Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '07: Setting size and attendance records

For those who wondered last year if Outdoor Retailer Winter Market could manage to get bigger and still remain relevant, wonder no more. Winter Market 2007 was indeed much bigger in terms of exhibit hall space and overall attendance. If there was an energy meter gauging the mood at Winter Market, it would have redlined toward the positive, and that's a good thing.
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For those who wondered last year if Outdoor Retailer Winter Market could manage to get bigger and still remain relevant, wonder no more. Winter Market 2007 was indeed much bigger in terms of exhibit hall space and overall attendance. As we heard from the floor of the SIA SnowSports Show right before Winter Market kicked off, poor weather, weird weather and downright unsuitable weather for sales did nothing to dampen the mood of retailers or manufacturers. Heck, we've seen better winters with more grumbling. Does this mean business is that much better than in past years? Or simply that an increasing number of retailers have a better handle on inventories and managing the business so a weather hiccup is less stressful? Either way, if there was an energy meter gauging the mood at Winter Market, it would have redlined toward the positive, and that's a good thing.

How large was the show? Outdoor Retailer is reporting that total attendance (keep in mind these are preliminary numbers that have not been audited) was 17,973, well up from last year's 14,138 and that number sets an attendance record for Winter Market. The number of exhibiting companies was 815, up from 724 that exhibited in 2006, continuing the trend of exhibitor increases each year. As would be expected with more exhibitors, the total square footage was 328,200 this year compared with 281,288 in 2006. Perhaps because the show is bigger -- and perhaps because the state of Utah, Salt Lake City and the outdoor industry have become strange bedfellows as a result of Outdoor Industry Association and a national focus on the power of recreation dollars in Utah coupled with a need to protect public lands from extractive abuse -- media attendance jumped up as well, from 359 in 2006 to 416 in 2007.

Of all the numbers, though, the more meaningful ones to exhibitors are buyer and store numbers. This year, the number of buyers was reported at 5,595, also up from 2006 numbers reported at 5,006. Though there is no way of knowing until the numbers are audited, we would suspect that because ispo and Winter Market did not conflict this year, as they did last, international attendance was back up after taking a serious smack-down last year. What continues to intrigue the SNEWS® team is that even though attendance numbers are up and the number of buyers in attendance was also up, the number of retail stores represented by the buyers dipped yet again, from 1,984 in 2006 to 1,826 in 2007. Consider that in 2005, total stores were reported at 2,236.

Could this be, as we have intimated before, that the decline in overall store numbers is indicative of several continuing and consistent trends -- retail consolidation and the decision by some to attend only regional shows or no shows at all? Only a serious look at numbers broken down by region, and then compared in a like manner with a similar breakdown of numbers for 2006, 2005 and 2004 will provide meaningful data. But one thing is clear to us…if store numbers continue to decline, that either indicates the show is losing national relevance with an increasing number of retailers or retail itself, and as a result, this industry, is in a bit of jeopardy.

If you did not attend this year or last year, but have in year's past, we'd like to hear from you as to why Winter Market is no longer an A-list show for you and your store. We'd also like to know what you think Outdoor Retailer needs to do to remain relevant to you and your fellow retailers. Send an email to tradeshow@snewsnet.com.

It remains our contention that there is simply no other nationally focused 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 '07. Look for trend reports on base layers, hats, socks, gloves, winter apparel, snow sports gear, technical apparel, snowshoes and more. Naturally, the most recent issue of GearTrends®, 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 2007 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.

Also, we trust you will, if you did not read them at Winter Market, enjoy our reprise of our daily "Herd in the Aisles" column that ran in the OR Daily…offering a little levity amid four days of sometimes too serious energy. To that end, we'll be running bits of humor and levity encountered in our daily lives as we conduct business around an industry whose primary mission is, and should continue to be, to get folks outdoors and playing. Heard or seen something funny lately? Then send an email to herd@snewsnet.com. Laughter is a good thing.

OK…on with the job at hand…wrapping up what we saw at Winter Market 2007. 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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