that make 35 outfits and pack up into a laptop sized pouch) was well-thought-out."
- Indigenous Designs – "Had nice assortment of women’s shirts, pants and shorts in a cohesive color story."
- Horny Toad – "Offered a strong women’s collection, particularly the Happy Hour collection and the Firefly fabric."
- Ex Officio – "Nice color selections and fabrics. Additionally, BuzzOff is now approved for 70 washings, making it more cost effective for customers."
- Vasque – "Great line, Velocity looking good."
- Salomon – "X-wing and XA pros will be great again next year."
- Asolo – "Flame series looked cool."
- Marmot – "All tents and packs looked great, particularly Aeros 3-person tent at just 5.5-lbs."
- Chaco – "Redrock and Canyonland Low had great strap colors. The line was so solid, it’s going to be a matter of which one we don’t buy."
The 2008 show will be at the Snowbird resorts June 16-19.