Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Early Show celebrates 10th year

In its 10th year, the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Early Show put together an event that wowed not only its member retailers but attending vendors as well. From an appearance by Conrad Anker to special awards and tributes, SNEWS was there to bring you this firsthand report.
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The Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Early Show, held June 7-10 at Snowbird Resort in Utah, marked the 10th anniversary of the Early Show -- and by all accounts, it was the best one ever.

The 215 in attendance included SNEWS®, 35 Grassroots Outdoor Alliance member retail stores and their owners, managers and buyers, 29 vendor partner companies including executives, senior staff and reps, several potential vendor partners, and Conrad Anker with the Conservation Alliance.

Following a dinner that officially opened the Early Show on June 7, Topher Gaylord, newly minted president of Mountain Hardwear (click here to read the March 2010 news announcement on SNEWS®), hosted a reception and addressed retail members of GOA in the Golden Cliff room of the Cliff Lodge at the Snowbird resort (see photo to right). For Gaylord, not only did the moment represent a formalizing of his coming home to the outdoor industry after a brief hiatus in the fashion jeans world, but it represented a coming home of another sort, too -- his family actually built the Cliff Lodge in 1973, and yes, Gaylord has a lifetime pass to the resort. 

For new GOA president Roanne Miller, this too, in a way, marked her coming-out party as this event was her first after taking over for longtime GOA president David Matz who stepped down last year. (Click here to read our Oct. 23, 2009, SNEWS story, “Grassroots Outdoor Alliance hires Roanne Miller as president.)

While universally GOA members were grateful for all the work Matz had done to drive the organization forward, the appreciation for the level of professionalism and direction Miller has achieved for the organization in just over seven months was hard to miss. GOA board member Dawson Wheeler told SNEWS, “In sports, it’s called a break-out year that comes from either a great draft pick or a new coach that comes to town. The GOA show was a reflection of such a statement and the reason is Roanne. She is a leader, a general, and our board and our members, both retail and vendors alike, respect her. She has quickly bridged the gap between vendors and our members by expressing objective data, concerns and opportunities with keen follow through, grit and determination. And as a result, our show was filled with excitement and a sense of unity.”

Mood and energy wasn’t the only change people noticed. Another was abandoning the traditional outdoor event carnival tent setup GOA had relied on since moving to Snowbird and taking all the meetings indoors. While that meant not everyone was under one roof, and meetings were spread between various ballrooms and even buildings (more than a few retailers were rendered breathless racing up and down the hill between Cliff Lodge and Snowbird Center), complaints were few and praise was high.

“It was honestly nice being inside. You could have much better conversations and not worry about rain water pouring into your meeting space and onto merchandise in the event of some crazy June Wasatch weather,” Alex Kutches, national sales manager for Outdoor Research, told us. “I actually attended the first early show at Stanford Sierra Camp at Fallen Leaf Lake in California, and the whole production has come a long way since those days.”

“I found the GOA show the best to date!” said Beaty Jackson, independent rep for Deuter and others. “The moving inside took away the ‘surprise’ element that Snowbird can throw at you. The dealers all seemed to be lighter in spirit, and Roanne and Hope (Buttitta, longtime office manager for GOA) did a fantastic job -- I think their enthusiasm is moving this group forward at blazing speed.”

Even possible future vendor partners for GOA were more than slightly impressed with what they saw. 

“As a potential vendor partner, I travelled to Snowbird to check out the GOA show in person,” George Curleigh, director of sales for Arc’Teryx North America, told SNEWS. “My main reason for thinking of joining GOA was to support the specialty retailers that really helped launch Arc’Teryx; however, I was positively surprised by the professional setup of the show. 

“Roanne and Hope did a great job. I think being a vendor partner will be a great working tool as well; we will be able to meet with many of our specialty accounts early to discuss business, plan marketing strategies and get good feedback on our new products,” he added. “Great accounts, great show -- I think I’m sold!”

After dinner on the last night of Early Show, Miller kicked off an award ceremony that she told us was designed to “recognize outstanding individuals and companies who have contributed to the organization since its inception in 1993. Recognition was aimed at those who have helped make 10 years of Early Shows possible.”

The awards were:

Community Service Award: Horny Toad and Nau for its Planet Access program.

Vendor of the Year: SmartWool received the most nominations by the membership, but at least 10 vendors received “vendor of the year” nods.

Buyer of the Year: Laura Jones of River Sports was nominated by the vendor partners that GOA works with.

Founder Awards: Dave Baker and Tom Valone were two of the founding members of what was then known as ROI (Retailers of the Outdoor Industry) that are still part of the group. “With this being our 10th anniversary of the Early Show, we wanted to recognize their efforts to start this organization back in 1994 and their commitment to the group today. Both Dave and Tom serve as mentors for so many of our members,” Miller told SNEWS.

Patron Award: Peter Sachs of Lowa Boots has attended every one of the GOA Early Shows as a representative of Lowa. “As a result, we wanted to recognize his ongoing commitment to our organization -- through rain, snow and sleet!” said Miller

Honorary Award: Nat Love with Nat's Outdoor Sports. When Baker presented the award to Love he mentioned that he had been with the group since its inception and was always there to support the organization. Baker said he felt Love took a leap of faith in getting behind the concept and still stays committed to it today, and for that, he added, the recognition is long overdue.

“New energy, outstanding leadership and a committed group of retailers made our Early Show a very special and rewarding event on all fronts. From Gordon Seabury talking up the triple bottom line, to Conrad Anker entertaining us with his latest slide show where for once the team doesn’t summit, and real business being done all the while -- I came away from this event reinvigorated for retail,” said Beezer Molten, owner of Half-Moon Outfitters.

The 11th Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Early Show will be held at Snowbird June 12-15, 2011.

--Michael Hodgson

**Look for a SNEWS report the first week of July highlighting the hot product preview picks seen at Early Show and noticed by SNEWS and GOA retail members that you’ll want to check out at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010.

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