The SNEWSÂ® team of six editors spent the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2004 scouting out the trade show scene. Each week, since the show ended, we've been publishing our take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations that caught our eyes. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned, we either did not see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, or we were just plain clueless -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on travel products, trends and developments:
One overriding theme we heard while at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is that 2004 is here and it's time to stop dwelling on the past. Optimism is high and retailers told us they are looking for that next got-to-have item. Susan Hickman, co-owner of Distant Lands in Pasadena, Calif., advises, "If there's something in your store that turns hot, get more of it."
Eagle Creek: Keeping busy in San Diego, the folks at Eagle Creek had something new for just about every one if its lines. Answering a need expressed by retailers, the company introduced the Dual Grip Travel Staff, a lightweight aluminum travel staff with an EVA foam grip that collapses down for easy pack storage. Building upon its revamped travel pack line, it debuted the women's-specific Explorer travel pack. It has all the same features of the men's version with re-contoured backpack straps, narrower back padding and a reshaped hip belt for a woman's shape. The Everyday lifestyle collection has three product groupings: women, urban and laptop. One notable in Everyday Laptop was the Networker, a shoulder bag with a laptop compartment and organizing pockets for computer cords and accessories. www.eaglecreek.com
Kiva Designs: Kiva Designs has a new principle, John Pietro, heading up the company's East Coast office. We're told he is bringing in lots of big accounts. With 25 years in both retail and wholesale, his experience includes developing operational as well as merchandising concepts. For Kiva, he will be heading up sales, marketing and product development in luggage and travelgoods for the United States, Canada and Europe. A highlight at the show for the company was the Kiva Canyon, a six-piece collection (which includes two uprights and a garment sleeve) made of cotton canvas with bison leather accents and solid brass fittings. www.kivadesigns.com
Merrell Packs and Bags: What else can we tell you about the new Merrell Packs and Bags collection that we featured back in November? (To read, go to SNEWS Extras and the Product Showcase link at www.snewsnet.com.) How about what people thought? The general impression we got was that the line was nicely designed with interesting lines and good features. However, several retailers who sell travel told us they wondered if the line looked too "urban and chic" to sell well at outdoor specialty. They were willing to give it a go, though, and picked a few items to sell in their stores. www.merrell.com
Nomad Adventure Journals: Housed in a mini yurt on the show floor, Nomad Adventure Journals put a new twist on a travel standard. Its adventure journals are personalized with details for specific activities, like bird watching, hiking, climbing and travel. On its own or housed in a water-resistant zippered carrying case, the journal is a great accessory addition to specialty stores especially for the holidays. The company plans to add more personalized journals down the road. www.nomadjournals.com
Pacsafe: After a year in the works, Pacsafe debuted its finalized branding and packaging concepts. Walking by its booth, we were drawn in by the contemporary graphics and packaging. The company has also been tweaking the look of the Daysafe daypack, which melds its Exomesh stainless-steel mesh directly into the fabric for a slashproof body. (You can also lock the main compartment.) Both the Daysafe and revamped packaging were getting the thumbs-up from retailers. www.pac-safe.com
Solavie: Perfect for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, Solavie's line of skincare and hair products are based on the concept that different environments require different forms of protection. The products treat skin and hair according to the imbalances that arise in ecosystems around the world and focuses on six major ecosystems -- Mountains, Urban, Tropics, Shore, Plains and Desert. Each line has a face wash, face nourish, body nourish, hair/body wash and hair nourish/style. The unique packaging with eye-catching graphics allows any two products to be snapped together into one compact 7-ounce unit for easy packing. www.solavie.com
Traveler Guitar: We did a double take when we saw this 10x10 booth of scaled-down guitars hanging on the wall. Curious, we ventured over to get the full story on why mini guitars were at an outdoor product show. Serenaded by an acoustic guitar, President Corey Oliver explained that lots of folks in the outdoor industry play the guitar and want to take it with them into the backcountry and on travels, but usually don't because of bulk. The traveler guitar has a full size guitar sound in a scaled down package. Weighing less than four pounds, the guitars are available in acoustic and electric models. No flash in the pan, this company has been around since 1992 and did get a few retail accounts at the show. www.travelerguitar.com
Quick Hits: Tilley Endurables debuted two new hat styles based on the T4 and T5 made of hemp. A portion of each sale of the hemp hat line will benefit Street Kids International, which provides skills and opportunities to kids outside of the United Statesâ€¦ Mountainsmith has traveling skiers and snowboarders covered with its line of winter travel bags, which includes the Ridgeline Single Ski Bag, Highline Double Ski Bag, Headwall Snowboard Bag, Express Boot Bag and Backbowl Divider Duffel. Plus, it introduced the 18-piece Camera Travel Bag seriesâ€¦ High Sierra Sport is targeting the $99 price point level, offering specialty retailers with an opening price point lead-up to other core higher-end industry brands. It's also addressed the family car-tripper with more modular travel bags that are easy to stack in SUV/car trunksâ€¦ Swiss Army unveiled a new collection of technical daypacks called Propel. It anticipates a spring 2005 launch of a women's apparel collectionâ€¦ Ex Officio has cold-weather travelers covered with its expanded sweater line, which offer high warmth-to-weight without excessive bulkiness, and the Quilted Ex-O Skin jackets for men and womenâ€¦ Both Jansport and Timberland launched travel lines for business commuters that also looked quite interesting.