What a great show! Outdoor Retailer Winter Market staff should give themselves a collective pat on the back because by all reports we're hearing, the show was a raging success. For once, folks weren't grumbling about numbers, even though there were fewer total stores at this show (2,138) than in 2003 (2,266). Overall attendance was up slightly, with unaudited numbers indicating 2004 attendance at 14,080, compared with 13,648 in 2003. Total number of buyers, again, unaudited for 2004, were 4,524, up slightly from 2003's number of 4,376. The number of exhibitors was well up, with 715 this year compared to 650 last year.
Over the next month, the SNEWS team will be bringing you complete coverage of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, from parties to special events to press conferences to product trends, as well as coverage of the whispers heard in the aisles and corners of booths. Our trade show coverage begins now, with a few highlights and lowlights to whet your appetite.
Backcountry Base Camp at Brighton worth repeating
Whether the Base Camp was a success depends on who you ask. Some noted that a lot of the 500-plus badges appeared to be from exhibitors and media, with relatively few retailers. Our take is that we noticed quite a few retailer badges, as well as media, and that yes, exhibitors outnumbered all. But that's not such a bad thing for a first-time event. The energy was high and the snow was pretty fantastic. While the avalanche beacon testing area appeared to be located in the next county, requiring two days worth of provisions and a map just to get there, those who made it raved about the opportunity to test beacons with instruction. Ditto the opportunities to test snowshoes, new tele skis, boots, and other assorted gear from 42 registered exhibitors.
Will this replace regional demos? Not at all, but then it's not supposed to. What it was and should be is an opportunity to showcase new gear in a clinic-like environment so retail staff can have an unprecedented opportunity to try out the gear they might be selling and learn techniques they will find useful.
Intimate setting, great mountains, superb snow and a few hundred of your industry friends playing around in the snow together before the stress of a four-day trade show? What's not to like?
Outdoor Industry Association opening breakfast
What an incredible way to launch the show! We counted nearly 500 folks, packed into a ballroom at the Marriott, there to load up on bacon, eggs, fruit, orange juice and coffee, and listen to the opening keynote by Doug Haley, chief knowledge officer at Harris Interactive. In his talk, Haley revealed highlights from his study, commissioned by Outdoor Industry Foundation, a non-profit arm of Outdoor Industry Association. His study is the first phase of a consumer outreach program, and for the first time, begins to detail how and why people participate in outdoor recreation, and just as importantly, why they don't. SNEWSÂ® will publish a more in-depth look at the study, with commentary from our one-on-one interview with Haley in the next week or two.
A press event at, yes, Hooters
Our hats off to PR maven Kristin Carpenter for thinking way outside of the box on this one. Tired of the same old press event at SLC where food is served, products are shown, and nobody really seems to get too excited, Carpenter organized a field trip to Hooters in SLC (yes, there really is a Hooters there) to showcase her client's products from Metolius, La Sportiva, Nikwax, Prana, Julbo, Defeet, Descenteâ€¦oh, we're sorry if we're forgetting someone but there's a food smear on the notebook next to the smudge from splashed beer. Frankly, we've never seen a more well-attended press event, or a more attentive press troupe which included several women, including one renegade female editor. We went, naturally, only so we could honestly say that we are now fully abreast of all the titillating products being offered by Carpenter's clients. The product presentation was more bouncy than any we've ever seen before and there was so much to see every available bit of rack space was maximized. OK, you can slap us now. For those with more civil tastes -- namely the female editors, and one male editor very secure with his masculinity -- Carpenter arranged for line presentations during a pedicure and manicure session. We're still wondering how to take notes while your nails are drying.
The Backpacker Editor's Choice Awards
Well, there is little doubt that the awards from Backpacker reign supreme as the most coveted magazine awards, bar none. This year's award winners were: MSR Missing Link, Jetboil, GoLite Kinetic jacket, BearVault, Integral Designs Event shelters, Sierra Designs DriZone down bags, La Sportiva Trango S, Black Diamond Lighthouse tent, Lowa Biomex Vertex, Osprey Switch 55+5, Sierra Designs Lightning, Nike ACG Air Zoom Tallac, Big Agnes Insulated Air Core and Insul Mat Max-Thermo. Gold award winners for a decade of quality were: Patagonia Capilene and Leki Makalu. Green Awards for eco-friendly products went to Timberland for its water-based adhesives and Patagonia for the PCR filament yarn. However, we would like to see the Backpacker team tone it down a bit. The billboard-sized award posters looked ridiculous in front of most of the booths and the ploy to garner notice for the magazine was, well, a bit transparent. Most are telling us a nice plaque for the winners will suffice next year.
