Industry evenly split on Salt Lake City keeping/moving Outdoor Retailer trade shows

The outdoor industry is evenly split on whether to keep the twice-a-year trade shows in Salt Lake City or move them elsewhere, according to the first-published survey results from show organizers.

Forget Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The outdoor industry has its own hotly contested decision coming at the end of the year: Where to locate Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets beyond 2014?

And similar to that "other" election, the latest poll suggests a tight race.

The outdoor industry is evenly split on whether to keep the twice-yearly tradeshows in Salt Lake City or move them elsewhere, according to the first-published survey results from show organizers.

The joint effort to reach out to industry stakeholders by Nielsen Expositions and the Outdoor Industry Association, known as the Collective Voice, asked the question in various ways to retailers and exhibitors, but the end result comes down to about 40 percent favoring a move, 40 percent favoring staying put, with about 20 percent neutral on the issue.

The results, which included 2,989 respondents, do not include Utah-based retailers (about 317 people) because of their overwhelming bias (about 80 percent favorable) to keep the show in Salt Lake City, officials said.

With Utah-based retailers added in, SNEWS estimates the overall figures being closer to 44 percent favoring Salt Lake City, 37 percent favoring a move, with 19 percent neutral.

Despite a near-even split on the big question, the survey results do show some consensus in other areas. For example, there is stronger support (more than 40 percent) toward moving Summer Market from Salt Lake City, but little support (about only 30 percent) to move Winter Market. Chalk up the seasonal difference due Winter Market’s smaller size — it faces less space restraints — and the convenience of Salt Lake City’s nearby ski and snowboard slopes.

If Salt Lake City or Denver were able to increase their convention centers, hotel space and amenities, then these two cities with strong outdoor cultures top the list, officials said. If they can't increase space, support wanes and shifts to larger cities and venues. If the show were forced to deal with the smaller space in Salt Lake City or Denver, there's slightly more preference from respondents in reducing certain market segements at the show, versus limiting overall growth. There is little support in using two venues within the same city to support growth.

Citing competitive negotiations, officials did not release specific survey results regarding the potential cities and venues. However, they did hint toward the top-four choices being Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas and Chicago for various reasons, while Orlando, Fla. and Anaheim, Calif. slipped back in the race due to “seasonal implications” and “hidden complications.”

"We will continue to work with city and public officials in Salt Lake and Denver, industry favorites as potential host cities — both of which are currently too small to meet the tradeshow's needs in one venue," said Kenji Haroutunian, Nielsen Expositions Outdoor Group vice president and Outdoor Retailer show director. "That being said, we are also pursuing other venues that are large enough to house OR.”

After kicking off discussions nearly two years ago, officials said they hope to announce a future location strategy by the end of 2012.

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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