Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011 was a great show for the BOB (Best of Booths) Awards team as the number of new and updated exhibits exceeded expectations. New exhibits generally appear at Summer Market, but to our delight, companies came to the show with booths that were innovative and stylish with a large dose of “wow.” While all the new and improved booths made our job of choosing the BOB winners more difficult, it was a lot more fun searching out the best booths at the show. And, members of the SNEWS Youth Reporting Team got in on the action again at Winter Market, picking their top booth of the show-- see their pick at the end.
TOP BOB – The North Face
To the surprise of many, The North Face moved from its usual space in an upstairs meeting room to the exhibit floor where it was the talk of the show. Its VE25 and 2 Meter Dome tents inspired the design of the 6,000-square-foot booth. The base camp theme was achieved with walls of different heights spaced like a vista of snow hills and round disks hanging above the booth like clouds.
The walls and overhead “clouds” were created by stretching tension-fabric over aluminum tubing of different heights and configurations; some incorporating blue LED lighting giving the booth an icy, snowy feel. The walls separated four product categories -- action sports, outdoor, performance and youth -- and were positioned to move retailers effortlessly through the booth. A large half-dome theatre for video projection and special events occupied one corner of the booth, and multimedia elements were also incorporated throughout the space. Meeting rooms in the rear of the booth sported elevation signs from the world’s great mountains.
Caleb Brown, TNF’s art director, conceptualized the booth design and worked with Transformit in Gorham, Maine, to construct it. “We reduced the carbon footprint of the booth by using fabric and aluminum to lessen the weight of the booth components,” said Brown. “The design was finalized in July and the booth was built in December.”
The question on everyone’s mind was, “why did TNF move to the show floor?” so we asked Todd Spaletto, vice president of sales, to explain: “The Outdoor Retailer show has a sense of community and we wanted to be part of the vibe. We wanted to be more accessible.” Good move, TNF!
MOST IMPROVED BOB – Eagle Creek
Eagle Creek has a new logo, re-invigorated product and a new booth. While the booth debuted at Summer Market, its official “coming out” was at this show. “We wanted to update the Eagle Creek image and present a more modern vibe,” Connie McDonald, retail marketing manager, told us. “We spent the last six months fine-tuning the new fixtures that we will offer our retailers this fall.”
Textured walls provided the backdrop for writing stations, positioned on either side of a private meeting room complete with an organic-pressed, sunflower-seeds tabletop. Product stations in the booth were based on the company’s Pack-It system. Retailers were encouraged to begin a journey through the booth at Station 1 and work their way in a clockwise movement to Station 4 where they learned about the company’s packing system. While the booth’s footprint -- 40 feet by 60 feet -- was the same as the previous one, it was much more open, bright, functional and stylish. It was built by 760 Display in Vista, Calif.
ECO BOB – Tretorn
Those brave folks who made it to the far reaches of the Salt Palace were rewarded with the “Swedish goodness” of Tretorn, a new exhibitor at the show. The company has been producing sneakers, tennis shoes and rubber boots since the 1800s, and is currently in the process of reinventing itself into a modern, outdoor lifestyle brand.
In keeping with its Scandinavian history, the company built a sleek, completely recyclable, corrugated-metal Swedish cabin to show its footwear line. The cabin was flanked on each side by a small forest of tall trees and logs. A white owl perched high atop one of the trees keeping watch, while a hungry-looking bear guarded the sliding glass doors at the booth entrance. The interior of the cabin housed the company’s line of footwear on wall shelving with additional styles of footwear on logs and benches outside the cabin doors. Inside lighting gave the cabin an appealing glow.
The booth was both modern and traditional and did much to promote the company’s eco consciousness, while also being the perfect vehicle for the reinvention of the brand.
MINI BOB – Ribz
This small 10-by-10 booth was a standout. It’s hard to do a lot in the space and necessity is indeed the mother of invention! Ribz owner Ray Richardson was a first-time exhibitor at the show and wanted to show his rib-style packs hanging. He persuaded a friend, who owns a mountain, to get him two large branches of ruby red barked manzanita and a couple of logs. He drilled holes in the logs to insert the branches and used them to hang his rib pack stuff bags. Up lighting at the base of the branches added depth to the display, and a reception table completed the booth. Richardson created a winning booth with a simple design.
