With the recent decision to move Outdoor Retailer Winter Market (ORWM) ahead by two weeks, it wasn’t a surprise that the organizers of Outdoor Retailer (OR) pulled back Outdoor Summer Market (ORSM) by one week. But it still seemed to frustrate those in the paddlesports community.

The 2016 dates will remain the same – August 3 to 6. But in 2017, the dates become July 26 to 29 with 2018 scheduled for July 25 to 28.

“Changing the summer dates beginning in 2017 moves Summer Market into July, putting the show ahead of final order deadlines and better aligns with buying cycle,” Marisa Nicholson, VP and OR show director, told the B.O.S.S. Report. “We worked with the entire industry ecosystem to ensure that everyone’s needs and concerns were considered. We worked closely with the paddle community to understand their needs and accommodate unique timelines and deadlines.”

The new dates are said to particularly help the show fit better with the buying cycle for apparel and footwear vendors importing many goods from China and elsewhere. When previously asked about the shift of ORWM dates, soft goods vendors and many retailers also favored earlier dates for Summer Market for similar reasons. Many complete most orders one or two months before the show, at least helping the show become a place for finalizing or tweaking orders.

“Moving the dates will certainly continue to help the exhibiting manufacturers have better visibility to what their order books will look like,” Dave Nacke, VP of merchandising, NBS, told the B.O.S.S. Report. Retailers won’t be impacted dramatically. It gives one less week of summer sell-through for the independents who perhaps need that information more than large chains.”

But much like the snowsports hard goods vendors saw challenges with the earlier ORWM dates, paddlesports retailers also face hurdles with the earlier Summer Market dates.

Ed McAlister, president and owner at River Sports Outfitters, Knoxville, TN, told the B.O.S.S. Report that having the show a “week earlier or a week later” doesn’t matter too much for paddlesports retailers. Many retailers are still selling the current season inventory, particularly those in the northeast with warm weather recently arriving. Besides the negatives of having people attend the show versus working a busy sales floor, having new product come out at the show “really disrupts what inventory is in the marketplace.” He believes any newer product shown shouldn't be available until at least the following January.

Regardless, McAlister has “no good answer” as to when the show should ideally take place, proposing that September to November might be a better time frame for retailers to explore paddlesports.

McAlister also agrees that an earlier show works better from a soft goods perspective and noted that the overall show is much more than about buying. Said McAlister, “It’s a lot of business planning and all that. There’s a lot of good reasons to go to the show, whether you’re there to buy or not.”

Rod Johnson, owner and founder of Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, said moving up the shows “makes buying more difficult because we haven't sold a lot of the season's merchandise.” Moving up ORWM similarly cuts into his apparel buyer's preseason order writing. He added, “However I understand the vendors need the orders written earlier.”

Mike Massey, owner of Massey's Outfitters, said moving the show further up into the selling cycle means less people from Massey’s will be able to attend a “non-buying show.” He lamented, “It’s hard to commit staff to in-season events unless they are going to be there getting stuff done, like writing orders, and for that, it’s still way too late.”

John Mead, president, Adventure 16, considers moving the show dates up a week or two largely a non-issue for his chain, “but I have to believe it could make it harder for some small independent shop owners to break away earlier in the thick of the two seasons.”

Jennifer Mull, CEO, Backwoods, said, “For us the show timing in summer, by moving up one week, is not that impactful. There are pros and cons as it relates to our business so all in all it’s about a wash.”

Bill Kueper, Wenonah Canoe Inc. VP, believes a one-week move for ORSM is not significant and will not impact the way his firm does business. Kueper added, “Retailers could be impacted by the date change but the magnitude of this impact should roughly be the same or less than the influence of how Memorial Day and Labor Day fall on the calendar in any given year.” 

Cheri McKenzie, chief marketing officer, Confluence Outdoor, said her company was still evaluating the changes but feels the July timing will only put more of a squeeze on the paddlesports category.

“As a summer activity, the new dates put even more pressure on paddlesports retailers who would need to leave their stores in the heart of high season,” said McKenzie. “Very early August isn’t ideal either and we believe the dates, along with the presence of two strong eastern regional shows, has resulted in a continued decline in attendance at OR by specialty dealers outside the western region. In addition, the July dates take seven precious days away from our mission to be ‘show ready’ for the presentation of products and programs.”

Luke LaBree, marketing communications manager, Johnson Outdoors Watercraft, said the new dates appear to bump up closer to ICAST, which his firm also attends. For 2016, ICAST will be held from July 13 to 15.

“This gives me one week to come back home/to the office, decompress, gather up all the materials we’ll need for OR, say hi to the family and then hit the road again,” said LaBree. “It is already physically and mentally exhausting enough with two weeks separating the shows, this is going to make it a whole lot more so.”

Darren Bush, owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison, WI, believes the issue around changing show dates is more of a “psychological barrier more than an actual one” as the survey by Emerald Expositions, which runs the OR events, showed no huge differences in timing among most attendees.

“Frankly, I like it because it gives me more time in the season to clean up discontinued product,” said Bush. “That's my take and I'm sure others will disagree, and some folks won't be happy no matter what. C'est la vie. I know a lot of folks say the big clothing companies are driving the dates of the show back. I talked to a few of the CEOs of the big clothing guys and they told me it really didn't matter to them since most of their orders are already in by OR, and they weren't driving the dates at all.”

Bush said he’s also talked to officials at Emerald who corroborated that the changing dates are more around “when most people wanted it” rather than any demands for soft-lines vendors.

Bush added, “The other benefit is it means I might be able to take some time off in August. That'd be nice.”