Time and again, the SNEWSÂ® team at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2005 heard, "Best show in five years!" from exhibitors, reps, retailers and other attendees alike. And we would concur. The show simply rocked!
Even in the hinterlands of the Pavilion â€“ three large, well-connected and easily maneuvered tent-like structures erected where the Salt Palace's expansion is going up --exhibitors seemed to give the show thumbs-up.
"When we got here we thought we were at the end of the world, but the traffic has been healthy," said Hugh Gaither, president of Flagship Brands, which showed its new outdoor socks, Feetures, in the Pavilon's farthest back corner (you couldn't get farther from the main floor). "It's been OK since most come through the Pavilions to see what's new. We've had a good show."
Total attendance (keep in mind these are preliminary numbers that have not been audited) was 19,348, up from 18,278 in 2004. The number of buyers was reported at 6,006, up from 5,792 in 2004. The number of exhibiting companies was 926, up from 876 in 2004. Total square footage, including the Pavilions, was 352,178, up from 336,815 in 2004. What did surprise us was the number of stores reported in attendance, the only downsizing in the numbers. Retail stores attending ORSM was reported at 2,551, down from 2773 in 2004. Looking back at store numbers, we see that the numbers have been essentially flat or declining since 2001 when the number of stores in attendance was reported at 3,284.
While the decline in overall store numbers is indicative of several things (retail consolidation and the decision by some to attend only regional shows), it is no reflection on Summer Market's quality or importance. There is simply no other outdoor show in North America that provides as much to this industry in terms of viewing product trends, new product introductions, business education, and overall networking quality as Summer Market. There is also no larger trade show, and it's only going to get bigger, making it harder and harder to see it all, even if you are in attendance. Quite often we were asked what was going on beyond the boundaries of a particular booth simply because so many at the show were either too busy, or too overwhelmed by the size of the show to take it all in. When we asked what people thought of the Pavilions (which was incredible -- other than the Asian corridor: See our story, Aug. 17, 2005, "Chinese exhibitors hit with patent infringement papers at Summer Market") replied, "Haven't even had time to make it out there, and don't think I will have time."
Thankfully, SNEWSÂ® team members always takes their coverage of trade shows very seriously â€“ chiefly because we know you can't be everywhere. No other trade publication brings as many editors (ye gawds, we had eight), or reports in as much detail as we do, which is why time and again we hear our readers depend on us to provide the show coverage they need to help influence buying and business decisions. Over the next four to six weeks, the SNEWSÂ® team will be bringing you complete coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2005, from parties to special events to press conferences to product trends, as well as coverage of the whispers and whacky happenings heard and seen in the aisles and corners. Our trade show coverage begins now, with a few quick peeks to whet your appetite.
Open Air Demo
Finally, an outdoor demo that looked, smelled and felt like an outdoor event (see image to right). No mud. No security folks frowning at unauthorized attempts to actually swim. Lots of space. Reggae music filtering over the entire sandy beach filled with colorful tents and product. Plenty of free food and beer, served up at various booths sponsoring the overall picnic-carnival atmosphere. Real waves lapping the shore under a sunny sky with a slight breeze to keep the high temps somewhat tolerable added the cap to a perfect day. We're told over 1,500 folks, including exhibitors, made their way out to the new Willard Bay State Park location. Unfortunately, word that the drive or shuttle trek was taking over an hour deterred attendance, which was too bad. We doubt anyone will make the same mistake next year. The drive was certainly longer than previous years, but it was a straight shot and easy (It actually only took about 45-50 minutes), with access to the site immediately off the freeway. Parking and beach access was a breeze, meaning you could be on-site or even paddling in minutes.
Outdoor Industry Association Semi-Annual Industry Breakfast
There is simply no better way to kick-start an Outdoor Retailer trade show than by attending an OIA semi-annual breakfast, co-sponsored by Smartwool. This breakfast's featured keynote speaker was Richard Louv, author of the new book titled "Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder." Louv, a veteran San Diego (Calif.) Union reporter stated in his book that, "Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demand it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depend upon it." During his talk, Louv stressed that stepping into the outdoors can help children deal with everything from obesity to depression and attention-deficit disorder. He also pointed out that in a world of home computers, video games, and paranoia over child abductions, children rarely leave the house, let alone the city. One of his solutions mirrors that of the OIA â€“ encouraging adult mentors to get into the nature and the outdoors with children. Music to the ears of those in the audience.
"The issue isn't that video games are evil; they're not," Louv said. "The issue is what kids are not doing, and they're not going outdoors.
"Nature gives us a sense of humility and teaches us we aren't the only organism in the world," he added.
Breakfast attendees also walked away with OIA's newest â€œtoolkitâ€ for the industry entitled â€œGetting Youth Active.â€ The toolkit â€“ a packet of brochures and a CD-Rom -- is designed to help retailers, outfitters, educators and other outdoor leaders engage youth in outdoor activities and foster the next generation of enthusiasts. For more information on OIA's newest toolkit, go to www.outdoorindustry.org.
The 10th-Annual Wasatch Wobble, sponsored by Montrail, Layers, DeFeet, JetBoil, Nathan Gear, Kavu, and Trail Runner magazine, pulled in about 200 folks. This year's theme was dress-up -- to celebrate a decade of wobbling and to get over last year's theme that gave awards for least or most clothes at the finish that left some wobbling and bobbling to the finish, yes, butt-naked. To help those who hadn't come dressed-up, Wobble assistants gleefully adorning runners with necklaces and filled martini glasses to be able to make a suitable finish â€“ naturally, the martini's were definitely shaken, not stirred by the end. Those who embraced their inner desire to dress up in lace, satin and silk, or flowing gowns, cummerbunds and long gloves were rewarded for their efforts with appropriate official awards.
We don't have room here to name all the winners, so just a select number then who captured our eye â€“ as frightening a thought as that may be to many:
- Winner of the â€œMost be likely to be picked up on Salt Lake City's West Side â€“ Men's divisionâ€ award went to both Warren Greene (Runner's World) and Shannon Davis (freelance writer). They were dressed in leopard skin robes from the Hotel Monaco.
- The â€œGQ awardâ€ went to Josh Buesseler, of Cascade Designs. He ran bare-chested, with a tie Magic-Markered on his chest. Now that certainly deserves an "A" for creative effort.
- The "The Perfect Pair" award (and no, it doesn't mean that, you sickos) went to Michael Derhammer and Amy Stevens of Riverside Cartop Carriers. Apparently they won the award for both running together and dressing up together. Awwwwww.
Montrail's Boo Turner tells SNEWSÂ® that there may be photos (read incriminating evidence) that you might just want to get your hands on. Put 10th Annual Wasatch Wobble in the subject line and describe your outfit of the day in an email to Boo at firstname.lastname@example.org. After she finishes laughing and blowing up large copies of anything embarrassing, she promises to share photos with you.