Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2005 was a bountiful buffet of beautiful new booths, making judging and awarding the SNEWS® BOB Awards the most fun it has ever been. Overall, booths seemed more sophisticated in design incorporating textures like the corrugated metal and grass cloth used by Prana and the rubber floor tiles in the Indigo booth. Natural fibers and materials like the Teva wood chips at the booth entrance and Jansport's bamboo walls harkened the return to green so prevalent at the show.
And it finally happened -- two booths tied for the TOP BOB award! TOP BOB winners, Eagle Creek and Yakima, had new, larger booths at the show, each very different from the other in concept.
So many booths incorporated creativity, fun, design excellence, hard work and serious thought. Here are the ones the SNEWS® crew judged the Best of Booths (BOB).
Images for each booth are located at the end of the article. And if you're reading this in your weekly SNEWS® News Digest, you'll need to go to the article online to view the images -- well worth the extra mouse click we promise you.
TOP BOB -- Eagle Creek
It has been 10 years since Eagle Creek updated its trade show booth. Connie McDonald, Eagle Creek's visual merchandising guru, wanted the new booth to reflect the company's travel direction. She upped the booth space by 600 square feet (from 1,800), opened it up to the aisle, designed a separate space for the company's Clive brand and incorporated an upper deck for private meetings and showings.
"I wanted the booth to be open and inviting," said McDonald. "It needed to be well lit, true to the brand, have adequate storage and, above all, feel grand."
Eagle Creek's point-of-purchase fixtures were featured in the booth and included freestanding accessory towers and new luggage tables with rubberized tops to stabilize the wheeled luggage on display.
The avocado green sidewalls gave the booth a tranquil feel and the slotted and frosted acrylic wall panels inside accommodated the packs and accessories beautifully. Writing rooms were set up along a sidewall, and bar-height tables and chairs were scattered around the interior for impromptu meetings. The booth worked just the way McDonald intended.
TOP BOB -- Yakima
There's a new feel at Yakima these days. "It's a bit left of center," said Mike Steck, director of marketing. "We wanted the booth to be fun, relate to the outdoors and reflect Yakima's heritage as well as its contemporary focus."
Colorful curved perimeter walls embellished with murals by artist Dwayne Flatmo framed the 2,400-square-foot booth. The murals told the outdoor story with a variety of outdoor activity images. New stylized "cars" displayed the Yakima racking systems, provided storage, had small footprints and were easy to assemble.
At the back of the booth Yakima built a circular "language room" to show its brand new, space-age products encased in plexi "test tubes" atop display cubes. The lower lighting gave the room a gallery atmosphere. According to Steck, the products shown in this room reflect the direction Yakima product is moving.
It's obvious there's a burst of new energy at Yakima and it was evident in its winning booth.
FUN BOB -- Life is Good
Life is Fun may be a better moniker for this BOB award winner. There wasn't a moment in the show when the Life is Good booth wasn't packed to the pavilion rafters with buyers, reps and browsers. There was tons of fun stuff to see as the line has expanded into a wide range of accessories from flip-flops to eyeglass retainers and much more.
The booth spanned both sides of the aisle and each was a mirror reflection of the other. The tees were folded on tiered tables, the logoed footballs, Frisbees and soccer balls were placed in a wall cabinet and the new flip-flops on a freestanding display. It all tied together because the rough-hewn wood material used in all the displays was consistent throughout
A FUN BOB booth has to be fun to shop and Life is Good was all that and more.
MINI BOB -- Juniper Ridge
Dealing with a 10 x 10 booth space is always a challenge, but it can often result in some of the more interesting booths at the show. Juniper Ridge is an assortment of sustainable wildcrafted products from the mountains and deserts of the West. Owner and President Hall Newbegin harvests foliage from large perennials that respond well to pruning and makes wild herb teas, incenses, smudge sticks, soaps, wreaths and sachets with marvelous smells.
The Juniper Ridge booth floor was strewn with cedar chips framing a stone walkway to the rear of the booth in which a table was set with baskets of Juniper Ridge teas, sachets, incenses and soaps. The pleasant outdoor smells emanating from the booth drew people in to see the products on display.
The back wall of the booth was covered by unbleached muslin draped over a log frame. A green canvas outdoor umbrella provided a roof over the display table. All in all, Juniper Ridge was a simple booth that was inviting, invigorating and simply intoxicating.
