As we have in past years, the SNEWS® team was on hand to cover the goings on at the ROI Early Show, held June 12-15 at Snowbird resort, just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. This year, 31 vendor companies, along with 75 staff (reps, sales managers and company executives) met with 31 ROI member retailers (complete with 89 company owners and buying staff) to listen to line presentations, evaluate product offerings and place orders.
There was also plenty of discussion around the topic of ROI's evolution, which we first reported on June 5 in our story, "Retailers of the Outdoor Industry: Not your typical buying group" (click here to read). In many ways, this Early Show was ROI's best yet, in large part because of the renewed effort and focus by both the ROI membership and the attending vendors to work more closely together and support each other.
Only one gripe filtered consistently out of the show, and it was around an issue that surfaced in the SNEWS® offices just a few days prior to leaving for Early Show -- rumor that Chaco was going to start selling direct to consumers. Mark Paigen, founder and CEO of Chaco, confirmed that the company was serious about selling directly to consumers, but that as a result of feedback from ROI, no formal announcement was ready to be made yet. Paigen told us that Chaco would likely have a formal plan and announcement ready by Outdoor Retailer Summer Market -- one that would support both the needs of Chaco's specialty retail partners and Chaco's need to ensure it is not missing sales and opportunities for increased brand exposure in an increasingly competitive market.
New Products Stand Out
What's so ideal about Early Show is, well, that it is early and ROI members, and as a result, SNEWS®, get an advance look at what the new product trends, colors and designs will be from a broad spectrum of key outdoor industry companies.
This year, we kept notes from conversations with retail buyers and owners while we were at ROI, as well as responses to follow-up emails with the buyers and store owners in attendance about what products really stood out as "guaranteed can't miss" items. We suspect that you'll want to use this list as a sort of primer for upcoming Outdoor Retailer Summer Market appointments and visits -- and no, it is in no way comprehensive or complete, and we apologize in advance if a company that was attending the ROI show believes it had a "can't miss" product we didn't mention in the line-up below. Advance apologies aside, onward then with the show:
>> New boot and shoe styles and colors were a hit. Several ROI members told us that they were now considering adding more Asolo footwear to the current buying mix.
>> New colors on all the packs look great.
>> Asymetrix packs, a European line influence, offer a new and refreshing look.
>> The colors are a unanimous hit!
>> Women's leather flips received raves.
>> Men's Tofutech Tee is a great 100-percent soy jersey in strong colors.
>> Futura Series is light and showcases great colors and features.
>> Applause for the new Z pack.
>> Compact hand-crank charger for cell phones and radios.
>> DVD coming with the altimeter.
>> New running watches.
>> Strange as it may sound, the most often-mentioned callout for Kelty was its new Deluxe Pillow.
>> Men's and women's seamless merino underwear offers a new twist on the now often told merino story.
>> New colors that will actually sell, as well as designs that show style really turned heads. More retailers mentioned that Lowa had finally "hit the mark" this year.
>> Men's and women's Ion Windshirt has a new lower price, which suddenly makes this item a winner in the minds of numerous buyers.
>> Alpinist 55 and 85 packs are super lightweight with excellent features.
>> Garmsal, Pampero and Zepher Air Flow Back Panel series packs are hot -- pun intended.
>> Updates to the Torre GTX should help Montrail and stores carrying Montrail regain some lost hiking boot momentum.
>> New Lime/Aqua color on the women's Highlander really pops.
>> New Thermic Micro proprietary insulation sound great -- we think (note to reps though -- more than one retailer told us they were completely baffled by a way-too technical presentation).
>> Sprite 1 tent is very cool.
>> Bebo and Riff small packs outstanding.
>> Men's wovens in the Excursion collection combine interesting over-dye placement embroidery and print details.
>> From what we saw and heard, we'd have to call out the entire line. More than any company there, Mountainsmith received the most rave mentions from the retail buyers in attendance. A few items were frequently singled out, including the Modular Hauler systems, the recycled fabric lumbar packs, and the new Airflow back lumbar packs.
>> New leathers make the line sing.
>> Common Threads recycling program is a winner.
>> The Nano Fabric Shirt, although universal regrets are that it does not currently come in a long sleeve.
>> Women's Lightweight Nox Denim Capri will turn heads at a great price.
>> Trail running shoe line continues to lead with great styles, features and performance.
>> Men's Zero Tech T-shirt features a reflective camo jacquard print.
>> Men's XA Series II short is a great training short with a built-in compression liner.
>> No PVC pledge in production making the company yet another example of the outdoor industry greening itself.
>> The Switchback, an all-leather version of the Breeze, with solid looks and a great price point.