Open those calendar apps again. Outdoor Retailer announced today that they are shifting the dates of OR + SS 2019 to Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2019, three weeks later than the original schedule. And, in a quick pivot, Winter Sports Market (WSM), an annual buying show put on by Sports Specialists, Ltd. (SSL) and Snowsports Merchandising Corp. (SMC), has decided to reverse its decision to move from Denver to Salt Lake City for 2019.
The moves are an effort to keep the winter sports community united in one place, during one succinct time period.
A change has been in the works since immediately following the successful inaugural show in January 2018. "We heard pretty loud and clear that our pre-MLK weekend dates would be difficult for retailers," said Marisa Nicholson, director of Outdoor Retailer. "It really wasn't until post-show that we were hearing that it would be a big problem. We had agreed that we would look at changing the dates of 2020 and beyond."
WSM 2019: Jan. 27 to 29, 2019
OR + SS 2019: Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2019
But Nicholson was surprised about the timing of the late February SSL/SMC announcement that they would relocate the Winter Sports Market from Colorado to Utah, because date adjustments were already being explored. “We heard shortly after their announcement that it was very likely we would be able to move to the later dates, and we let both SSL & SMC know. We kept them up to date throughout this whole process,” she said.
WSM's short-lived split
Traditionally, WSM has aligned its dates with the former SIA Snow Show, and most recently with the blended OR + SS held in late January this year.
However, the next four years of OR + SS were scheduled for three weeks earlier, in an early January timeframe.
Members of SSL and SMC—such as Michael Strachan with Cole Sport Inc. in Park City, Utah—felt that early January didn't work for a number of reasons: proximity to the holidays, conflicting regional shows, in-store staffing concerns, and deadlines to place orders with manufacturers.
“We’re getting pulled in a lot of different directions,” Strachan said.
In March Dave Nacke, president of SSL, said he has been transparent and vocal with OR about how the dates were a problem for the specialty channel. So when the dates didn't line up in their favor, he said they had to seek other options.
Choosing to move from Colorado to Utah was not easy though. He said he knew half the ski world was "going to hate us," and the other half would be supportive.
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, SSL is a company that is owned by the individual stockholders, which are those ski shops, and we have to have their interests always at the front of mind," Nacke previously told SNEWS. "It was a heart-wrenching decision that was made collaboratively between both buying groups."
Of course, when WSM released its plan to move to Salt Lake City, the announcement was met with enthusiasm by Utah. Last year, the state lost Outdoor Retailer when the show’s leadership sought a new venue in a state more aligned with the outdoor industry’s public lands position.
“Utah is a great place to do business and we are thrilled the WSM Show is coming to Utah,” Tom Adams, director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation told us following the initial announcement.
But the Denver show in January was a hit, with momentum and energy built around the merging of the industries. And it’s why the split stung those in the industry who had worked so hard to bring everyone together for the national show.
Nick Sargent, president of SIA, reacted to WSM’s initial Utah announcement in a newsletter to the organizations members, stating that the separation by the two buying groups splintered the industry’s collaboration.
“The ramifications of the buying groups separating from the national show are far reaching,” Sargent told SNEWS. “It would not only create more stress and strain on an industry squeezed for time and resources, but it would also throw a wrench in what was supposed to be a fully-aligned show. At this point in time, now more than ever, we need to be working collaboratively as an industry.”
Coming back together
WSM's shift back to Denver and the later dates of OR + SS seem to make sense for all parties. And all the players deserve credit for their ability to work out a plan that unites—rather than divides—the brands and retailers of the outdoor and winter sports industries during what is always the busiest trade show month of the year: January.
"I often wish that there were six weeks in January," joked Nicholson.
The new OR + SS 2019 will happen right between the SHOT show in Las Vegas scheduled for the week prior and ISPO Munich the week after.
Realigning the show schedule was not simple. Nicholson said for weeks OR had to work with the Colorado Convention Center to clear multiple other events, amend contracts with the hotels in Denver, and ensure they weren't overlapping with other national and regional shows.
Plus, the show is paring down to a three-day, mid-week format, which Nicholson said is the clear retailer preference.
Colorado is happy to have both shows, according to Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
"One of Outdoor Retailer's primary focus areas is keeping our industry and our ecosystem together to help us deliver on the larger promise of building a collective and cohesive voice and vision for what we’re capable of moving into for the future," said Benitez. "We’re honored that Colorado will continue to be the collaborative home and the catalyst for that larger conversation."
Despite a signed contract with the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, SMC President Tom Gately confirmed that WSM would co-locating in Denver with OR + SS 2019.
“We’re extremely pleased that Outdoor Retailer listened to the needs of the specialty retail community and has scheduled their show so as to not conflict with the busy pre-Martin Luther King holiday selling season,” Gately said in a press release. “The selling season for snowsports is extremely short and retailers need to be in their stores in the most critical times they have to do business.”
And Nacke said in the press release, “SSL is excited for the specialty retail community that Outdoor Retailer was open to change, and was able to facilitate a change. For SSL, it makes it easier for buyers to attend both WSM along with OR. It’s about the retail community, the suppliers and our national industry show all supporting each other."
Sargent said SIA was awaiting the new dates before starting conversations with Copper Mountain and Western Winter Sports Representatives Association to plan a demo day to follow the show.
"This is just a great step forward for our industry, and it gives us the opportunity to build on what we created in January," he told SNEWS. "It reinforces that we have partnered with the right event producer in Emerald Expositions, and they are willing to go to he mat for what’s right for the industry."
“The co-location of important retail buying groups with Outdoor Retailer at both the November and January shows creates efficiencies in workflow for both retailers and vendors. We look forward to an exciting Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in the coming years,” Roberts said.
One group is certainly not thrilled with the news: Utah. But Adams could not be immediately reached for comment.
· WSM / Sunday, Jan. 26 – Tuesday, Jan. 28
· Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show / Wednesday, Jan. 29 – Friday, Jan. 31
· WSM / Sunday, Jan. 24 – Tuesday, Jan. 26
· Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show / Wednesday, Jan. 27 – Friday, Jan. 29
· WSM / Sunday, Jan. 23 – Tuesday, Jan. 25
· Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show / Wednesday, Jan. 26 – Friday, Jan. 28