In the city’s second Outdoor Retailer show, Denver delivered steady traffic, busy booths and plenty of energy at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, according to interviews with a number of exhibitors and a few retailers.

Many attendees continued to remark on the smooth transition to Denver, which continues to earn accolades for the city’s diverse food, lodging and transportation options as well as friendly locals.

A change of scenery after 20 years in Salt Lake City is also clearly being welcomed by many attendees. But the upbeat moods and positive conversations in the aisles also reflect the feeling that the outdoor industry has moved past many of the bankruptcies over the last few years and is finally reaping some benefits from the healthy economy. In today’s politically-charged climate, the industry also has many more reasons to get together to discuss sustainability, diversity, access and other shared causes.

The timing of the show never seems to quit as a source of a conversation with many retailers already seeing much of the product at their regional shows and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance last month. Many are hoping that the shift to the November and June time frames will help bring back a broader range of retailers.

 SGB reached out to some attendees to get their thoughts on their experience at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, and a few responses are below.

Joe Peters Head of Global Marketing, Vasque: “At Vasque, we were once again impressed with how Outdoor Retailer-friendly Denver is. At this show, I was even greeted by name upon entering the show each day! Talk about great service! The vibe of the show felt super busy at our booth. All four days, the traffic was steady, and you could tell people were happy to be there. We heard a lot of conversation around who would be attending which upcoming shows. Vasque will be attending in November.

“I was personally excited to see so much progressive technology coming out of many brands. You can tell the innovators in our industry are taking time to make the outdoors accessible and enjoyable for users. At Vasque, we were thrilled to bring our new Breeze LT to market, with incredible innovation and weight-savings for users, while staying true to our roots with a style that can truly be trusted on the trail.”

Chris McCullough, Director, Consumer Brands, Hilco Vision Outdoor (Croakies, Leader Swim, and Jonathan Paul Fitovers Eyewear): “The mood was upbeat across the duration of the show with steady traffic and positive conversation around the state of the industry. This marked our first show with our new sales leadership team in place and a multi-branded booth environment; it was positive to see an influx of new business and interest in our brands. There continues to be a lot of conversation surrounding everyday adventure and introducing new consumers to the outdoors, vs. focusing on the most technical or specialized extreme activities and gear. This message resonates strongly with our brands and broad assortment of products, whether discussing our lifestyle belt collection that is as at home out on the trailhead as it is within a boardroom or casual work setting, or our line of eyewear retainers geared at savings your shades across the widest range of environments, from a harsh ocean swell to a trip to your local park. At the end of the day, it’s about a shared love for inspiring and supporting people to get outside and explore in any way they can, whether staying close to the city limits or heading further afield.”

Peter Sachs, General Manager, Lowa Boots LLC: “The show was a solid transitional show with a good vibe and attitude by buyers in attendance. I think buyers liked the new city with more hotels, restaurants and other conveniences (other than the very remote airport). I think buyers liked a fresh convention center with what appeared to be many new or updated brand booths displaying great merchandise.  The kinks were minor and there were some expected late arrivals for appointments due to a new layout.

“The only thing missing was an abundance of buyers who had already attended Grassroots or a regional show and didn’t feel the need to come to Denver even to learn in the seminars, look for new merchandise or trends and work with colleagues to improve their business.  Hopefully as the show moves into the November and June time frames and there are more OR introductions, buyers will take the time to realize the value of a brand introduction in a professionally merchandised manner and not just the convenient and inexpensive venue of a rep show, which is better suited for hashing out assortments and writing orders. Saving money by only going to those local events is not an investment in their business future.”

Bryan Owen, Sales Manager, Astral: “Outdoor Retailer has always been a strong show for Astral, and we love Colorado. The business vibe was great and our booth was slammed the whole time. I think it’s a refreshing change for our industry to be at this new location and you could certainly feel a renewed energy surrounding the show. Since we handle a lot of our own logistics and transportation it took some getting used to the new facility and process for setup/breakdown. This part was a bit more challenging than the good ole’ days of SLC, but totally manageable.”

Eric Greene, SVP and GM, Kelty: “I often hear chatter in the hallways that ‘there’s nothing new here.’ But that I strongly disagree with. Sometimes shift happens and we don’t all see it in front of us (or right away). I see a lot of innovation happening that is making the outdoors simpler, easier, lighter and more compact/desirable/attainable to more people. In short, it’s getting more comfortable and homey out there.”

Ian Selby, SVP, Icon LifeSaver Ltd.: “LifeSaver’s evolution from a humanitarian brand to a retail offering was fast-forwarded two or three years with the relocation to Denver. We were sad to wave goodbye to our friends at Salt Lake, a city our whole team loves. We were nervous to be moved from the Pavilions to the Upper Level, but we pulled it off and stood toe-to-toe with long-established brands. Initially the mood seemed more serious and days one and two were filled with ‘less emotion, more business.’ By day three we came up for air and joined in the revelry with everyone else and it was just like old times–but with more meaningful meetings under our belt. We’ll be back for sure.”