Sport of the future?
We just think it's too cool that Horny Toad's sponsored athlete, Kris Holm, is a unicyclist. It's not only a perfect match for the offbeat brand, but effective marketing that sticks in your brain. After all, who could forget seeing a unicyclist bouncing and rolling his way up and down the front steps of the Salt Palace.
The OR Daily and the Show Handbook
Outdoor Business/SGB really let its sister company, Outdoor Retailer, down. Outdoor Retailer staff worked too hard and put on too fine a show to have its primary communication tools for the industry look as if they were produced by an inexperienced team with little or no understanding of the market they were supposed to cover.
In a November press release, Outdoor Business (read: SGB) promised a new look and revamped Daily for the upcoming trade shows: "People will immediately notice the new look and feel of the OR Daily -- the layout will be quite a departure from past show dailies," commented Michael Jacobsen, OR Daily Editor. "Our at-show coverage of the events that make OR special will provide attendees with a real feel for the excitement of the four days in Salt Lake Cityâ€¦"
As promised, the new look was immediately noticeable, with a crisp new banner, and bright, glossy paper. It looked promising. Unfortunately, a trade show daily is not judged on appearance. It is judged on content, and each issue of this show's Daily was riddled with factual errors, poor grammar and spelling mistakes.
For example, the name of the company, which ran full-page ads in each issue of the Daily, is Outdoor Research, not Outside Research as the Daily staff wrote in a photo caption. It is Neide Cooley, not Heidi Cooley, in a Day 4 cover story. Lafuma is not officially arriving in the United States; the company has been here for quite some time. Plus, Lafuma is not introducing shoes here for the first time; it introduced shoes at Summer Market. Read Worth is no longer the president of Vaude USA, though he is often quoted as such. (Meaning the articles that tried to appear live were written weeks before.) Imagine how surprised C.A.M.P. was to learn the company manufactures the only leashless ice axe on the market. Each issue was filled with mistakes even a high school journalism teacher would find disheartening. By Day 4, we happened upon a group of exhibitors who were paging through the Daily just so they could find the errors for the day. Sad.
For Summer Market, we hope Outdoor Retailer will demand that producers of the Daily staff the paper with a team of editors that knows and understands the outdoor market and can effectively and accurately cover the trade show. We would also hope that OR demands the Daily hire a professional photographer. Photos that graced the live pages looked as if they had been taken by a person using a very bad point and shoot -- either too dark, or devoid of any interesting composition at all. Red eye on Day 3 cover photo? Didn't anyone on the Outdoor Business team know how to use Photoshop? We would expect that whoever staffs the Daily pulls together a significant number of live pages, filled with reports and good photographs from the parties, book signings, climbing wall events, trade show silliness, press conferences and more that give life to the show -- Outdoor Retailer deserves nothing less.
If they need to see how a Daily should be done, look at the SIA show daily from this January, produced by Ski Press, which is an excellent example of how a Daily should be produced -- relevant, interesting, timely, professional, and even after the show, gives the reader a good sense for what went on.
Finally, what was the Outdoor Business staff thinking with the Outdoor Retailer Show Handbook? The paper quality was poor, the design looked cheap, and the content was irrelevant to the market. As if to underscore OB's lack of understanding of the market, it published the "Top 25 Outdoor Retailers, a ranking of the 25 leading outdoor specialty retailers by annual sales volume, by the editors of Outdoor Business." No. 1 and No. 2 were Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's, the latter when told of the ranking was thrilled to learn it was considered an outdoor specialty shop. Orvis No. 6, Sportsman's Guide No. 7 and Sportsman's Warehouse No. 8? Outdoor Retailer staff needs to take this publication back in-house, because when OR produced it, even short-staffed, it was a much more professionally produced product.
There were thieves among usâ€¦
A pox on the idiot or idiots who, during an end-of-day party at the Osprey booth, walked off with the laptop of an Osprey employee as well as two valuable watches from the adjacent Suunto booth. If the culprits are ever found, we suggest they be made to work the next show, at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, performing whatever menial labor for free that Osprey, Suunto and other trade show attendees might need.