Before each Outdoor Retailer show, we’re always filled with expectation and eagerness to see how companies have chosen to present their products. It’s fun to walk the aisles, discovering new ideas and new directions, and we are never disappointed. While the economy is still on people’s radars, it wasn’t evident as we came across some of the most exciting booths we have seen in a long time. If necessity is the mother of invention, then invention could be the key word for the booth designs we found at the show. From the smallest to the largest, and everyone in between, exhibitors revved up their presentations tearing down walls, creating brand new booths or simply updating existing ones.
Some of the SNEWS® BOB (Best of Booth) Award winners may surprise you, but each showed a combination of innovation, creativity, and inspiration. And, new for this year, we asked the inaugural SNEWS Youth Reporting Team what booths they thought were best -- see their picks at the end.
Congratulations to all!
TOP BOB – KEEN
The brand new Keen booth was the talk of the show. It’s 5,400-square-foot size made it impressive. But it was the brilliant use of reclaimed, recycled and repurposed materials, a reflection of the company’s commitment to uniting innovative design and sustainability, that set it apart and won Keen its third Top BOB Award. Walls were built out of used pallets, and the elevated stage was made of reclaimed wood from stadium bleachers. The doors throughout the booth were harvested from abandoned buildings, while tables were crafted from discarded car hoods and old skateboard decks. Vintage windows displayed fresh graphics, and abandoned newspaper dispensers held workbooks printed on recycled paper. To house new product, old road signs were reinvented as display shelves and a display of worn Keen footwear sent in by devoted fans rested on old license plates. Finally, to reduce materials, save on transportation costs and lessen the environmental impact, no special flooring was used in the booth.
Keen brought the outdoors indoors with disc golf baskets, balance boards and a recycling center. In addition, a refurbished, vintage direct vulcanization machine made a special appearance in the booth, producing shoes for the new Santiago collection on the spot and demonstrating the eco-friendly nature of the production process.Finally, the ever-popular HybridLife Challenge/Wheel was back, offering spinners the chance to fulfill the HybridLife mission of “Create, Play, Care.” â€¨This creative booth delivered on the company’s mission.
FUN BOB – COSTA
The new Costa booth was constructed from wood from the 109-year-old W.M. Carmichael Barn in West Virginia, and resembled an old shotgun house so ubiquitous in the South. The only thing missing was a banjo strummer sittin’ in one of the old rockers on the porch next to the vintage Coke cooler. A sign over the screen door leading to the work stations inside paid homage to Mr. Carmichael. An upstairs meeting space was reached by walking down a faux stone path on the side of the booth to the wood stairs leading to the second story. An old photo of the Carmichael Barn graced the top of the stairs. If someone upstairs became thirsty, a “beer” pail downstairs was filled with the beverage of choice and hoisted up by a pulley. This booth reeked of nostalgia -- a trend evident in many of this summer’s exhibits…and Costa did it better than anyone else.
MOST IMPROVED BOB – STANLEY
At the 2009 Summer Market, Stanley won a BOB Award for being the best Mini BOB -- awarded for the best 10x10 booth -- at the show. Now, in 2010, Stanley was back and beautiful with a new booth that did a masterful job of highlighting its products, while bringing a “dive bar” ethos to visual merchandising. Buyers could saddle up to the bar, actually a writing station, and order up one of their bottles from the back bar. Traditionalists could visit the backroom to view the company’s classic and outdoor bottles. The company’s Aladdin bottles were in a separate space adjacent to the Stanley display in a softer and prettier space that showcased products targeted for women. The booth was designed and produced by Salt Lake City-based Atmosphere Studios and did a great job of presenting the company’s water bottle categories in an inventive and comfortable way. While the company’s winning Mini BOB booth from 2009 was good, this booth was great.
ECO BOB – LOOPTWORKS
There’s recycle, repurpose, reuse, and now Looptworks is working to put upcycle on the map with its unique story. This small 10x10 booth sported all reclaimed materials. The walls of the booth were constructed entirely of old doors, and the clothing was a collection of fabrics and prints from factories that would likely dispose of the remnants. The shirt fasteners ranged from snaps to buttons, all on one shirt. The company follows the “waste stream” and makes creative use of everything it can find. It used those materials in the booth and in its products. Looptworks’ company ethic and commitment to upcycling was obvious in every aspect of this booth. Go online to the company’s website, www.looptworks.com, to see just how far the folks there are going to fulfill their mission. Upcycle is definitely up market!
MINI BOB – NOSHU
Little NoShu -- a brand new company with a 10x10 booth on a very busy aisle -- stood out because of its simplicity, authenticity and green construction. Created by Boothster in Portland, Ore., the booth featured mdf shelving supported by cardboard tubes, a very cool corrugated paper bench and burlap back walls. The booth was an extension of the company’s product, sandals from Bali with footbeds made of rice grass or palm leaf and sisal, and soles using rubber tire treads. This booth won a BOB Award because the footwear product and booth elements were symbiotic -- each supported and reflected the other. This synchronicity is not obvious in many booths, but is the essence of NoShu. We look forward to seeing what this company has in the works going forward.
DÉJÀ VU BOB – ALITE DESIGNS
Alite Designs created a playful iconic forest in its booth that played off the outdoor concept created in its winter 2010 booth that won the SNEWS Fun BOB award and set the stage for the company to celebrate the National Park System. The natural feel of the plywood veneer backdrop skillfully jig-sawed into a forest was a further refinement of its previous booth design. It also gave the booth a natural feel of the woods while highlighting the company’s products. A reproduction of a National Park sign provided a focal point and the camp table, complete with a spread of bread, wine and fruit, made one yearn for a trip outdoors.
