For too long now, there has been frequent chatter and some discord around our industry’s ecosystem of national and regional trade shows: the number of shows and their purpose, timing, cost and business need. The persistence of these grumblings means we have issues we need to address. When we avoid these issues, tension arises and ultimately turns to dissension. We are in one of these situations right now. It’s time to come together to creatively develop solutions and bravely embrace whatever evolutions are needed.

Smiling woman with long brown hair

Nora Stowell is the board chair of Outdoor Industry Association. She is also Fabric Sales & Marketing Division Leader at W.L. Gore.

I’ve worked in a number of industries, and I can honestly say that the outdoor industry is uniquely collaborative. We are most effective when we work together with our diverse perspectives towards a common goal. Whether we are lobbying on Capitol Hill for public lands, developing sustainability standards to combat climate change or taking collective action to get more people outside, we put aside our competitive interests and work together to achieve our goals more effectively and quickly than we could as individual companies.

What does this have to do with trade shows? Well, the national trade show provides a critical convening place for us to DO this work together. At Outdoor Retailer each year, we make important connections and discoveries, we are exposed to new ideas and we are witness to the culture and shared values of our industry. We come from all over the country and the world, from different backgrounds and different companies, but we leave feeling part of a community. 

Without a national convening event, we run the risk of fracturing our ability to influence, support our members and continue to grow our $887B outdoor recreation economy. I know I am not alone in holding this perspective. In fact, in a recent trade show survey published by SNEWS, over 73 percent of respondents agreed that we need an all-industry gathering for these very reasons.

As our national gathering, Outdoor Retailer has been the foundation of the industry community for almost 40 years. What started as a business need has also become a critical community connection point and the space to tackle big issues. 

As the world changes and the consumer market evolves with trade wars, warming climates and technology advancement, our businesses face risk. Which is why Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), our industry’s trade organization, has a reason for being. We provide value to our members and protect against threats of the future by focusing all of our efforts on our three-pillar strategy: policy, sustainability and outdoor participation.

At OIA, the trade show is central to almost all the work we do. It is where we collaborate and convene to get some of the best proactive work done on behalf of the industry. It is also a large part of how we are funded, as our two most important sources of revenue are from membership dues and trade show royalties.

We need Outdoor Retailer to be successful. We believe it remains the best venue to harness our industry’s innovative thinking, products and marketing, not to mention the community connection that defines us. We should stay focused on this important legacy event. At the same time, the market is changing, and we need to change with it. The trade show will need to evolve, and Outdoor Industry Association, Snowsports Industries America (SIA), and Emerald Expositions are committed to meeting bi-annually to make sure Outdoor Retail stays essential to support the needs of our member brands and retailers far into the future.

In the meantime, our call to action is that you join us in Denver this month and in June and continue to join us in the future to show your support and belief in our industry community. It’s about more than just the business you do there. It’s also about coming together as a unified force to tackle important issues that we face as an industry. At this January’s show, OIA will be announcing an industry-wide collective effort around climate change that will define this industry for generations to come. Working together and taking bold action, we can grow our businesses and be a major force for social, political and economic change. 


Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018 show floor shot from above

Op-Ed: Let’s redirect some of our trade show dollars to supporting what really matters

Outdoor Retailer brings together some of my favorite people in the world, people I am so grateful to call friends and colleagues. I thoroughly enjoy getting together with these fine people of the outdoor and snowsports industry. But the reality is that the thrice-annual OR shows more

The American Alpine Club's boulder at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2018

Op-Ed: We have a trade show crisis

If you were one of the few people who attended the 2018 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market when it debuted in the November time slot, you know it was pretty grim. “Ghost town” was how many people described it. What happened? Industry members didn’t find it relevant, so they didn’t more

Man wearing jeans and plaid shirt carrying backpack walking down a trade show aisle, as seen from inside of a mesh tent with two gray sleeping bags laid out inside

If we had to identify one major theme from Outdoor Retailer Snow Show, it would be "responsibility"

We used to come to Outdoor Retailer just to ogle gear, but these days, we’re devoting just as much attention to our industry’s environmental and social impacts. “Responsibility” may have been the biggest buzzword from last week’s convention: Attendees rallied against climate more

Red sale sign with silhouette walking by

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Op-Ed: Promotional behavior is not healthy

Like dogs salivating at the sound of a bell—the classic Pavlovian conditioning example—customers have been trained to expect discounts around the holidays. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Cyber Tuesday. Cyber Week. What's next? New data from The NPD Group shows that 2018 was the most more

black and white image of an array of aluminum cups (swag) on a wooden table

Op-ed: Enough with the swag, already!

The first time I went to Outdoor Retailer, my eyes bugged out. The multi-story booths, abundance of plaid flannel shirts, and general scale of it all were sights to see, to be sure. But I was focused on the swag. I had just started as an editor for SNEWS, and this was my first more

Latina woman with long brown hair tied back, brown eyes, black coat, gold hoop earrings and red lipstick speaking into microphone

Op-Ed: Chris Goddard says we need to do more to support women in the outdoor industry

Last week, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was accosted by Republican Congressman Ted Yoho, who in front of reporters called her a f***ing b**** on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. This was, according to reports, an unprovoked attack. He did more


All you need to know about what went down at Outdoor Retailer

The final Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City is behind us. And while the attendees we spoke with felt that the aisles of the Salt Palace were less crowded that usual (no official numbers have been released by the show), energy was high around the industry coming together to more


Industry Buzz: Ski resorts consider opening, large-scale climate advocacy, how to navigate virtual trade shows, an inflatable bike

Industry headlines: Intriguing reads from around the web Ski resorts hold out hope: Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge resorts refuse to give up on the idea that late-spring skiing might be possible. [The Denver Post] A massive coalition of climate advocates: The Outdoor more

Dave 3

Op-ed: I'm a veteran and will #VoteTheOutdoors on election day

I am a veteran and an outdoor enthusiast who has spent the last 10 years working in the outdoor industry. Without a doubt, our industry is the first in which I experienced the same level of camaraderie and commitment to purpose as I did during my 22 years in the Navy on active more