While the rest of the country was angst-ridden over the U.S. bond rating downgrade and a volatile stock market, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011 in Salt Lake City was thriving.

The Aug. 4-7 trade show (www.outdoorretailer.com) hit record highs in attendance and square footage. Preliminary figures from Nielsen Expositions estimated that close to 25,000 retailers, exhibitors, media and others attended the 2011 show – up from about 22,000 at Summer Market 2010.

Total net square feet sold in and around the Salt Palace hit 456,508 square feet, including 53,300 square feet at the New Exhibitors Pavilion in the parking lot outside the north entrance. That’s up from 418,000 net square feet at Summer Market 2010, and 350,000 square feet at Winter Market 2011.

“While many trade shows are going away, we are thriving,” said show director Kenji Haroutunian. “Part of that is because we have treated this show like an ecosystem, a community of businesses, rather than just a buy-sell show. We are infusing it with the music and art and film of the industry, and those are the grease that flows between the buy-sell process.”

The growth of Outdoor Retailer – there were 236 new exhibitors this year – is leading organizers to consider alternate cities for the show beyond 2014, when its contract expires with Salt Lake City. But attendees told SNEWS that the Salt Lake City experience – with the city and mountains so close to one another – would be hard to replicate. (See the full story in O.R.D. Day 1, page 15, 17 digital).

Stand-up paddle companies were a significant part of the newcomers – there were 35 brands at Summer Market 2011, compared to just one in 2005 (Day 2, page 38, 40 digital).

The open-air demo at Jordanelle State Park, Aug. 3, the day before the show, also proved to be record-breaking with the 30-foot-long Supzilla carrying 31 paddlers looking to break a Guinness World Record. Plus, mountain bikes hit the open-air demo for the first time, perhaps signaling future excursions to Outdoor Retailer (Day 1, page 7, 9 digital).

But it wasn’t all just good-time adventures at the show – serious conversations were held about problems with counterfeiting (Day 1, page 92, 94 digital) and on gray market practices (Day 3, page 7, 9 digital)

New outdoor gear didn’t disappoint, with some show stoppers like Black Diamond’s new Magnetron – a locking carabiner that uses magnets instead of springs (Day 2, page 7, 9 digital).

In tents, manufacturers are trending toward larger sizes as fabrics get lighter (Day 2, page 42, 44 digital). Sleeping bags are also offering more room, escaping the standard mummy shape (Day 1, page 42, 44 digital). And as the newest sleeping pads add cushion with more air, manufacturers are devising lightweight ways to inflate them (Day 3, page 93, 95 digital)

Multi-day packs with extra features are becoming more multi-functional as more consumers use them for a trek in the wilderness, while also traveling abroad with them (Day 2, page 31, 33 digital), but lightweight isn’t dead yet, and is getting more durable and dependable (Day 4, page 40, 42 digital).

The footwear category continued to expand at Summer Market, with more brands mixing fashion – a lot brighter colors – and function for the outdoor and urban outdoor consumer (Day 1, page 36, 38 digital).  And nearly every footwear brand will offer some minimalist trail products in 2012 as the barefoot running trend pushes forward (Day 3, page 10, 12 digital). On the heels of SUP’s rise, water shoes are also on the increase (Day 4, page 42, 44 digital).

Fashion wasn’t just breaking through in footwear, however; in every corner of Summer Market bright colors and, dare we say, urban and stylish gear was to be found. Many manufacturers spoke of hitting the trail with technical apparel and gear, but also of feeling perfectly comfortable in a restaurant afterward (Day 3, page 31, 33 digital). Even hardcore outdoor brands are dipping into lifestyle such as at Arc’teryx with its new line of underwear (Day 3, page 14, 16 digital).

Still, the true outdoor consumer is concerned with performance and more manufacturers spoke of their apparel as equipment (Day 1, page 31, 33 digital).

On the sustainability front, the color green is out, and blue is in – as in Bluesign. The environmental manufacturing standard in Europe is increasing its influence in the U.S. outdoor market with brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Helly Hansen, REI and Cordura announcing increased cooperation (Day 2, page 10, 12 digital). Patagonia took things one step further, announcing it would require all its material suppliers to adhere to Bluesign and new social responsibility protocols by 2014, with the goal of having its entire line of products meet the environmental, health and safety standards by 2016 (Day 1, page 14, 16 digital).

We got lost, or at least cross-eyed, looking at so many fabric swatches back at Outdoor Retailer’s Design Center (Day 2, page 32, 34 digital), and the area also hosted Project OR, the 48-hour competition where six design students used materials from the show to produce the best prototype apparel. (Day 4, page 10, 12 digital).

SNEWS editors talked to plenty of bigwigs in the industry as well, from VF Outdoor President Steve Rendle on the Timberland/SmartWool acquisition (Day 1, page 78, 80 digitial), to the Swiss Machine Ueli Steck (Day 2, page 79). Plus, an inspiring talk by Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson (Day 4, page 7, 9 digital) and a conversation with OWIC Executive Director Sally Grimes (Day 3, page 8, 10 digital). U.S. Sen. Mark Udall even made a surprise appearance to walk the show floor (Day 4, page 15, 17 digital).

And what would any event be without kids (Day 2, page 89, 91 digital) and pets (Day 3, page 42, 44 digital)? They too are increasingly a part of the Outdoor Retailer product share.

Finally, in every issue of O.R.D., SNEWS editors provided feature stories centered on the show. Be sure to check out Michael Hodgson’s investigation into intellectual property theft (Day 1), Ana Trujillo’s look at the outdoor fitness push (Day 2), Peter Kray with one of the industry’s largest customer, the military, (Day 3), and David Clucas on how to spot future directions in the industry at the show (Day 4), all starting on page 18 (page 20 digital) each issue.

There’s more to check out in every Summer Market O.R.D. issue – 116 pages this year – including new products, new exhibitors, columns and plenty of pictures from the show floor and the evening social scene in the city.  
SNEWS / O.R.D. Editors