Meetings are cranking, pedometer steps are skyrocketing, and happy hour drinks are flowing. Here’s what you missed in the mix:
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- Elephant in the room: For years, brands across the industry have been asking themselves a tough question: “Should I sell my products on Amazon? Can I afford not to?” The OR show floor was abuzz with this topic today, as multiple panels and lectures explored the ongoing quandary of how to do business on the ecommerce behemoth. “It’s like talking to candlemakers about electricity,” said Emelie Ortiz of Altra Running. “It’s happening, so it has to be dealt with.” The buzzword today was “omnichannel.” Increasing brick-and-mortar retail presence drives traffic to Amazon and improves search rankings, presenters argued, while a strong Amazon presence can work to improve brand image and boost retailer sales. “You just have to explain to retailers that it’s a brand-building exercise to list on Amazon,” Apex Ski Boots’ Brian Ellwood said. “Working with Amazon doesn’t mean we’re going for anyone’s jugular.” Read more about Amazon’s effect on the industry in the current issue of The Voice, available on the show floor.
- Time to travel: Scott Allan, CEO or General Manager of Hydro Flask since 2012, is stepping down in favor of traveling with his wife and dog. Allan helped grow the company into the staple of drink and foodware that it is. Ryan Witt, president of housewares for Helen of Troy, Hydro Flask’s parent company, will step in.
- A century of Eddie Bauer: Not too many brands can brag about having a century of experience backing up its product, and certainly no one can brag about having made down jackets for as long as Eddie Bauer. Bauer’s original shop opened 100 years ago this year but it wasn’t until the Washington outdoorsman patented the first quilted down jacket, the Skyliner, in 1940 that his shop transformed into a manufacturer. Today, the brand is an insulation powerhouse, having sent jackets and other gear to the top of the world’s tallest mountains, into World War Two bombers, and likely on the backs of a lot of the people walking the show floor this week.
Eco to the max: Want a challenge? Head to Crescent Moon’s booth and try to pick out the snowshoes made from potato and corn starch. We couldn’t do it. These snow flats are designed to break down when they finish their lifespan, rather than take up space in the dump. Step aside, recycled plastic. Biodegradable is the new eco buzz word.
- Call to action: Climate Change is almost always a buzzword at OR, but today the conversation took a turn to focus on it’s impacts on one seemingly-forgotten locale: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Conservation Alliance Breakfast kicked off the discussion and with climber Tommy Candwell, and it continued at The North Face’s booth in the afternoon with Kit DesLauriers and Jody Potts, a Gwich’in leader. “Indigenous peoples are trying to adapt and some of us are losing our lives trying to do that,” she said.
- Joining forces: A collection of state outdoor business alliances from all across the country are joining forces. A meeting organized by the Outdoor Industry Association brought them together to discuss local and national priorities, potentials for collaboration, and development. “The momentum behind industry-led voices and business partnerships across the country is reflective of a unique window of opportunity to elevate the outdoor recreation economy,” said Kelly Ault, the executive director of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance. The takeaway? If your state doesn’t have one of these groups, you’re missing out.
- Free stuff: If you’re reading this, it’s too late, but the action camera company Akaso may have broken barriers in the giveaway department today, handing out an assortment of action cameras for a $20 donation to Leave No Trace and garnering a giant crowd in the process. You’re not alone though, we missed out too.
- Wait, wait, don’t tell me: Industry insiders gathered at Earl’s Kitchen + Bar last night for an evening of outdoor trivia hosted by SNEWS and The Voice. Which president founded the National Parks System? (Hint: It wasn’t Teddy.) Which brand was the first to incorporate Gore-Tex in its jackets? The winning team—who nailed 40 questions like these and strutted out of the event with national parks sweatshirts from The North Face, camping swag, and a free full-page ad in the next issue of The Voice—included James Mills, Chez Chesak, Dave Petri, Steve Yocom, Jordan Meeks, Tate Lewon, and Steven Reinhold. A special shout-out to Verde Brand Communications, who brought a huge contingency, and came in second place by only one point.
- Pushing boundaries: Dozens of outdoor leaders and show-goers gathered today for the 2020 Inclusivity Luncheon at the Denver Athletic Club, organized by Kenji Haroutunian. The long-running event featured five speakers from organizations like Camber Outdoors and Respect Outside presenting on the state of diversity and inclusion in the outdoor industry. The hot topic today: action versus words. “It’s great to have a slogan and say good things, but it must be followed by action,” said Gina McClard of Respect Outside. At the end of the gathering, Haroutunian offered some advice on how brands and retailers can start implementing inclusive practices immediately: “Calendarize events. Put Black History Month, International Women’s Day, and other important dates on your company calendar. That’s one way to start beating the drum for inclusion.”