DISPLAY BOB – BAMBOO BOTTLE
The first day of the show saw the launch of the “lifestyle” Bamboo Bottle and what a launch it was. There was a buzz about the new bottle with the bamboo sleeve and glass bottle that fit inside. The Bamboo Bottle is a classy product and the booth was no slouch either. The text on the booth’s back wall read: “Clean, Smart, Pure, Taste, Durable, Sustainable.” The booth was clean and smart in its design with a straightforward approach to displaying the product and telling its story. The minimalist booth provided a sea of calm in the high-energy environment of the ballroom.
HONORABLE MENTION – WABASH VALLEY FARMS
Who doesn’t love popcorn? Wabash Valley Farms supplies the poppers, the popcorn and everything else you’ll need to take your love of popcorn outdoors (or indoors if you prefer). A rack of the company’s products was organized beautifully to help retailers envision how the product could look in their stores. A display of large popcorn tubs filled with popcorn was a great display idea and one that easily attracted buyer attention at the show…and is sure to do the same in-store.
HONORABLE MENTION – HIPPY TREE
If you were offered a 5-foot x 8-foot booth at the last minute next to a huge convention pillar in the middle of the South Hall, what would you do? While most would say, “No thanks,” Hippy Tree grabbed the spot and fashioned a booth that was both funky and cool. The company’s line of surf-inspired shirts, pants and shorts was being marketed to climbers and hung on a simple rolling rack. Signage was posted high on the pesky post that was draped in a custom printed Hippy Tree fabric. A long bench beside the adjacent booth held catalogs and line sheets. Do the folks at Hippy Tree care that they were the smallest booth in show? No way. They were happy to be there and made the most of the unusual space. Let’s hear it for Hippy Tree!
HONORABLE MENTION – MOUNTAIN MAMA
Mountain Mama has a new booth and it’s perfect in its simplicity. Symmetry is always pleasing and this booth epitomizes symmetry in its back wall arrangement. Signage in the middle is framed by product presentation on the sides. A display of the company’s maternity wear on mannequins provided the intro to the booth. The simplicity of this booth, its good lighting and linear arrangement was appealing in a sea of more complicated booth arrangements. New exhibit company, Abstract Solutions, in Midvale, Utah, designed the booth. It’s nice to have the convenience of working with a local company, especially if it can store the booth for you between shows.
A new category this year, the Youth BOB Award winners were picked by members of the inaugural SNEWS Youth Reporting Team at ORSM 2010. The youth team members -- 19-26 years old -- were set free to pick what booths they thought were “best” for reasons they considered important to them, even if that meant they repeated other award-winners (but perhaps for different reasons). Without influence from others, here’s what our youth team members decided:
YOUTH BOB – KEEN
Called the mullet booth, Keen definitely embodied the spirit of a party in the front with plenty of business going on in the back that we youth enjoy. Made mostly of upcycled objects (think old wood pallets as walls, stop signs as shelving, upholstery on chairs that once belonged to cars in a junkyard, and someone even found a door that had “Rock ‘n Roll” library engraved on it), the booth came complete with a spin-the-wheel game, a gong and, of course, plenty of cool Keen schwag (We do like schwag!). The booth was friendly and inviting and the “booth concierges” were happy to show you the more serious intentions of the upcycle-inspired booth and its company’s products. Launching an eco-friendly shoe called “Santiago” that will help members of the Dominican Republic secure funds for entrepreneurial enterprises, Keen plans in its manufacturing to use upcycled 1950s machines that it tracked down in the former USSR, then refinished. In the end, the Santiago will have no adhesives or glues. There was always something fun going on at the Keen booth and, on top of everything, the company even raised money for The Conservation Alliance.
YOUTH HONORABLE MENTION – Hi-Tec
Hi-Tec wanted to reinvent its brand, starting with the slogan “Inspired by life.” In order to do this, it did an outreach to artists around America and chose three based on their quick-draw skills with Sharpie pens. The booth staff wrote down inspirations from passers-by and the artists illustrated them, to be picked up later by the inspiration’s owner. More than just a cool bit of art infused into the show, Hi-Tec was bringing artists, who normally wouldn’t have attended, to a trade show full of contacts. Not only was the company re-launching its brand and entertaining the masses, it was also creating a platform for talented, underprivileged artists to launch their careers.
YOUTH HONORABLE MENTION – STANLEY
Stanley Thermos has a deep heritage good enough to show off. At the summer OR show, it did just that. The booth, based on a bit of a dive bar, was meant to represent the product. Complete with coasters, a dartboard, a bar and top-shelf product (instead of top-shelf booze, of course), the booth was definitely appealing to the eye. Inviting, welcoming and full of heritage for any age group -- although one that we liked in particular. Attendees shared their experiences with the company’s iconic green thermos -- funny, sad, or both -- then passers-by voted using poker chips on which experience was the best. Reading the Stanley confessions was the best part: Not to miss was one from the guy who gave his girlfriend a Thermos for her 30th birthday instead of something thirty-flirty, as well as one from a guy who relieved himself in his best friend’s Thermos accidentally on a camping trip (accidentally??). With a little something for everyone, this dive was a whole bunch of fun.
--SNEWS Youth Reporting Team members Lorin Paley with Anthony Shaheen and Audrey Goss