The SNEWS® crew was on the move at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market looking for the best booths at the show. Up and down the aisles we went as we searched, evaluated and chose our favorites based on our well-established criteria. After all, we've been doing this for a long time, which means we hardly ever get lost anymore, and that's progress.
How are the booths judged? We look for creativity, efficient use of space, theme, humor, product presentation, display, eye-catching appeal, workability and design. We like booths that reflect company values and ones with a clear brand message. The booths don't have to be the largest or the most elaborate -- sometimes even simple is good, as long as the criteria are met.
This year's winners of the BOB Awards did a great job of creating booths that sparked a glimmer in the SNEWS® judges' eyes and, in some cases, took booth design to a new level.
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 – Patagonia
It's been a while, five years in fact, since Patagonia had a new booth, according to Kathy Weisz, Patagonia's director of visual merchandising and store design. The new Patagonia booth was designed by the folks at Atmosphere Studios of Salt Lake City, who worked closely with Weisz and Tania Bjornlie, trade show coordinator.
The entrance of the booth was dominated by Patagonia's environmental message on the right, a reception table on the left and a display in the middle, the back of which served as a timeline for the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts of New Orleans outdoor retailer, Massey's. Sufficient room was provided around these three elements to provide entrance into the booth. Once inside, a diagonal path through "villages" guided retailers from technical outerwear to lifestyle apparel, Capilene base layers to kids and Water Girl.
Environmentally sound materials, some from the old booth, were used throughout along with corrugated metal walls meant to represent the tin shed in which Yvon Chouinard first worked. The backdrop for the presentation of technical apparel was hot-rolled and sealed steel, whereas soft-colored walls ushered in lifestyle apparel. Reclaimed barn wood was used to great effect as were Supplex canopies covering portions of the booth. Walls slid on runners in some portions of the booth and others swiveled, giving the booth a different look and function as needed.
All fixtures in the 3,200-square-foot space were custom and hand tooled. A 400-square-foot mezzanine topped the rear of the booth and was used for private meetings. An event section just behind the reception desk provided seating for both relaxing and watching slide presentations.
Patagonia was given the Top BOB award based on the thought, careful planning, ease of use, design, display and, most of all, attention to detail and clear brand message reflected in every part of the booth. It is truly a winner.
Improved BOB – Moonstone
A switch of booth spaces gave Moonstone a new location and a new space challenge. The booth, positioned on the intersection of two major aisles, took advantage of the all-important corner and positioned its rep stations diagonally creating an open and inviting space. A large "Monster Wall," actually photo signage, framed one side of the booth and was a nice change from the ubiquitous ceiling-hung signage seen throughout the show. Couches placed at the two corners on the aisle made the booth even more inviting.
Displays were kept to a minimum but done dramatically with a row of mannequins dressed in black and white and positioned in a diagonal row pointing from the front of the booth to the rear.
While Moonstone's previous booth was unremarkable, the company's new booth was anything but boring. It had great design and efficiency. What an improvement!
Fun BOB – Kahtoola
We haven't had this much fun flying as the flight we took in the Kahtoola booth. From the fuselage on the outside wall of the booth to the clever execution of the interior, this booth was the hands-down winner for Fun BOB.
Built entirely in-house, the booth featured real 747 airline seats (bought on eBay) for retailers to try on the company's Flight System of insulated over boots that hook into snowshoes. Through the round porthole windows lining the booth's back wall, one could see the French Alps. The entrance featured an LED sign reading "Flight 231," the booth number.
The fuselage on the aisle featured product encased in the plane windows, and a service cart held the requisite beverages and airline food.
Everyone got into the act. Two uniformed flight attendants graced the "ticket" counter, greeting visitors with a bright smile and a scripted "Welcome to Khatoola," and upon leaving, "Thank you for flying Kahtoola Airlines. Watch your step." Captain Cannon and his crew completed the picture in airline pilot uniforms.
The booth was fun, clever, creative and never overpowered the product the company was selling. Not a detail was overlooked. It was a breath of fresh air. We wish flying was always this enjoyable.
Display BOB – Sigg
Bottles are not the easiest things in the world to display, but Sigg did it right by lining the sides and back of the booth with its brightly colored graphic lifestyle water bottles, insulated and fuel bottles. All the bottles were lined up in a row around the booth and sat on top-lighted cabinets placing the bottles in the highly visible "impact zone." Two pedestals in front of the booth added display space.
The graphics hanging above the bottles reinforced the theme "Sigg, your liquID," a reference to a customer survey that indicated that people who own Sigg bottles feel their bottles express who they really are.
The Sigg booth's color, simplicity, product presentation and creativity made it the best overall display booth in the show. And our favorite bottle? Wouldn't you like to know!