CRAZY BOB -- AT Paddles
This is getting to be habit. The AT Paddles guys keep coming up with the craziest booth ideas and this year's funeral theme topped them all (although we miss the whiskey). The outside of the booth was a virtual graveyard of crosses overseen by morbidly dressed "morticians" (sales reps and company guys). Paddles were hung along the back of the front wall so that paddles resting in small caskets lining the back wall would not be disturbed having recently "passed." Wilted bouquets of flowers sat atop each casket.
The booth was small, 10 x 20 linear, but the concept was large and judging from the activity in the booth, it's obvious that death and dying (and AT paddles) draw crowds.
DISPLAY BOB -- Sportif
The Sportif booth bloomed with flowers in a new spiffed up look. The most outstanding display detail was its cool booth carpet.
Pastel-colored carpet tiles from Flor were interspersed with large flower tiles to introduce the company's new Aventura line of clothing. The uprights supporting the mezzanine space were wrapped with branches trimmed with lights. The area behind the reception desk was used to create a clothing display echoing the flower theme. Two lacey cathedral windows created the backdrop of more branches and oversized daisies. A mannequin displayed a color-coordinated outfit to the side.
What was best about this booth was how it remained faithful to the flower theme throughout from the carpet to the garden chairs behind the reception table. It also proved that a new booth is not always necessary to present a new image and attitude.
IMPROVED BOB -- Jansport
Thanks to the work of its new strategic marketing manager, Kelly Blake, Jansport opened up its booth and refreshed its tired look. In a way, it was a return to the old Jansport. Blake's goal was to lighten up the booth by changing the flooring and walls. She also wanted to make it more accessible from the aisle (a trend we're seeing in all new booth designs).
She dug through the Jansport warehouse and came up with wood flooring that hadn't been used in the booth for over 15 years. The pine flooring worked well with the new bamboo panels used in the booth's existing wall system. The effect was a light, airy environment in which the products stood out and the colors popped.
New rolling racks were faced with more light-colored wood and logoed with the traditional Jansport label. The combination of steel and wood was also incorporated into the wood writing tables with metal overlays on the sides again sporting the logo. One corner of the booth was cut diagonally to create a display space for mannequins.
It was great to see Jansport update and enhance its booth presentation. Blake has more booth ideas up her sleeve. "Wait until the next show," she said.
ALMOST BOB -- Sherpa Adventure Wear
There was an island of serenity at this year's show in the form of a Khumbo teahouse adjacent to the Sherpa Adventure Wear booth. One would enter and be lulled by the smell of incense while reclining by one of the red and gold folding tables or resting on an authentic woven stool. The company's sleeping bags lined one wall.
Authentic rugs covered the floor and the ceiling was draped with red fabric to imitate the red roofs of a Khumbo teahouse. An altar stood against one wall. A handmade broom was kept handy to sweep up spills and a pair of woven slippers completed the tableau (we're told that the slippers are favorites with tourists but locals never wear them).
Unfortunately, not all of the teahouse paraphernalia arrived on schedule. Tea was to be served from traditional brass servers. Perhaps, we can enjoy a cup of traditional Tibetan tea at the next show with the folks at Sherpa Adventure Wear.
ALMOST BOB -- MacPac Wilderness Equipment
This New Zealand-based pack company had the right idea when it hired booth designer and builder Eric Krepela of Salt Lake City to design and construct its booth. Krepela was responsible for the TOP BOB Keen booth at last year's winter show.
The MacPac booth was most unusual with its tall slatted and angular walls. Every so often, a window was cut in the wall to display a pack. The main pack inventory hung on the walls with special hangers making them easy to remove for showing. What was remarkable about this booth was the fact that the unusual wall design gave the booth an open feeling while defining the perimeter of the booth and creating interest in the product
There were even more creative ideas at this year's show. A new company, Adide, created a white environment in which it displayed product and projected its logo and style shots on a back wall.
Lowa capitalized on the publicity it has received from a recent New York Times article featuring designer Diane vonFurstenberg and her passion for her Lowa hiking boots. The sides of the Lowa booth were plastered with "love" letters from customers as well as stats from its surveys.
Hind had its models standing on Lucite boxes filled with flowers and grasses to provide interest. And Bell Canoe Works framed one of the floor entrances with an arch of its canoes.
The best workbook design, from a creative standpoint, came from Mission Playground. The workbook was packaged in an all white record sleeve ala The Beatles White Album. Inside was the catalog in the shape of an LP with the cover black like a record.
Congratulations to all of the BOB winners and to all the companies that spent time, money and effort on their booth presentations. It was worth it!