For the first time in Outdoor Retailer Show history, the industry will rally together in November for a chance to discover new products before committing dollars. And Show Director Marisa Nicholson is excited.
“Retailers will be able to see product in the way that the industry wants it to be presented—at the very beginning of the cycle as opposed to toward the latter end of it,” she said.
Nicholson explained that considerable thought went into the decision to move the trade show. Using the expertise of a third-party vendor, the organization conducted 100 one-on-one interviews with brands and retailers. They then sent surveys to thousands more industry participants to confirm the initial findings. The results were clear: Date changes were needed. Research participants wanted the national shows at the beginning of the buying cycles—June for summer, November for winter outdoor, and January for snowsports. At the same time, the opportunity arose to unite the outdoor and snowsports industries by acquiring the Snow Show.
Which national trade shows should you attend? Nicholson breaks it down.
Moving the show dates is expected to provide sweeping benefits to everyone in our industry. Brands and retailers will have a chance to debut and discover products at the beginning of the sales season. And because retailers will have already heard brand stories and seen new products, reps will be more efficient when selling on the road.
All of these perks will ladder up to making the buying process more efficient, and one significant change will be less product in discount channels. “Brands won’t be making bad forecasting decisions or creating product that ultimately retailers won’t support and that will need to go through discount channels,” Nicholson said. “Retailers are benefitting from having less product in discount channels competing with them and preventing consumers from coming in and buying products from their stores.”
With two other significant recent changes—Outdoor Retailer acquiring the SIA Snow Show and the transition to Denver—Nicholson understands why some brands and retailers have had questions about which show is best for them.
She believes that brands launching their product in the fall should have a presence at the November show, but adds that “if they’re interested in getting in front of some of those ski resorts and snow retailers, they may want to do a presence in January.” For retailers, November serves as an opportunity to see product when it launches. They can also return in January to wrap up and find products to round-out their offerings.
Overall, Nicholson has seen a positive response to the change. An opportunity for brands to book space for the November show since last January has allowed Outdoor Retailer to complete 60 percent of the Winter Market floor plan early. Here at Summer Market, retailers were able to pre-register for the November show simply by scanning their badge during check-in, streamlining the process.
Need another reason to come back in November?
“This is where our community comes together,” Nicholson said.
Rethinking the cycle
One brand leader explains what he anticipates will be the net gain of a November show.
Today’s outdoor consumer is changing. They are less focused on price-point pieces and more interested in the story behind their new gear and apparel. Todd Spaletto, group president for Wolverine Worldwide, said that end-users are looking for “purposeful products,” items that they can share on social media.
From a brand perspective, these are the cornerstone products, new innovations, and limited-run collaborations. “In all cases, it’s a more comprehensive story that resonates with a consumer—maybe functionally on how they might use that [product], but also emotionally with some of the shared values that might be expressed in that product,” Spaletto said.
Moving the show to November allows our industry to better tell these stories. Brands generally have their sales meetings and conferences in October and November. There, products and strategies align as the pieces and products that will define the brand for that season are unveiled. In the past there was then a 60-day to 90-day lull, during which reps would hit the road, debuting the products to retailers at regional shows and in store backrooms before the January show.
“Getting together as a community and talking about our shared values like diversity, sustainability, and participation—that’s always made this a strong show, whether it’s in November or January. I don’t think that should ever go away,” Spaletto said.
The date change shifts that cycle. Now, the energy of brand sales meetings will provide a launch point into the November trade show. Brands will have a chance to explain their biggest seasonal stories directly to retailers before orders are placed. “Here’s our chance as a brand to show you what the big deal is,” Spaletto said. “Having that moment is not only purposeful and fills a void, but it drives back toward that trend of consumers looking for more [of a product story.]”
Spaletto believes that reps will also benefit, since they will enter the selling season after retailers have had an industry overview.
“This November show presents a great opportunity for brands to step into that focused product storytelling and innovation,” he said. “It allows retailers to connect with brands directly at the headquarters level and, through the most clear version, [hear] how they envision launching that product prior to meeting with their reps, and going through the lines.”
