Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '06: Bigger than ever, though attendance slips

Yes, this was the largest Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and then some, with more exhibitors from every corner of the United States in attendance than ever before. The energy was palpable, and positively affected most everyone at the show.
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Yes, this was the largest Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and then some, with more exhibitors from every corner of the United States in attendance than ever before. The energy was palpable, and positively affected most everyone at the show, most notably show director Peter Devin who, clearly excited with the turnout, announced at the opening OIA industry breakfast that the 2006 Winter Market featured exhibitors from, "all 51 states." Who knew that Outdoor Retailer could have such an impact, not only on Salt Lake City, but also on our country?

How large was the show? Total attendance (keep in mind these are preliminary numbers that have not been audited) was 14,138, down slightly from 14,545 in 2005. The number of buyers was reported at 5,006, also down slightly from 5,051 in 2005. However, it is interesting to note that domestic buyer attendance (U.S. store buyers) shot up to 4,307 in 2006, well above the 4,037 in 2005 -- meaning it was international attendance that took the biggest hit. The number of retail stores represented by the buyers dipped from 2,236 in 2005 to 1,984 in 2006. The number of exhibiting companies was 724, up from 692 in 2005. Total square footage was 281,288, up from 268,300 in 2005.

While some might point to a decline in overall store numbers as indicative of several continuing and consistent trends (retail consolidation and the decision by some to attend only regional shows), the significant drop in international attendance this year is proof positive that Germany's sporting goods show ispo, which this year fell on the same weekend, absolutely does have a negative impact on Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, despite past arguments to the contrary from ispo.

A deeper look at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market numbers reveals that in 2005 (when there was a gap of a few days between Winter Market and ispo), there were 35 countries represented by international buyers attending Winter Market. This year, there were only 29. That's not to say that those buyers don't want to visit Winter Market. A number we spoke with at this year's ispo (yes, our team too was divided and spread across the globe as a result of the overlap) told us that they feel Winter Market is very important to their business, but if a choice is forced, as it was this year, a European buyer must attend ispo.

Winter Market attendance was affected too by the dividing of executive and upper-level management teams and exhibition staff. Due to overlapping dates, a significant number of companies were forced to send some of their team to ispo, and others to Winter Market -- putting some smaller companies in quite a pinch. A few executives, like Mike Wallenfels, president of Mountain Hardwear, attempted the absurd -- flying straight from four days of SIA, to Winter Market the day before the show for a few shoe-horned-in meetings, before jumping on a plane to make opening day at ispo as well. None of this is good for the health of an increasingly global market, and we would call upon ispo, Outdoor Retailer and SIA to establish a firm memorandum of understanding that each show is important to the global market, and that each show is unique, and that each show will NOT schedule dates that overlap with the other. We have heard pleas from both sides of the globe to that effect.

As for Winter Market's quality or importance to the U.S. and Canadian market, there is simply no other winter 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 Winter Market.

To that end, we begin this week with our complete wrap of trends that our team focused on at Winter Market '06. Look for trends reports on travel, base layers, hats, socks, gloves, winter apparel, snowsports gear, technical apparel, snowshoes, and more. Naturally, the most recent issue of GearTrends® magazine, distributed at Winter Market to the trade and sent to SNEWS® subscribers and retailers a week before the show, addressed trends and issues of importance to the outdoor industry. Of course, if you missed seeing your very own copy of the 2006 GearTrends® Winter Outdoor magazine because someone snatched it out of the mailroom before it got delivered (it happens), you can always go to www.geartrends.com/magazines to download every article you are interested in.

Between the Winter Market trend wraps in SNEWS® over the next few weeks, and our coverage in GearTrends® (powered by SNEWS®), there simply is no more detailed or finer coverage of the outdoor winter market anywhere -- we guarantee it.

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