Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2009: SNEWS BOB Awards

A companyâ��s booth reflects its personality and its core values, while also serving the needs of its customers. Just as important as the showcase for new gear and product, a trade show also shows off the efforts of many exhibitors to upgrade, redesign and otherwise rethink their booth footprints, constructions and presentations. We at SNEWS�® like to acknowledge those efforts. We are proud to present the winners of the ORWM 2009 SNEWS Best of Booths (BOB) Awards, in recognition of the most successful of these endeavors.
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A company’s booth reflects its personality and its core values, while also serving the needs of its customers. Just as important as the showcase for new gear and product, a trade show also shows off the efforts of many exhibitors to upgrade, redesign and otherwise rethink their booth footprints, constructions and presentations.

We at SNEWS® like to acknowledge those efforts. We are proud to present the winners of the ORWM 2009 SNEWS Best of Booths (BOB) Awards, in recognition of the most successful of these endeavors. The SNEWS staff trolled the aisles of the show seeking the most dynamic, innovative and effective booths—and we weren’t disappointed. We had heated debates behind closed doors at the end of each show day about our personal favorites. We even saw fit to add a new category: the Déjà Vu BOB, which recognizes the reuse of old booth materials in a new booth design.

Although true innovation often defies broad categorization, our winners did have a few things in common. First was the ability to communicate a sense of openness and inclusiveness. Unlike in seasons past, in which many booths more closely resembled gated communities, this round of BOB winners tended to have open formats that invited show attendees to enter from multiple points around the booth. The winners also stayed true to their roots, yet managed to translate a brand heritage and viewpoint into an authentic, modern design language. Moreover, in keeping with the current tough economy and the broader societal shift towards conservation and recycling, the most successful booth designs boasted an eco-friendly ethos that, in the end, helped to conserve both materials and financial resources.

All in all, there were many inspiring, fun and unique presentations at the show. We hope that retailers took the opportunity to look around and make note of at least a couple of the many good ideas that could also easily be implemented on their own sales floors.

Without further ado, here are the winners. Congratulations on a job well done!

Top BOB—Cloudveil

Booth Size: 50’ x 50’

Three words come to mind when describing this winning booth: open, innovative and true. Cloudveil’s main goal was to communicate the spatial theme of Wyoming (the company’s home) by creating a welcoming, open floor plan. To accomplish this, booth designer Brady Collings focused on taking particular aspects of Jackson, Wyo., and bringing them into the booth—all while resisting the temptation to be too generic.

For instance, the elongated work station at the back of the booth mimicked Dornan’s Bar in Jackson, right down to the view of the Tetons one would see from the bar’s main window. The boardwalk, which was made of reclaimed barn wood, also linked back to its real counterpart in Jackson. These elements—in addition to the booth’s retail walls, two mesh-draped private showing rooms, and two cozy lounges—offered the Cloudveil sales and marketing staff a variety of ways to showcase the product and merchandising, and created an inviting environment that beckoned to passersby on the show floor.

Like the Cloudveil product itself, the booth was fundamental in nature, yet imbued with a modern viewpoint. As a reflection of the company’s ecologically responsible ethos, many parts of the old booth were recycled and incorporated into the new design. Beams from the old booth were used as platforms for the mannequins; old wall panels served as decking in the lounges, show rooms, and back of the booth; the furniture was made of excess materials from the booth build; and the sheet metal roofing, bolts and I-beams came from other, older booths. In fact, sustainable, farmed wood was the only “new” material that was used.

Congrats to Cloudveil for creating an open and airy atmosphere that enhanced both product and brand message, while also staying true to a unique heritage.

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Most Improved BOB—Cascade Designs

Booth Size: 50’ x 50’

Because the company’s old booth had been in use since 2002, it was clearly time for a new concept. The approach, which Cascade Designs dubbed “anti-booth,” was to focus on retailers by showing them what the new products would look like in an actual store setting. In fact, there wasn’t anything in the booth—from product, packaging, POP and display materials—that dealers couldn’t get for their own shops. In addition, the booth contained a variety of set-ups—such as mannequins, flat walls, gondolas and other types of fixturing—to illustrate new merchandising ideas.