W.L. Gore & Associates shows its softer side with a new line focused on comfort and performance.
When your brand name has practically become a generic term for technical waterproof/breathable technology, where do you go to expand? If you’re W.L. Gore & Associates, you set your sights on a less hardcore, comfort-focused slice of the market—without losing the techy benefits you’re already known for. That’s where Gore’s latest line comes in.
This fall, Gore-Tex expands its materials offerings beyond its original Black Diamond brand (not to be confused with the Black Diamond company). With the Gore-Tex Infinium brand extension launch, identified by a white diamond logo, the company will explore avenues into comfort with performance benefits. “We’re bringing versatile comfort to the market, while never losing sight of our materials heritage and the science behind it,” said Sarah Ellis, fabrics division product specialist.
In soft goods, you’ll see it in Gore-Tex Infinium Soft Lined and Insulated Garments with Persistent Beading Performance. This technology features long-lasting water resistance with a construction that eliminates the need for a face fabric, which enhances breathability. “Brand partners will be bringing the product to market either in insulated form or a soft-lined-shell form,” Ellis said. “The lifestyle aesthetic is great for consumers who want function, but don’t want to compromise on style.”
The Gore-Tex Infinium Stretch Gloves are windproof, warm, highly breathable, and touchscreen compatible, plus they’re constructed with a single seam. “Most glove constructions have to have multiple seams, and that can be uncomfortable at certain points,” Ellis said. “It’s really about the dexterity and versatile comfort.”
And in footwear, Gore’s new Thermium technology places a thin layer of insulation over a shoe’s toebox to keep feet warm outside without making them overheat when inside. The low-profile insulation lends warmth without affecting shoe style. “A lot of companies put insulation in the whole shoe, but we learned through our comfort science studies that if you put it in just the toebox, it will provide the same level of warmth and comfort that the user will need,” Ellis said. “We’re exploring taking it into other end uses beyond women’s boots.”
The Infinium brand extension officially debuts at the November show. And that earlier show date simply provides an opportunity to reinforce new product lines earlier in the buying season, the brand notes. “As Gore-Tex is an ingredient brand built on the spirit of innovation, creativity, and customer relationships, we are excited to have another opportunity to help our customers learn about our different technologies, so they can develop new products that will best meet consumer needs,” said Sandy Parajon, trade show coordinator for W.L. Gore & Associates Fabrics Division.
It’s a date!
Why Laurie Hoody, director of business development for Gear Coop in Costa Mesa, California, thinks the new show cycle will help her bring what’s “new, exciting, and cool” to her customers.
What was your initial reaction to the show moving to November?
Honestly, as a retailer, I thought, “Well, it’s about time!” We are excited to see a broader range of vendors before their preseason deadlines.
How does the date change impact you as a retailer?
Unfortunately, Outdoor Retailer has become less relevant to retailers over the past several years as brands continue to push up their preseason deadlines earlier. The November show is an opportunity for the largest industry show in the country to realign itself with the buying cycle.
What impact will this have on your consumers?
Perhaps it is too soon to know; however, I do imagine that consumers will potentially receive increased exposure to new and upcoming brands and/or products sooner, since buyers will now be seeing these brands and products earlier in the buying season, when they are more likely to have discretionary open-to-buy (OTB) funds available.
What would you tell a fellow retailer who’s on the fence about attending the November show? Why should they go?
Go, just go! This is the largest industry show in the country. This is our chance as retailers to see not only our existing vendor partners, but also attend terrific education seminars and explore what’s new in technologies, products, and brands. We owe it to our consumers to be on the forefront of what’s new, exciting, and cool in the industry.
Why do you think it’s important to go to both the November and the January show?
As a retailer that has always attended both OR and Snowsports Industries America Show, I know the exposure to snow brands in January is critical for our business. Beyond snow brand presence in January, we are all curious and intrigued to see how else the shows will differentiate themselves. This is a really exciting move for Outdoor Retailer, and we’re looking forward to supporting this shift.
This article was originally published in Day 4 of The Daily (summer 2018).