Greg Thomsen, Managing Director, Adidas Outdoor, U.S.: “This past Outdoor Retailer Show was Adidas Outdoors’s 16th OR show, and was clearly our best show to date, surpassing all of our expectations. A big shout-out to the talented and extremely helpful Outdoor Retailer team for managing a great show! The move to Denver is a welcome change of scenery and we are looking forward to an even better November show!”

Mike Donohue, Chief Instigating Officer, Outdoor Gear Exchange/ “Denver is a great new location for the show. From the parks and town bike access to easy lodging and plenty of restaurant options, there is plenty to do outside the show floor. As for the show it is always great to come together as an industry to remember what is important and to see all that is new. We caught up with brands we used to sell with that have come a long way, found new products and vendors and wrapped up our meetings in preparation for finalizing all orders for next spring. Great finds included a women’s-specific workwear brand, lots of action cam innovation, a cool folding (self-supported) hammock and options for logo wear. We’ve already met with all our primary vendors and seen most of the new launch items, so this was more of a wrap show. It’ll be interesting to see how it feels different next year in June.”

Lauren Anderson, Accessories Buyer, EVO: “I was really excited to attend the Camber events. After years of acknowledging, we need more equity and diversity in our industry. It was empowering to speak with other stakeholders who are looking to make a change.”

Jeffrey Schiller, Brand Director, Tincup: “We had a phenomenal show. From our beginnings in the Venture Out area to this most recent show exhibiting on the main floor this July, the energy in Denver was palpable. We consider ourselves a partner in the Outdoor Industry to the brands surrounding Tincup. Colorado is our home; it’s where our brand began, and this is the community our master distiller had in mind when he created Tincup Whiskey. Denver is a sure fit for the brand, and we’re excited for future shows to come.”

Kyle Adelman, Marketing Manager, Thermacell: “We had a great show. Lots of productive conversations were held with customers, media and existing/potential partners. As a growing brand, we appreciate the flexibility that the show offers; we’ve been able to evolve our spend, impact and presence over the years, in line with our growth. We think Denver is a great fit for OR. There are many great hotels and restaurants nearby, so the location is quite convenient. The mood of the show was positive and upbeat. This stands in contrast to the last summer show in Salt Lake, which had low attendance and a dark cloud overhead. We are looking forward to coming back next year.”

Alan Davis, Owner and Founder, Blue Ridge Chair Works: “The mood of the show seemed very upbeat and positive to me.  The outdoor industry is a huge community with a common bond.  Outdoor Retailer is much more than just the buy and sell of the trade show. It’s a place to hear and be heard. It’s a place to teach and to learn. It’s a place to share triumph and failure. It’s always a great experience when the outdoor community gathers together.”

Walter Goldstein, Marketing Director, Crazy Creek: “Crazy Creek has been attending Outdoor Retailer for decades, and we found this year’s first summer show in Denver to be very upbeat and full of energy. We had great conversations with attendees about our products and the overall outdoor market, and were very encouraged about the state of the industry and opportunities for growth domestically and internationally. Overall a very good show!”

Tom Shores, Director of Sales, Royal Robbins: “This was Royal Robbins’ return to the OR show after a couple of seasons away, and we had so much to talk about: our 50th anniversary, a fantastic new parent company, a branding refresh, refocused distribution strategy focused directly on specialty and a ton of new talent added to our team. With all of this excitement around the brand, it’s a little hard to say how much of the buzz was us—and how much was the energy of the show. Denver feels good and seems happy and prepared to host the outdoor community, a community that felt freshly committed on rallying around the brands, retailers, organizations, people and ideas that make our industry truly unique and special.”

Rob BonDurant, VP Product, Design and Marketing, Osprey: “Being a Colorado-based company, we’re obviously thrilled to host Outdoor Retailer in our home state. While there is still work to be done by the industry itself to best determine the most accommodating show dates, the transition to Denver feels complete and remains exciting.

“Once again, the most common themes discussed centered around critically important topics, which we would list as our increasing internal and external commitments to sustainability, specifically how a traditional hardgoods company considers its entire footprint and how that may compliment and differ from apparel and footwear companies within our industry. For example, working with OIA’s Sustainability Group and the leaders within has been both informing and validating as we lean into our commitments to offer sustainable materials with function and performance characteristics as fine or better than their conventional counterparts. Additionally, ongoing discussions on inclusivity in all aspects of our business remain a topic of thoughtful and directional conversations. To borrow a phrase, we must be the change we want to see.

“Relating specially to our areas of product expertise, we are excited to see the multi-year product and technology roadmap we’ve presented to our key retail partners, received with excitement and ongoing enthusiasm. From fortifying the iconic styles that Osprey is famous for to new product extensions, we left Outdoor Retailer Summer Show extremely optimistic, energized and focused on the path ahead.”

Len Zanni, Chief Marketing Officer, Honey Stinger: “Honey Stinger had a great show. We talked with a lot of potential new accounts and had positive meetings with buyers from some of our bigger, established accounts. Our new Organic Nut Butter N’ Cracker Bars continue to be a hit, and we stayed busy sampling those all week. We receive such positive feedback from buyers, media and athletes that come by that it makes for a really fun and productive week. We’re excited to have Outdoor Retailer here in our home state of Colorado. Our booth was hopping, and we blew through the free coffee and waffles we offered out front each morning. Our mascot, Buzz, was holding court outside, and that always draws a crowd. Lastly, even with the hot Denver temperatures our setup crew reported a much more pleasant temperature inside the venue over past shows.”

Chris Humphris, Director of Sales Americas, PrimaLoft: “We had a busy show with plenty of positive, productive meetings with our brand partners and retailers. We felt the mood was positive and the energy was high. No question that sustainability was top of mind in every facet of the industry, which is consistent with our commitment to being Relentlessly Responsible throughout our business. The push for innovation continues to be strong as consumers are asking for more and doing their homework before they make choices about what to purchase. We left Denver with a sense of enthusiasm about the future.”

Greg Wozer, VP, LEKI USA: “Initially we were concerned about this OR show because so many of our dealers had already seen the new line at the regional shows and GOA last month, but we were surprised with the great overall show attendance and also the constant buzz in the LEKI booth. Not only did we have a steady stream of current dealers, but we also had a significant number of walk-ups and other dealers inquiring about the brand, including some new outdoor specialty groups and a few unique outlets such as adventure travel companies, etc.”

Tony Post, Founder and CEO, Topo Athletic: “ORSM was great; it presented an easy venue to work with existing and new customers and press. I’m inspired by events like the Conservation Alliance breakfast, and I appreciate how unified our industry works towards issues like access, sustainability and seeking solutions to real-world problems through business creativity.

“There’s perhaps room for improvement in regards to building up attendance levels to what we saw 10 to 15 years ago. In particular, how can we inspire broader retailer attendance? Regional shows are increasing in importance for us, and the northeast region of the country always seems underrepresented at OR.

“At OR, I’m also reminded of the diversity issue in our industry and the need to develop a more diverse workforce and customer base. Whether that’s reflected in the people we hire, brand communication or the way we market generally, we should all do more to create an inclusive environment–and frankly, that’s good business.”

Jody Carlson, Director U.S. Wholesale Sales, Smartwool: “Smartwool had a great show. I feel like we had great energy from our annual Ride to OR that carried over into the show. The traffic was good and the vibe was really upbeat. Our conversations were very positive and response to our products was favorable. We are optimistic about the upcoming season. As a Colorado company, we are so glad the show now calls Denver its home. The city and the state align with our brand’s overall philosophy around the outdoors and recreation. It feels like the state has done a terrific job welcoming the outdoor industry.”

George Bryant. VP/GM, Sierra Designs: “OR went very well for us at Sierra Designs. We’ve built some momentum in product in recent seasons, and with good traffic we were able to share our story. It was particularly great to connect with our new partners across the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance while they attended the show. Setup was funky with tons of congestion in crates on the floor, but as a local business, we could react. I felt bad for those who may have traveled in and lost effective time on setup.

“We did feel surprised to see where accolades from our industry media fell in regards to product and price points. Knowing we’re all aiming to grow participation, our team didn’t really understand why the message to consumers would be to get into backpacking, but at a beginning price point of $380 for a tent? Good to see innovation, but a confusing message to consumers.”

Chad Altbaier, VP, Downlite Outdoor: “This past OR Summer Market was very exciting and productive for us. Although traffic felt lighter than the Winter/Snow show earlier this year, there was still a great energy inside the Colorado Convention Center, and the mood of our outdoor brand partners and prospective customers was very positive. Coming out of a banner cold weather selling season this past winter, we are looking forward to another great season for down-filled outerwear sales globally. This particular OR was extra-special for our company, as we were honored by the OIA in their ‘Together, we are a force award’ for sustainability based on our contributions and collaboration of the of the Responsible Down Standards (RDS), as well as being recognized as a new member of the Conservation Alliance–supported via our ‘1% for the planet’ financial contributions.”

Marian Allen, Operations Manager, Watershed Drybags: “This was my first OR, and I thought it was great! There was upbeat energy and everyone seemed happy to be there. Putting faces to the names that you e-mail all year, seeing what’s new and making connections are all phenomenal reasons that I can’t wait until next year.”