(P.S.: Richardson did not want to take the branches home with him, so he offered them to those who stopped by the booth. A local non-profit took him up on the offer and will auction the branches off -- manzanita is highly valued for its red wood -- as a fundraiser. Besides winning a BOB, the booth will become a charitable donation.)
DÉJÀ VU BOB – Columbia
A past BOB award winner in the Most Improved category, Columbia’s booth designs haven’t disappointed in recent years -- and this was its best yet. Inspired by the company’s new technology, Omni-Heat, the booth literally was afire aided by huge brilliant red and orange/gold box banners hanging from the Salt Palace ceiling and casting red and gold light on the elements below. Below the banners, a raised platform with a transparent top and encapsulated Omni-Heat footwear served as display as well as a foundation for a zigzag runway for the company’s daily fashion shows. White benches edged the platform and contributed to a martini-lounge atmosphere. The only thing missing were the martinis!
Meeting rooms and additional displays were placed behind the “lounge” area, and mannequins sporting Omni-Heat apparel stood in the four corners of the display. We’re hoping Columbia will give us another opportunity to experience this display at Summer Market, as it takes a while to absorb the many distinctive elements of this winning booth. (Columbia images courtesy of Skylab Architecture and photographer Boone Speed.)
DISPLAY BOB – Gregory and Dansko (tie)
For a booth to win in this category, it has to display product in the most effective way. Two companies achieved this so well, we called it a tie and awarded both Gregory and Dansko the Display BOB.
Gregory rose to the top by creating display “stations” for its pack line in its new 10-by-60 booth. Two large stations were positioned on angles at the front of the booth to capture the attention of retailers approaching from the side and front aisles. The design ensured the product was the focal point and gave the pack fixtures the flexibility to display a variety of sizes. Packs were hung from bars suspended from wires on each side of the stations, and could be moved up or down the wires to accommodate the various product sizes. Each station side housed a different category of packs, and end caps allowed for spotlighting and displaying packs to attract attention. The Gregory booth was succinct and had all the elements retailers needed to shop the line and sales reps needed to show the line…and that’s what makes a BOB winner! Exhibit company Greenspace in Hillsboro, Ore., created the booth.
Dansko, on the other hand, needed more space for its growing line and wanted its booth to be more personable and easier for sales reps to show the line. The previous booth -- allegedly more than 15 years old -- was open to aisles surrounding the booth on three sides and proved disruptive for reps when showing the line. While elements of the old booth were used in the new one, modifications were made to limit access through the sides, providing privacy for line showings and focusing attention on the new community space in the booth entrance. Also, a special “doodad” design icon was used on signage throughout the booth. A custom-padded doodad bench in yellow was positioned in the community space to allow retailers to fit and purchase footwear with proceeds benefiting the Conservation Alliance. The Dansko booth was designed and constructed by Impact Unlimited in Dayton, N.J.
Once again, the Youth BOB Award winner was picked by members of the SNEWS Youth Reporting Team at Winter Market 2011. The youth team members -- 19-26 years old -- were set free to pick what booth they thought was “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 – Green Guru
When walking the outer perimeter walls to lunch, meetings, etc., it is really hard to catch the eye of young adults on a mission. After seeing hundreds of booths that were all display stands and polished wood floors, a 10-by-10 cut of recess was enough of a relief that it made us stop. Green Guru used all of its square footage wisely, creating the aura of pulling up to a city basketball court on your cruiser with half a bike bolted to the wall displaying the company’s bike bags and the rest of its packs “hanging” on the surrounding chain link fence. After entering the booth, the 92-percent upcycled standard in all of its products was enough to keep us around to check out the entire line.
--SNEWS Youth Reporting Team members Lorin Paley with Anthony Shaheen and Audrey Goss
The SNEWS® Youth Team has been made possible in part by the generous support of: