The Retailers of the Outdoor Industry (ROI) Early Buying Show moved to Utah this year, with 26 retailers and 30 vendors meeting at Snowbird ski resort, just outside of Salt Lake City from June 15 to 18.
Getting into the ROI buying show is a somewhat competitive affair for vendors. Currently, of the nearly 60 vendors who participate with ROI members, only 30 are invited to attend each year.
"Scheduling constraints and space dictate we have a maximum of 30 vendors at our show," Dave Matz, president of ROI, told SNEWS. "We pick the vendors and try to invite new vendors that did not get to participate the year before. This year, we had 11 new vendors."
The greatest benefit to a vendor, besides getting quality time with their leading specialty accounts, is the fact that ROI promises every member retailer will sit down with each vendor, whether they currently carry that company's brands or not.
Dan Burden of Brunton, a new vendor to the ROI Early Show, told us he was "extremely happy with the time spent." He even went so far as to tell us one retailer, who previously did not carry Brunton, was opening the company up with a significant order.
Manufacturers also point out that being able to show their new line to key specialty retailers provides a bellwether to gauge interest and how successful a product might be.
"As vendors, (the ROI show) gives us a perspective that is different from the historical early showing to the big retailers," said Peter Sachs, president of Lowa USA. "We get a more well-rounded and balanced perspective at the end of the day that gives me a lot more basis and rational for moving a price point, changing a color or adding a model between now and Outdoor Retailer."
ROI member retailers are using the time more and more to put together their assortment planning during the one-hour meetings with the vendors, putting a bit more pressure on the presentations.
And that is changing the way trade shows are being used. Several retailers, who asked us not to specifically quote them, told SNEWS they would not be going to Outdoor Retailer this year as they had already put together their buying plan for nearly 50 percent of their mix and would fill in the rest by going to EORA instead.
Other retailers told us they would be going to Outdoor Retailer, but with less buyers and for a shorter duration so they could scope out new brands and product lines that might be of interest. They too, told us they were pretty set already on their assortment and buy from their key brands.
While several vendors told SNEWS they'd like to see more retailers, Matz points out that being an ROI member is not as easy as just saying they want to join.
"We're always looking for new members, but the financial cornerstone of the organization is that you have to pay all of your bills on time, all the time, and that is critically important to our members and our vendors," Matz said.
If you are a retailer interested in joining ROI, Matz does want to hear from you. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just be prepared to guarantee you will pay all your bills on time, with no exceptions.
SNEWS View: This is our second Early Show we've been able to attend, and we're smiling again. Great venue, great format. For the retailers and their buyers, the ROI show provides an unrushed format where everyone -- retailers, reps and vendors -- are eating, meeting, sleeping and playing in the same location, creating the opportunity for more in-depth discussions about business practices between retailers and manufacturers that often happen over a drink or during dinner. What shows like ROI's offer, you simply can't get from a large trade show environment like OR or SIA. And that's what makes these kinds of events essential to the health of our industry. Of course, that's not to say there isn't room for improvement. Some retailers want more time with vendors, others less. Some vendors want more time with retailers, but not all, so the scheduling challenges continue. Vendors also want more ROI member buyers at the show, instead of the requisite two and that makes sense. A number of times, we sat in on meetings where the buyer meeting with the vendor was not the buyer in charge of the product category the vendor was selling -- that's not a great way to do biz and sure doesn't make a vendor too happy. And while a few other vendors told SNEWS that the ROI Early Show was, essentially, an expensive "grip and grin" they also said that, if one adds up all the dollars the ROI membership stores generate, ROI is a significant retail force and one that demands the attention.