Dan Legor, Director of Marketing, OrthoLite: “If you’ve been to previous shows before Denver, you can really tell that the change of city has reenergized the experience, and it makes sense, as it’s a natural backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts. During this show, the OrthoLite team noticed a considerable increase in traffic compared to past editions. Everyone attending seemed to have a positive energy, excitement and eagerness to check everything out; we were also able to catch up with our valued brand partners. One thing we were surprised to see was the widening array of new products in emerging categories. A trend that really stood out across exhibitors was the use of technology, from glamping vehicles to electric coolers, everyone seemed to be connecting on that trend. Looking forward, you can almost expect that the show will only grow and continue to add new categories that fit evolving consumer demands.”

Frank Hintz, Owner and Founder, American Backcountry: “I found the show very energizing. It is crystal clear than Denver is Ground Zero for outdoor industry. Being from the East Coast, I was pleasantly surprised at the resurgence of attendance from Eastern dealers.”

Chris Goddard, CEO and Founder, CGPR: “The energy level was high. With the definition of the outdoor experience changing to be more inclusive, brands, retailers and technology companies are being pushed to provide products, solutions and experiences that enable a wider range of experiences—especially for those new to the outdoors. We saw this manifested in apparel, footwear, insulations, component brands, hardgoods and technology of all kinds that keep people connected. The ‘Overland’ trend is expanding as consumers are finding their own way to the outdoors that suits their lifestyle. Sustainability and traceability are now standard operating procedure as consumers want to know what is in their products and where they are from and—they must have truth in labeling.  Lastly, the conversations that took place around diversity of all kinds are important and need to continue. On a personal note, being able to celebrate 25 years in the industry in Denver with friends who have been part of our journey was humbling and amazing. Onward.”

Jim Hauptman, Founder, Maine Outdoor Brands (MOB): “Maine Outdoor Brands participated in its first ever Summer Market last week and the feedback from the members who attended was overwhelmingly positive. Traffic at the booth was outstanding, with more than 1,000 people dropping by to check out member products and to share their Maine story. (For a sparsely populated, rural state tucked way up in the corner of the U.S., it seemed like just about everyone had a Maine connection–be it having attended summer camp, visited a grandparent or explored the coast/wilderness.) First timer Brian Kennedy, founder of Foothill Fuels, makers of an eco-friendly, bio-white gas, was immediately taken by the genuine receptivity of the buyers. He told me, ‘It’s humbling to have a buyer from a huge national retailer show genuine interest in our product and story. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.’ MOB will be back in November!”

Hayley Samuelson, Content and Community Manager, BioLite“Summer OR 2018 was a success from our standpoint. Denver feels like a natural fit for the show, and settling into the new location was a breeze. We met with a lot of high-energy folks at the show this summer who are doing great work in the outdoors and left feeling excited by the friendships and partnerships we made.”

Dan Ramella, Senior Director of Sales, QALO: “We had a really great show. Our traffic was up significantly, and we opened several new key accounts and specialty stores. The energy of the show was great, and we are looking forward to exhibiting again.”

Henrik Lumholdt, General Manager, Kari Traa and Active Brands North America: “The show was really good for Kari Traa … busier than last year in Salt Lake City. We had good appointments lined up for the show and had a number of high-quality walk-ins that we didn’t expect this late in the selling season. The timing is still late for us relative to our business cycle, and we anticipate a busier show next year when ORSM is moved to June. …Denver is working out great; we felt the show had a good vibe, solid traffic, especially Monday and Tuesday, and our accounts seemed very upbeat about Denver.”

Garrett Mariano, Marketing Director, Big Agnes: The show was busy. We had a number of current partners stop by and some new contacts with exciting opportunities. Twenty nineteen is looking to be full of fun things to act on. The vibe was so positive; everyone was commenting on how good it was to be in Colorado. It felt like the show had been re-energized. Fingers crossed it’s dumping snow come the winter shows.

Andrew Meakin, General Manager, Red Paddle Co.: “Denver provided a fresh perspective for OR Summer Show. Red Paddle Co. was thrilled to meet with new and long-standing media and retailers, and are excited to see the growth of interest in inflatable paddle boards within the outdoor industry.”

Barry Barr, Founder/CEO, Kavu: “The show was busy for Kavu. Hard to say if busier than the last Salt Lake Summer Show, but dealers said they had strong sell through and pre-orders for spring ’19 are coming in fast and hot, so it was a good few days in the life of an apparel manufacturer. It was an especially good show for making contacts in Asia and Europe—two of our current target areas for development. Buyers seem to be really digging our new prints this year—the Festaruski and the San Blas are two standouts. It must be something about the Sasquatches. Don’t see them every day.”

Photo courtesy Outdoor Retailer