The Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Early Show, held last week in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the Snowbird resort, brought together 32 retail stores and 30 vendor companies for what Grassroots president David Matz described as, "Our best show ever."
"The vendors came fully sampled and with all paperwork and terms ready to go, and our member retailers arrived open-minded, optimistic and ready to embrace new products," Matz told SNEWS®.
But while the show itself was good, Matz underscored the common sentiment expressed at previous shows SNEWS® has attended: The opportunity to see product and place orders before Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is good, but what makes the Early Show so great is the opportunity to network and spend time meeting with other retailers, reps and company executives in an intimate setting.
Added Matz, "Without a doubt, it's the human interaction -- at breakfast, lunch and dinner, in our seminars, and in the various meeting areas around the resort -- that is the Early Show's most valuable asset."
In all, 96 retailers, including store owners and buyers from the Alpine Shop, Appalachian Ski, Base Camp, Benchmark Outfitters, Bill Jackson's, Black Creek, Buffalo Peak, Casual Adventure, Champaign Surplus, Elephant's Perch, Great Outdoor Provision, Half Moon Outfitters, Idaho Mountain Touring, Massey's, Midwest Mountaineering, Nat's, Northern Lights, Outdoors Inc., Outside Hilton Head, Pack Rat, Pine Needle, River Sports, Rock Creek, Skinny Skis, Summit Canyon Mountaineering, Summit Hut, Travel Country, Trailblazer, Ute Mountaineer, Wild River, Wilderness Sports and Wilson's met with 97 vendors and reps from Asolo, Camelbak, Contourwear, Deuter, ExOfficio, Gregory, Horny Toad, Keen, Kelty, La Sportiva, Lole, Lowa, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Montrail, Olukai, Optic Nerve, Outdoor Research, Pacific Outdoor Equipment, Patagonia, Patagonia Footwear, Royal Robbins, Salomon, SmartWool, Smith Sport Optic, Spyderco, Timbuk2, Vasque, Wigwam and Yakima.
For the vendors, the show continues to be a key element in ensuring their lines are fully dialed by the time Summer Market arrives.
"The Early Show is always very productive and we really value early input," said Brad Bates of Mountain Hardwear. "This is the first show that many of these vendors go to, and it kicks off the season. It gives vendors time to react to the information received and we are able to make some changes to our line if we can."
And for the retail member who attend each year, the Early Show continues to be as much about seeing new products as locking down orders from vendors they know are in their buying mix, saving time and money at future trade shows.
"The Early Show format forced us to look at lines we wouldn't see normally, and as a result, we will spend less time at other industry shows. It's saving us time and money," said Carl Moak of Summit Canyon Mountaineering.
Bob Wade of Ute Mountaineer added, "The format of the show encouraged us to see new lines and vendors, and we were able to take advantage of programs from new vendors that we had not worked with recently."
Naturally, SNEWS® was most interested in what the Early Show attendees thought were the must-see, hot products as we go into Summer Market, so get your notepad or laptop ready to take some appointment notes. Here are a few of the products that multiple Grassroots Outdoor Alliance retail members told SNEWS® are stellar and will likely make it onto their sales floor in the coming season:
- Timbuk2 -- Rolling luggage, as well as shoulder bags with sleeves that fit over the luggage handles for easy toting
- Keen -- Harvest (Rice Bag shoe)
- SmartWool -- Women's bike jerseys
- SmartWool -- Women's Metro sock styles
- Mountain Hardwear -- Reality Check bags
- Mountain Hardwear -- Clouds Rest sleeping bag
- Mountain Hardwear -- Switch sleeping bag
- Mountain Hardwear -- Intention pack, men's and women's
- Montrail -- Mountain Masochist trail running shoe
- Marmot -- Down Yurt sleeping bag
- Marmot -- Mica and Crystalline jackets
- Kelty -- Shiro tents
- Outdoor Research -- Dry Vaults, soft-sided dry bags
- Outdoor Research -- Exped mats and pads
- La Sportiva -- Wildcat trail running shoe
- La Sportiva -- Cascade GTX and Cypress GTX hiking shoes
- La Sportiva -- Gandolfo approach shoe
- Camelbak -- Alpine line
- Gregory -- Z-65 and Jade 60 packs
- Salomon -- Tech Amphibian redux
- Lowa -- Zephyr shoe
- Olukai -- Sandals
- Patagonia -- Sugar & Spice, women's lifestyle shoe
- Asolo -- Omni shoe
- Vasque -- Solera VST shoe
- Salomon -- Exit Sport 2, women's shoe
- Vasque -- Solera VST shoe
- Asolo -- Omni shoe
- Royal Robbins -- No particular product was pointed out, but retailers said the line "looked better than it has in years."
Side notes from the show:
>> Word on the street is that representatives from Timbuk2 were overheard talking during an after-hours conversation during the event, saying the company would be opening in 30 Dick's Sporting Goods locations. Needless to say, the news went over like a lead balloon with the few retailers who knew by the end of the show. A call to Perry Klebahn, Timbuk2's president, was not returned by the time we posted this story (*see chat thread at the end of the article for update on Timbuk2 following Klebahn's call to SNEWS on June 24).
>> Yes, higher prices are coming, that is no secret. Steve Pruitt of Black's Retail Analysts spoke to retailers at Early Show and he offered up this take-away: Price increases are not new for other market segments, most notably high-end men's clothiers, which have been dealing with price jumps due to the collapsing dollar and the rising Euro. Yet many of these retailers have all been doing well, despite the fact that formerly $1,000 suits now cost $2,500. Why? The price increases have provided a strong incentive for retailers to be turning to vendors and seeking out other unique and exciting products to bring to the retail floor. Those retailers (and vendors) that continue to bring out the same product with the only thing new being a higher price can expect to suffer. Those who seek to be creative and innovative will still do well.