According to Cascade Designs marketing director Carol Blayden, the concept worked like a dream. “This wasn’t a big writing show, but lots of dealers ordered displays, and even added product because of the displays and merchandising,” she said.

As has been the case with most vendors, marketing and trade show budgets have come under close scrutiny of late, so Cascade Designs also had an eye toward saving money in its booth redesign. To accomplish this, the company took many materials from its old booth, and injected some freshness by incorporating a few of its most popular in-line products into the plan.

For instance, the Cascade Designs sign that sat behind the front desk was made in-house by the company’s industrial design team, and the individual aluminum letters were fabricated using leftover material from MSR Lightning snowshoes. Tent poles were used to raise the letters from a plywood base. MSR Boardroom tents did double duty as meeting rooms, and carpet from the old booth was used to secure the new tent assortment. In another initiative, Cascade Designs rented a few key items, including the handicap ramp in the back of the booth.

All told, these initiatives resulted in a lighter-weight booth that was far easier to set up than the previous incarnation. But most importantly, the booth allowed Cascade Designs to quickly and easily convey to retailers that the company is a true business partner in every way.

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Fun BOB—Canaima Outdoors

Booth Size: 30’ x 30’

For the past few months, it has been easy to obsess and stress out over bad news. But to stroll into the Canaima booth (which was also home to Germany-based sibling Gibbon Slacklines), was to enter a world of fun and joy. Here, everybody was invited to play on the slacklines, test out the colorful hammocks, and otherwise hang out and have a good time.

The main theme of the booth was Venezuelan spirit. In fact, the Venezuela-based company takes its name from Canaima National Park, a spiritually significant locale that is the home of Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall. Bright striping and hammocks at the back of the booth, an open and inviting floor plan and, of course, slacklines set up for all to try, were nearly irresistible. The booth also incorporated sustainable teak flooring from Venezuela that added visual warmth to the booth.

It seems that every time a member of the SNEWS team walked by Canaima, it took every ounce of willpower to keep going and not stop to play a bit. (After all, there were zillions of appointments for us to keep, and miles to schlep before we could sleep.) As Canaima’s Gary Richter so succinctly put it, “We were just trying to be different and inject some fun.” Mission accomplished.

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Display BOB: Yukon Charlie’s

Booth Size: 20’ x 20’

It’s not an easy task to display goods such as snowshoes, which have a tendency to either end up in a pile on the floor (crampon-side-up), or to get tangled up and stuck on slat wall hooks. However, Yukon Charlie’s put the merchandise front and center in an inviting and pleasing way.

The company’s dual goal was to create a clean, technical look that focused on the product, and to avoid cluttering the booth with too many graphics. The result was a retail environment that was both attractive and eye-catching, and that invited potential customers to take a closer look. Visitors could easily pick up and touch the entire product line, and the company’s staff had enough space to work the line effectively when the booth was busy. The use of stainless steel, black powder coating, and technical outdoor colors such as yellow and red blended well with the snowshoes and accessories on display.

The booth, designed in partnership with Insight Exhibits, featured a canopy in the shape of the front frame of a snowshoe. The interior of the booth boasted five custom round displays with stainless steel arms that displayed the snowshoes at a 45-degree angle, and accent lighting picked up the metallic anodized finishes of the snowshoe frames. At the back of the booth was a section of carbon grey-colored slat wall that offered a broad array of merchandising possibilities, and will also help to keep the booth fresh at future shows.

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Mini BOB—Kodiak Cakes

Booth Size: 10’ x 10’

It’s true: Good things do come in small packages. (And if those petite packages happen to contain a delicious pancake or brownie mix, all the better!) The most striking visual element of the booth was a huge, hand-carved wooden Kodiak bear. It immediately conveyed outdoorsy authenticity, and served as a conversation piece that brought folks into the booth for a closer look. Speaking of serving, Kodiak Cakes co-owner Joel Clark was also on the scene rustling up batches of warm flapjacks, which proved to be another strong draw.

