OIA Rendezvous best ever despite a less-than-ideal location

The Outdoor Industry Rendezvous, an annual Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) event, played host this year to 258 industry attendees at the Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado from Oct. 6-9. Billed by OIA as a place to "interact, innovate, invigorate," this year's Rendezvous featured three keynote speakers and 12 breakout sessions with topics ranging from economic forecasts and the future of outdoor recreation to energizing the youth and women's markets and combating the inactivity crisis in America.
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The Outdoor Industry Rendezvous, an annual Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) event, played host this year to 258 industry attendees at the Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado from Oct. 6-9.

Billed by OIA as a place to "interact, innovate, invigorate," this year's Rendezvous featured three keynote speakers and 12 breakout sessions with topics ranging from economic forecasts and the future of outdoor recreation to energizing the youth and women's markets and combating the inactivity crisis in America. As always, we send out a special thanks to the folks at Timberland and City Year for helping industry volunteers spend four hours on Saturday giving back through a variety of organized service projects including one in a local community improving outdoor recreation facilities and another providing some much-needed maintenance and enhancement to a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Of course, the real added-value in the Rendezvous is the opportunity to network, discuss issues, ask questions, find inspiration, and laugh with other industry leaders during the many meals, before-meal cocktail hours, and after-meal entertainment sessions.

Yet again, in what we believe was the smoothest-operating and best Rendezvous in the history of the event, OIA proved that it is simply impossible to not walk away from the Rendezvous with more than you came with.

Attendance flat, with a few concerning trends
OIA reported to us that there were 119 new attendees this year. That of course begged the question: What happened to the 119 attendees from last year that didn't return since attendance this year was virtually the same as last. Retailer numbers also slipped, which concerns us (19 this year compared with 35 in 2004 and 20 in 2003). Manufacturer attendance was up, with 112 in attendance compared with 90 in 2004 and only 57 in 2003. OIA told SNEWS® that 31 states, as well as New Zealand and Canada, were represented.

Not surprisingly, given the destination of Beaver Creek, Colo., 45 percent of all attendees came from either Colorado or California and 59 percent of all attendees came from places west of Colorado.

We trust and expect that with the Rendezvous moving away from Beaver Creek to Chattanooga, Tenn. (Oct. 12-15, 2006, so mark your calendars now) attendance will soar.

Beaver Creek stumbles in final curtain
Part of the challenge of the Rendezvous was certainly location – you couldn't possibly pick a more contrived mountain resort if you tried (well, we're sure one can be found) – and we do know of a few folks who refused to return this year simply because the Rendezvous was where it was. Truly, as we have said before, while in a beautiful mountain setting, one couldn't help but wonder if there was some grand control room somewhere with a master controller in charge of cuing wildlife to appear, turning on snow flurries, adding the burble to the nearby brook and more. It was just all so artificial, so fake overly cute Swiss village….

The staff was friendly enough to be sure, and Cathy Howland of OIA deserves a huge round of applause for working with the resort to improve the quality of food being offered this year, but the wrestling matches with untrained wait staff just to keep a partially finished plate still in contact with the table in front of you during a meal was downright exhausting.

And then there was the bus ride back from the Service Project. As three bus-loads of tired, hot and sweaty volunteers waited behind a closed gate, awaiting entry into Beaver Creek with the promise of a SNEWS®-sponsored cold beer, a clueless security matron informed our driver that she had been told by "control" that Beaver Creek could only handle one bus at a time, and since one was already on the road, we'd have to wait. Never mind that all three busses were allowed into the resort at the same time to pick us up earlier in the day. Minutes ticked by, the buses idled, Beaver Creek's name was getting more mired in the "resorts that suck" quagmire, and the security matron kept blithely letting cars through, but not buses. Downright mutiny was really, really near. You heard of tipping cows? Our busload was ready to tip the guard shack. Finally, after both Frank Hugelmeyer, OIA's president, strode up to the gate and had a few words – hopefully choice ones – as did a Timberland representative, the gate miraculously opened and we were through.

Note to Beaver Creek – it's not likely any of the industry leaders in attendance will ever return to your resort now. Even if the birds and wildlife do chirp at the correctly cute times.

First-time attendees praise event
We collected dozens of emails and notes from calls following the Rendezvous, but two summed up best what first-timers thought of this year's event – and it was mostly glowing:

"This was our first time at the OIA Rendezvous and well worth the time away from my daily business! The event gave me an opportunity to network with a broader group of industry players at a much higher level than we get at a trade show or other industry events," said Fred Martin of Mast General Store in North Carolina.

"We are always looking to the future to refine what we are doing at Mast Stores and the level of presentations at the event where very helpful and inspiring. The OIA team is a very skillful group that is on a roll, and Mast will most likely become a member as a result of the Rendezvous."

Added Martin, "We are excited about next year's event in Chattanooga -- what a great outdoor playground to have the event!"

