The paddlesports community received very good news this week. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show is moving back to August in 2010, and will include changes to make the show more affordable, convenient and beneficial for paddlesports companies. And, as a result of that move by Outdoor Retailer, the new paddlesports show slated for 2010 in Minneapolis has been canceled, removing from the calendar one more show to attend for some.
Outdoor Retailer announced Oct. 8 that its 2010 Summer Market trade show would be held August 3-6 in Salt Lake City with the Open Air Demo on Aug. 2. (Click here to read the Oct. 8 press release, "Outdoor Retailer Shifts Summer Market Dates to First Week in August.")
Previously, on Sept. 29, the Outdoor Industry Association issued a press release stating that Outdoor Retailer also plans to move the Open Air Demo to a more convenient location, reduce exhibition costs for boat companies, and increase the prominence of the paddlesports section on the show floor. (Click here to read the OIA press release.)
Paddling companies not only cheered the news, but they were almost in disbelief, said Sutton Bacon, president and CEO of Nantahala Outdoor Center. "The response has been disbelief that the paddlesports industry can come together and within a six-week period have the dates for a major trade show changed," Bacon told SNEWS®. "It shows what we as an industry can accomplish when we communicate with a unified voice."
The announcement of the new show dates and other changes prompted Jim Marsh, publisher of Canoe & Kayak, to cancel a proposed paddlesports-only show, which would have been held in Minneapolis in 2010. (Click here to read a July 31, 2009, SNEWS story, "Canoe & Kayak show announcement sparks debate and OIA response.")
"If they had (made the changes) a few years ago, I would have never planned to put on a show in the first place," Marsh told SNEWS. "They reacted a couple of years late, but reacted so positively that it surprised a lot of people, and they did a really good job."
When Marsh announced the new show at Summer Market this year, Bacon of NOC and other retailers and manufacturers formed a paddlesports working group that lobbied for changes to the Outdoor Retailer trade show. In response, Outdoor Retailer and OIA agreed to move the Open Air Demo to Salt Lake City's Jordanelle State Park, provide boat companies a 40-percent discount on booth space that is devoted exclusively to displaying boats, conduct a study to improve logistics for shipping and exhibiting boats, and secure free overnight boat trailer parking for exhibitors. Also, companies in the paddlesports category will be positioned together in a more visible location near the front of the Salt Palace Convention Center.
One of the key changes concerns discounts for companies that manufacture boats. These exhibitors have an especially heavy burden because it's not only expensive to ship boats to Salt Lake City, but they must also buy large booth spaces to display them.
"The paddlesports market is a key constituency of the outdoor marketplace," said Kenji Haroutunian, Outdoor Retailer show director. "We need to recognize there are unique issues with that market and manage accordingly."
While Outdoor Retailer changed the show dates in part to help paddlesports companies, the shift took into account larger forces at work, said Haroutunian.
He noted that the earlier July dates were determined when the market was stronger, and thriving manufacturers had leverage in determining the timing of the show. Some manufacturers wanted the show moved from August to July so that they would have more time to place orders, build products and then ship them. Now, retailers have more leverage.
"The dynamic has definitely changed in the past year, where retailers are clutching their open-to-buy dollars like never before," said Haroutunian. "They're waiting to the last minute to commit their resources to buying."
SNEWS® View: First, we'd like to applaud Nielsen Business Media (Outdoor Retailer's parent company) and OIA for listening to their constituents and responding to their needs. Of course, this was only possible because the paddlesports market was able to speak with one, clear voice. We admire the members of the Paddlesports Unification Working Group for stepping up and achieving something significant and we applaud Sutton Bacon for clearly shepherding this process.
While the Paddlesports Unification Working Group was originally formed simply to lobby for trade show changes, it remains intact, and its members are now developing a mission and vision for how it could help the paddlesports market grow and thrive.
As it stands now, the mission is, "To identify and serve the business needs of companies that offer human-powered water recreation products, services, and promotion responsibly, with allied objectives and congruent goals."
We're told that the group has not yet determined whether it will morph into a trade association or something else. In any case, it will be interesting to see to what degree this group is able to fill the leadership vacuum that has challenged the paddlesports market for years.
"For so long, paddlesports has been fractured, and I really hope we can continue this momentum (toward establishing one voice for the long term)," Bacon told us.
We hope so too. It is certainly moving in the right direction and just look what can be accomplished when inspired minds all work together for one cause. Soon, it seems, it will be time for the good folks at TAPS and PIA to decide to join the cause and close down separate operations for the good of unification. So far, we like what we are hearing out of the new Paddlesports Working Group team, and especially like the fact they are talking with one voice, advocating for maintaining a supply chain orientation in all that the group does rather than a singular focus serving only manufacturers or only retailers or only outfitters. Every stakeholder in the paddlesports world must be aligned in the initiatives any trade group develops or, we fear, the organization is doomed to fail.
This summer's announcement of the new Canoe & Kayak show had people drifting in all sorts of directions. Companies not only struggled to decide whether to support Outdoor Retailer or Canoe & Kayak, but also wondered how they were going to attend a half-dozen trade gatherings without losing their sanity. While some members of the paddlesports community welcomed the idea of a new show, we suspect that most are sighing in relief that the Minneapolis show was ultimately canceled.
All-in-all, we'd say that this was a very good week for a segment of the outdoor industry that hasn't had much to applaud lately.