Besides the bear and the yummy samples, the compact booth featured an antique table with shelves (which doubled as a small kitchen counter and storage unit), as well as displays made from antique orange crates. The overall vibe was authentic and homey.

“I wanted to keep everything as authentic as possible and to create something that felt like a rustic, homey cabin. I stayed away from pre-fab stuff,” said Clark. The all-natural products—featuring pancake mix created from an old Clark family recipe—tied in perfectly with the rustic, wholesome image of the booth. Heaven help the SNEWS staff’s waistlines if Clark decides to broaden his tasting menu at the next show.

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Déjà Vu BOB—Eagles Nest Outfitters

Booth Size: 20’ x 20’

Call it something special in the aerie. Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO), which makes hammocks and adventure travel accessories, showed off a new booth that combined bright color, unique design and high-end craftsmanship.

The company’s new booth incorporated pieces from its old booth, and also used locally sourced materials. The entire structure was specifically designed to support the weight of occupied hammocks. According to ENO co-founder Paul Pinholster, “Our idea was to create a sort of geodesic dome with a wood feel.” To accomplish this, he designed the base and then teamed up with his brother and co-founder, Peter Pinholster, to handcraft and carve each beam that supported the booth. (They used a process popular among boat builders called bright work that restores natural beauty and shine to tired wood.)

The brothers also gave the booth a bit of an Appalachian influence (read: Southern hospitality) that translated to a friendly, relaxed, community-oriented vibe. This was underscored by the musical instruments resting just inside the entrance.

“The most important element of the new booth was to create a comfortable area that encourages people to jump in a hammock and relax,” said Pinholster. “Pete and I started out by selling hammocks out of our van. We wanted to stay true to our roots, show Southern hospitality, and let all attendees know they [could] come by the ENO booth to relax, hear a drum or guitar, and hang out.”

We hope you didn’t catch SNEWS staffers napping in the oh-so-tempting hammocks.

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Honorable Mentions (listed alphabetically)

END Footwear

Although Portland, Ore.-based END’s booth is not new, it is certainly among the most eco-conscious at the show and deserves kudos for ongoing innovation. Earth-friendly features include the use of wood planks that were re-harvested from a demolished Oregon Coast bridge, 100 percent canvas “drape walls” that can be incorporated into future product offerings, paint that came from Portland’s own Metro Paint Recycling program, and a podium at the entrance from Craigslist that was part of a kitchen remodel.

Fur Headwear (Turtle Fur)

Within the greater Turtle Fur booth was a newly designed section that housed the 4-year-old Fur Headwear fashion-oriented brand. Here, the theme was a boutique look that reflected the high quality of the product line. Standout display elements included tiered tables topped by Tiffany-like lamps, and an eclectic mix of candleholders, beer steins and other unique “hat racks” that came from Salvation Army stores.

OTBT (Off the Beaten Track)

The highlight here was the cool little camper (with a funky refinished interior) that conveyed the message that the product on display was unique. The booth played up the outdoor feel with rough-hewn log displays and an Astroturf “lawn.”

Overland Equipment

The booth’s design tied in well with its brand message: “Simply honest bags.” The sheet metal walls were reconfigured from the company’s old booth, lending an outdoorsy, rustic feel. Old windowpanes were used for tabletops and old doors became the sides of those tables. A long display able was filled with almond shells from the town of Chico, Calif., where the company was founded in 1981.

SmartWool

In many parts of the country, winter is a seemingly endless, gray, chilly affair, so it was very refreshing to step into a winter world containing bold color, a warm sense of humor and unbridled positive energy. Clever touches included the chairlift above the booth’s entrance, engaging product displays, and the outside “wall of wool” complete with video screens showing people having fun in the snow.

Terrasoles

Not surprisingly, this footwear company focused on translating the warmth and comfort of its products into its booth design. Contributing to the lounge-like ambience were warm earth tones with the use of soft fleeces in fixtures, plus sustainable materials in the walls, flooring and front desk.

--Judy Leand

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