Nate Pund, a partner at Silver Steep, a financial advisory services firm and also a first-time attendee told us that while he liked most everything about Rendezvous, what he liked most was the Service Project.

"I thought it was awesome to work together and give something back as an industry. And I am particularly proud of my lawn mowing skills," said Pund, joking about nearly causing a revolution when he started mowing a lawn near just-painted benches on the windy afternoon.

Pund added, "I would recommend the Rendezvous to anyone as a must-attend event simply because of the great networking opportunities, but I think there needs to be more emphasis on including everyone in large discussion about the future of the industry and our 'sport' that is the outdoors."

Interestingly, Pund is not alone as others SNEWS® has heard from this year and last have mentioned a desire to see larger roundtable discussions involving everyone at the Rendezvous as a way to "capture collective thoughts and input" and provide a means for everyone at the Rendezvous to feel as if each was a part of something greater being used to help "drive the industry forward."

A thank you to the sponsors from OIA and the industry
Sponsors included: RBC Capital Markets, Timberland, REI, Dunham, Outdoor Retailer, Merrell, The North Face, Woolrich, Banff Mountain Film Festival, JanSport, Keen, Yellow, Spenco, ispo, Sierra Designs, SNEWS® / GearTrends®, Fendler Communications, CGPR, Sports NewsSource's BOSS Report, W.L. Gore, Hooked on the Outdoors, Superfeet, Bison Designs, Larabar, Columbia, Kinesys, GM Integrated Marketing, and Faegre & Benson.

Event Coverage
Next week, SNEWS® will provide detailed coverage of the 12 seminars our team attended. This week, we'll close with a quick peek at the two keynotes – the opening keynote by Tom Campion and Saturday's keynote by Todd Buchholz.

Retailing to Youth: Strategies and Stores
Tom Campion, co-founder, Zumiez Inc.
At 57 and slightly balding, Campion doesn't seem like the man who should be riding the wave of success among teen skaters, rad boarding dudes or girly-girls. But he is. Campion, one of the co-founder of wildly successful mall skate/board shop Zumiez, began the operation with one Seattle-area store in 1978 and, by year end, will have175 stores. Zumiez also went public this year. "It's all about the product and it's all about the people," he advised. "That's what makes it happen." Not only does Campion pride himself on his stores carrying all the brands his shopper wants – lots of them and no private label -- but he also is proud of how the business hires the teens and 20-somethings they sell to (average employee age is 23) and allows them to work their way up if they are so motivated.

Motivation among employees is something Zumiez does well. "The more power I have given away, the more successful Zumiez has become," he said. He explained an event the company calls 100K where every store employee that personally sells $100,000 or more in one year gets to go to a big party somewhere. In 1986, the first year, he took six employees; this year, he took 550 to a huge bash at Copper Mountain, which is not only a party but also a recruiting tool. He said the attendees represent 15 percent of the employees but 55 percent of company sales. The stores are known as places to gather, he said, with everyone having a corner with couch, comfy chairs and a TV. "Retail is entertainment," he explained. "You want your kid to hangout."

In addition to being a successful businessman, Campion also explained his huge involvement in conservation and movements to save wildlands, such as in Alaska. He even started two foundations to benefit these causes – Campion Foundation and Zumiez Foundation. "Open spaces are good for economy," he said. "Open spaces are good for business."

Containing the Flames: Regaining Prosperity Amid World Turmoil

Todd Buchholz, Victoria Capital Management, chairman and chief investment officer
The building blocks of world economics has shifted around, but how has the world changed so much? The answer, according to economist Todd Buchholz, is hyper-competition. It's no longer, "Here today, gone tomorrow." It's now, "Here today, gone today."

A company's ability to deliver finished manufactured goods immediately to global consumer markets is the principal factor in retaining competitiveness. This new reality places a premium on corporate logistics networks and the efficient management of the entire supply-chain process, Buchholz said. He pointed to Dell Computer as a good corporate example of hyper-competitiveness. The company receives an order, assembles the parts that have just arrived and immediately jettisons the finished product out the door to the consumer. Dell doesn't want any inventory to sit in its warehouse. In this "speed is essential" economy, he said, the federal government lags behind and the market won't wait for it anymore. The private sector continues to advance ahead on all levels.

Another important issue facing the United States today is the education of its people. How will our companies compete in the future economy without an educated work force? The rise of what Buchholz called the "scissors economy" has led to the removal of the middleman -- and a removal of the margins that went into the middleman's pockets from the cost of goods and services. U.S. white-collar jobs are finding their way overseas.

Buchholz noted that the price of energy is keeping people close to home. In his view, prices are stable and inflation is under control. He said the national sport is shopping, and money is being spent in a closer radius to people's homes. Vacations are also happening closer to where people live. He said many conflicts that are affecting oil prices will resolve themselves and prices will come down in the next six to nine months – although he also noted international events would possibly drive a temporary spike in oil prices in December of this year.

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