Central location: Chicago moves up list as contender to host Outdoor Retailer

Chicago and the city’s McCormick Place convention center has moved up the ranks as a contender in the race for a possible new home for the Outdoor Retailer trade show. SNEWS has the details, plus an update on the show location decision timeline.
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How much do you like deep-dish pizza — and can you SUP on Lake Michigan?

Chicago and the city’s McCormick Place convention center has moved up the ranks as a contender in the race for a possible new home for the Outdoor Retailer trade show.

Outdoor Industry Association Executive Vice President Lori Herrera confirmed to SNEWS Friday that Chicago is as much of a strong candidate to host Outdoor Retailer as the other five cities previously listed as finalists, including the show’s current home Salt Lake City; Las Vegas; Denver; Anaheim, Calif. and Orlando, Fla.

It didn’t start that way. Chicago initially gained only an honorable mention in the competition to host Outdoor Retailer. And as of Sept. 7, it’s still barely listed (with only one line near the bottom) on the official Outdoor Retailer Collective Voice venue page maintained by OIA and the show’s owner and operator Nielsen Expositions.

However, several things changed since the website was built, Herrera said.

“Chicago has always been a potential venue that could fit the show, but the initial concern was about union labor costs,” she said. “From what I understand, there’s been some labor reform, bringing down those costs, so it’s moved back up our list.”

Another factor lifting Chicago is its central location, particularly for East Coast retailers and manufacturers, who long have complained about the show being too West-centric and more costly and timely for East Coasters to travel.

“When you look at the criteria for the show, that’s a high on the list — that there are direct and inexpensive flights for everyone,” Herrera said. “Chicago certainly has that, so does Las Vegas.”

East Coast manufacturers have pointed out to SNEWS that it isn’t just the cost of human transport to the show, but also product and booth transport. An outdoor brand on the East Coast ends up spending thousands of more dollars getting out West than a brand that is a short drive or flight to Salt Lake City. A venue like Chicago could level the playing field.

Of course, then there's the question of Chicago's outdoor culture. It doesn't match Salt Lake City or Denver, but is it better than Las Vegas, Aniheim or Orlando?

Herrera said officials added Chicago to the survey that went out to industry stakeholders and it’s been part of the discussion ever since. The survey period ended in late August.

OIA and Outdoor Retailer plan to put out a press release in mid-September updating the industry on the feedback it has received and what the next steps will be, Collective Voice Ambassador Michael Hodgson said. Officials are still on track to make a decision by the end of the year.

From a wide-angle view, three options remain:



>> Keep both Summer and Winter Market in Salt Lake City, in what likely would be a short-term extension of the contract.

>> Keep Winter Market in Salt Lake City, but move Summer Market (the larger of the two shows) to a new venue.

>> Move both Summer and Winter Market to a new venue.

Outdoor Retailer’s contract with Salt Lake City and the Salt Palace ends in 2014. A lack of space at the convention center, sold-out hotels and crowded restaurants led to the discussion of possibly moving the show. There’s also debate of what’s driving the show’s growth and what Outdoor Retailer should represent. Does any outdoor activity qualify? Throw in some political and environmental wrangling over how Utah is looking to take control of public lands, and the show location issue has become quite multi-facetted. OIA recently met with Utah officials on that later front for second round of talks, which both groups came out of a bit more upbeat.



--David Clucas

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