Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '05 -- attendance up, smiles abound

Despite being right after SIA, and right on top of SHOT (thank goodness SHOT is back to its February dates next year) Outdoor Retailer Winter Market staff can smile broadly as most exhibitors, reps and retailers told us they had a fantastic show.
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Despite being right after SIA, and right on top of SHOT (thank goodness SHOT is back to its February dates next year) Outdoor Retailer Winter Market staff can smile broadly as most exhibitors, reps and retailers told us they had a fantastic show.

There were a few folks wondering if traffic was down, but in fact it wasn't. Total attendance (and keep in mind these are preliminary numbers that have not been audited) was 14,545, up from 14,080 in 2004. The number of buyers was reported at 4,764, up from 4,524 in 2004 and representing 2,236 stores, up from 2,138 in 2004. The number of exhibiting companies, 100 of which were new to the show, was 740, up from 715 in 2004. Folks may have felt Winter Market was lighter than in 2004 because it featured 270,000 square feet of exhibit space, up from 250,000 in 2004. More space, even with more booths, disperses traffic (which was not up significantly) and might give the impression traffic was lighter.

Over the next month, the SNEWS® team will be bringing you complete coverage of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2005, 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 quick peeks to whet your appetite.

Highlights
Outdoor Industry Association opening breakfast
Now sponsored by SmartWool, the OIA Industry Breakfast is simply the most 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 to listen to the opening keynote by Lisa Johnson of Reachwomen.com, presenting her findings from her book, "Don't Think Pink." What the breakfast goers received was a bonus though, when Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. strode to the podium to address the crowd. Trust us when we tell you, a lot of late night and back and forth meetings with OIA president Frank Hugelmeyer and the OIA team, along with Gov. Huntsman's team, led to the governor stating, for the record, that he was not in favor of reducing the size of Escalante National Monument.

We also applaud OR for tapping Lisa Johnson as a speaker. Her presentation was not only lively and engaging, but we imagine it caused many in the room to seriously re-think their approach to the women's market. Most entertaining moment: Johnson offered a list of product categories (i.e. home improvement, riding lawn mowers) and challenged the crowd to guess what percentage of each category is purchased by women. Folks almost fell out of their chairs when Johnson revealed that 81 percent (81 percent!) of riding lawn mowers are purchased by women.

A press event with foot massage and wine
PR maven Kristin Carpenter continues to put the smile on tired editors' faces. There is nothing quite so wonderful as reclining in a lounge chair, being served hors d'oeuvres, sipping chilled Chablis, and having your feet massaged and manicured all while viewing line presentations. Carpenter's team kept presentations tight, showing highlights of her clients' lines that allowed editors to gain a flavor of trends and key product introductions. And no, it wasn't hard to take notes -- though we do admit upon reviewing our files, we're still trying to decide if Osprey is introducing a pack or a pastry smudge. We'll get back to you on that one.

Fashion show rocked!
If you missed the fashion shows, you really missed out. Hat's off to Outdoor Retailer for pulling this one off. Hard to believe neither OR nor the folks behind the fashion show had ever put on an event like this before. Professional models strutted the runway wearing apparel and gear that included sweaters, outerwear, casual apparel, base layers, and even watches, snowshoes and packs. Music was pumped up and the models were entertaining. We particularly loved the western theme and soundtrack to "save a horse, ride a cowboy" as the models really raised the roof. What a fantastic way to get a sense of style, fashion and function melding together. One recommendation for improvement for next year -- and we assume there will be a next year based on feedback -- is to have a fashion show 101 tutorial. We watched many in the audience trying to follow along with the program without a clue what to look for or when. More often than not, we saw folks simply close their programs halfway through in frustration. No doubt all still enjoyed the show, but all would have gotten much more if they understood how to read the program and match it to what models were wearing and when.

The OR Daily
Outdoor Business/SGB is finally getting it right, and deserves recognition. After two previous shows where the Daily looked and read as though it had been produced by college students still in their first year of journalism school, and with little or no understanding of the outdoor market, the Daily for Winter Market 2005 showed marked improvement. The image quality was much better -- though we're still looking for more life and better crispness that the show deserves here. There also seemed to be more live reporting from the show and in many cases, it was quippy, tight, and well written -- perfect for a tradeshow newspaper. We still believe SGB needs to invest in paying for a few more "on the show floor" reporters and cut back on a predominate reliance on the preprinted approach. SGB's pub is still a far cry from the quality of a Daily like Bicycle Retailer creates for Interbike, but it is moving in the right direction, at last. Nicely done.

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