Grassroots Outdoor Alliance's Early Show offers early preview of trends and potential top sellers

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance's Early Show, held last week in Salt Lake City at the Snowbird resort, brought together 31 retail stores and 26 vendor companies. GOA President David Matz told SNEWS®, "Each year, the shows get better and this year is no different. I think what impresses me most about the Grassroots Early Show is the level of company leadership that attends to meet with our retail members. There just isn't that level of interaction anywhere else in the industry."
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Grassroots Outdoor Alliance's Early Show, held last week in Salt Lake City at the Snowbird resort, brought together 31 retail stores and 26 vendor companies. GOA President David Matz told SNEWS®, "Each year, the shows get better and this year is no different. I think what impresses me most about the Grassroots Early Show is the level of company leadership that attends to meet with our retail members. We have company presidents and vice presidents of sales participating in line presentations and then sitting down with retailers at breakfast, lunch and dinner to talk about business. There just isn't that level of interaction anywhere else in the industry."

Noting that this show is occurring in what most would agree is still a challenging economic climate, Matz conveyed that the overall sentiment expressed by its retail buyer and owner members was one of conservative optimism. 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, Matz told us.

In all, 91 retail buyers -- 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, Great Outdoor Provision, Half Moon Outfitters, Idaho Mountain Touring, Massey's, Midwest Mountaineering, Nat's, Northern Lights, Outside Hilton Head, Pack Rat, Peak Sports, 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 company presidents, national sales managers and reps from Asolo, CamelBak, Deuter, END Footwear, ExOfficio, Gregory, Horny Toad, Keen, Kelty, La Sportiva, Lole, Lowa, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Montrail, Outdoor Research, Patagonia Footwear, Prana, Royal Robbins, Salomon, SmartWool, Smith Sport Optic, Tilley Endurables, Vasque, Wigwam and Yakima.

For the vendors, SNEWS was told that the Early 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 the early input," said Alex Kutches, vice president of sales for Outdoor Research. "While many vendors have already started showing their lines to large accounts such as REI, the Early Show gives all of us a vital checkpoint in looking at our lines. And we still have sufficient time to react to the information we receive and make small design and color changes as it makes sense before the national show, Outdoor Retailer."

As for the retail members who attend each year, most told us while we were visiting that 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. Ultimately, it saves them time and money at upcoming trade shows -- both regional and national.

Naturally, SNEWS was most interested in what the Early Show attendees thought were the must-see, hot products as we head into Summer Market, so get your notepad or laptop ready to take some 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:

• Patagonia's Covalent Heel Flip-flops

• Prana tops with lots of color and sublimated patterns

• Smith Sport Optics' Pivlock

• Lowa's Sella boot

• Asolo's new PowerLite line

• Mountain Hardwear's Pinol (20 degree) and ExtraLamina (0 and 20 degree) sleeping bags

• Salomon's XA Pro Mid for light-and-fast hiking

• SmartWool's merino and merino-blend tops and pants

• Deuter's Spectro

• Horny Toad's line -- which we heard was "well thought out."

• Gregory appears to be back in business with its strongest line since the buyout.

• Vasque's Transistor FS with new footbed/midsole technology

• CamelBak's Flowmeter and UV purifier

• Keen's kids' line

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--Michael Hodgson

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