Mini BOB – Aerotape
Small booths are often hard to merchandise, so the key is keeping them simple. That was pretty easy for Aerotape as the product is simply an orange-colored reflective tape. To display it, the company draped it across the booth and down one side. Comfortable chairs, a widescreen TV, photos and a small table completed the furnishings and left the center of the booth to buyers. Imagine how hard it is to build a display around two lengths of 28 feet of reflective tape! Aerotape did it by including photos of the tape being used in rescue efforts.
Visitors to the booth were asked to stand with a piece of tape in their hand while they were digitally photographed. The tape showed up as bright white strips in the photos and proved an effective and interactive way to illustrate the tape's reflective qualities. Well done.
We're sad to report that not one booth in the entire show lived up to our crazy standards. We hope the industry is not taking itself too seriously these days. We look forward to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to get some mojo back in the mix. It's driving us crazy!
Almost BOB – Mountain Boy Sledworks
This 10 x 20 booth was literally built on the show floor. It consisted simply of a pine back wall and a wood tower to hold signage and serve as a place to prop sleds. Oriental rugs on the floor completed the setting for the display of artful wood sleds.
The freshly cut wood smell was captivating and the simple display engaging. The lighting along the back wall helped the booth stand out in its crowded hallway location.
Almost BOB – Freestyle
We don't often award booths that have that made-by-a-corporate-exhibit-company look but the Freestyle booth incorporated so many distinctive features it was hard to pass up. The Lucite boxes lining the outside walls of the booth contained waterproof watches submerged in blue water -- an interesting way to show rather than talk about the watches. Benches lined the walls inside the booth and provided comfortable seating for viewing the line. The use of blue and white throughout the booth was eye-catching and gave every aspect of the booth a fresh feeling.
The 2006 BOB award winners weren't the only ones with great ideas. Here are some booths that we found interesting:
Best Lounge: Horny Toad
Lounges seemed to be taking over booth space at a prodigious rate. We welcome the addition of couches and benches as they add a comfort feel to booths and provide a place for us to sit.
Runner Up: Jansport
The Jansport LiveWire Lounge incorporated patterns and fabrics from its top-selling packs into fluffy pillows and cozy beanbag chairs, creating a relaxed atmosphere for Jansport retailers. Its lounge was definitely different -- sort of Southern California modern.
Best Art Exhibit: Clive
Culture is making its way into the show by way of two booths making art an integral part of its visual display. Clive installed artists Trent Call and Sri Whipple to create art during the show and then raffled it off to benefit Outdoor Outreach, a non-profit organization providing outdoor experiences to at-risk and underprivileged youth. Other art works on display were provided by artists from Salt Lake's Unknown Gallery.
Runner Up: Gramicci
Gramicci's artist in residence was busy completing two canvas panels framing the entrance to the booth. The SNEWS® crew, being somewhat artistically challenged, had fun watching.
Best People Project: Keen
"Life stories" was the focus at the Keen booth where show goers could have their photo taken, pasted on a card along with some personal data and posted on the booth's ball wall. It was an extension of Keen's website feature "Life Stories."
Best Glove Display: Marmot
The gloves lining the outside of the Marmot booth, each on its own wall-mounted peg, was interesting and a little unnerving as we looked closely to make sure none were performing single-digit salutes. We're happy to report that, each time we passed the booth, the gloves were behaving themselves.
Coolest Display: Timberland
The Iceman cometh to the Timberland booth where giant ice blocks encased jackets and shoes, and ice shelves supported more products inside the booth. Too cool!
Neatest Tech Feature: Cloudveil
Cloudveil's iClinic utilizes a video iPod mounted on a set of vertical speakers. This clever little set up is a video podcasting system with iTunes technology that can act as a sales clinic and branding tool for retailers and consumers alike, providing the latest on new products and promotions. The iClinic will be beta tested this spring with Cloudveil dealers nationwide.
Smallest Booth: Kinetic Koffee Company
Take a 10 x 10 booth and divide it in half and you've got a really small booth. Kinetic Koffee had 50 square feet in which to introduce and provide samples of its gourmet coffees. A counter and a table were the only things that fit but, despite its small size, the buzz was big.
Best Story: Topo Ranch
You won't find too many people who can claim to be descendants of the Donner Party but Alex Kump is one of them. Along with his wife Danielle and friend Eric Hartnack, Kump has fashioned a company reflective of his ancestor's Spanish land grant ranch called Topo Ranch near Monterey, Calif. The booth featured photos of the ranch, his grandfather and, with its all-wood construction, was made to resemble a ranch bunkhouse. The booth and its story was an interesting way to showcase the company's apparel line.
Worst Carpet: Bula
The retro green and yellow patterned carpet in the Bula booth captured attention, but looking at it for more than a second or two caused the eyes to start revolving in their sockets. While different, it was a distraction. Bula, get rid of it.
Most Bling: FU-R
The FU-R booth was a lesson in how to capture attention to a product -- headgear -- that can be kind of old hat. Cascading strings of silver orbs rippling and twinkling in the dry convention center air created wispy walls for the fixtures displaying FU-R products. Music added another attraction. The booth was simple and eye-catching. Our hat's off to FU-R.