With healthy traffic extending into the last two days of the show for many exhibitors, the inaugural Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show was largely a hit.

Many felt the Outdoor Retailer show was reinvigorated by the excitement around the move to Denver, and the city seemed to surpass expectations in handling the transition adeptly as well as delivering on food, lodging and transportation options. Given the political backdrop and shared passions of the two shows around climate change, conservation and other environmental issues, meeting up held greater urgency for many attendees and unifying the two shows became especially timely.

As expected, attendees were often lost in the aisles at the first iteration of the combined show, although a few praised the layout. Timing issues (overlap with SURF Expo, ISPO, SHOT Show, etc.) that always challenges January shows harried some attendees. Whether to attend both or which one of the November 2018 and January 2019 winter shows also appeared to be hotly debated. The frustrations over the warm winter out west was also a topic of conversation.

On the upside, the cold weather in the east promises to clear inventories for the industry. Along with a healthy economy bringing hope for steady business in 2018, attendees seemed to be in glass-half-full moods in the aisles.

SGB reached out to some attendees to get their thoughts on their experience at the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show and a few responses are below.

More comments can be found in the article, Hello Denver (Take 2), that came out on February 1.

Mark Mathews, Vice President of Sales, SCARPA: “What a fantastic debut for the OR/SIA Show in Denver. The traffic was great, and we were really busy throughout most of the show. There was definitely a great energy around the show that I have not seen or felt in years, and people really seemed to be responding to the changes in a very positive way. Of course there is always room for improvement, but I think the execution was great given it was the first time under this new combined winter format in Denver. I also think that the city of Denver was really welcoming to the show itself and all the attendees. So a great job all around!”

Greg Wozer, VP, LEKI USA: “The show was fantastic… very high energy and the aisles were certainly full of buyers.  We have always exhibited at both OR shows and SIA, so it was fun to see the usual OR-size crowds packing the aisles in Denver.  We found that the mood was generally very positive even from parts of the country without much snow.  We also attended the buying group shows and found the attitude to upbeat, as well.

“Our main challenge and concern was how we would be able to handle two busy four-day shows in the time frame of just four days… at times our staff was double and triple booked, bouncing from summer product presentations to winter and it did not feel as though we were giving enough attention to either category or buyer.  But it also gave us the chance to showcase our extensive alpine ski product to outdoor buyers and vice versa.

“A common thread from dealers seemed to be that this Denver show was a unique (and fun!) dynamic… but what about when all of this unity gets split back into 2 shows next season (Nov-Jan) as well as the timing of the January show.  We were just as curious about which show(s) our dealers would choose to attend as they were about us as a vendor with categories that span both/all. It was more questions than answers especially when you add in the regional and buying group show elements.  So for now, it seems like it will be wait-and-see.”

Duncan Finigan, head of marketing/ brand awareness, OOFOS: “OOFOS had a great show with traffic, new retail business partner opportunities and re-orders. It seemed people really appreciated the vibe of the new Denver location. Retailers did share with us that the show was somewhat difficult to navigate, and perhaps a little distracting with the snow show going on at the same time.”

Nick Sargent, president of SIA: “I’m feeling very optimistic with the outcome of the show. The traffic was very high and the mode was ecstatic. A concern show goers had was that of not knowing where to start and managing the show with so many exhibitors. The take-away was that Outdoor and Winter look great together and compliment one and another, stronger together.”

Jody Carlson, Sales Director, Smartwool: “The show was phenomenal.  It was the busiest show we’ve had in the past several years.  We had meetings at every level within in the company all day each day of the show.  We expected it to die off on day three as it had typically done in the past, but this year our booth continued to be jamming.

“From our lens, people were happy and energized by the move. It added a fresh element to the show and while combining the two shows, created some challenges for in-booth logistics in terms of meeting space. We are very happy with the way everything turned out.

“In terms of overall city capacity, we thought Denver handled the influx of people very well. Our only challenge was that there was so much to do we couldn’t participate in everything.”

Vince Mazzuca, Senior Marketing Manager, Osprey Packs: “Denver’s debut, combined with the joining of OR and SIA, brought a refreshed level of energy that both the outdoor and snow sports industries will greatly benefit from. The rhetoric at this show versus Summer OR eight months ago was drastically different. We had positive meetings with both our dealers and the media, as well as with state and federal government representatives, about the impact our industry has on the sustainable, long-term economic health of our communities. We know that we have a lot of work ahead to ensure that we harness this energy and momentum, but we leave this show energized and optimistic of the path ahead.”

Henrik Lumholdt, General Manager at Active Brands, parent company to Kari Traa: “The show seemed energized and well-attended, with steady booth traffic for Kari Traa, especially on the first three days. We were very pleased with how everything went this winter and feel that combining OR and SIA simplified the entire process for us, saving a lot of time and energy. For Kari Traa, this was easily our busiest OR/SIA show so far and I think this is due to a combination of the two shows merging and our strong, continued growth here in North America. The lack of snow this winter was a common talking point and some retailers are feeling it. However, unlike some hard good brands at the show, Kari is a little insulated from this, as it has been a cold winter in key markets and our bright, bold collection of base layers and active wear is still in demand.”

Christian Mason, VP Sales & Marketing, Oboz Footwear: “Mixing OR and SIA was positive and exciting.  The debut had an excellent vibe and was very welcoming.  We were very busy the first two days and had solid traffic on days three and four. Logistical downers: the cost of moving items with the union. We should not be charged to wheel items about the hall. Looking ahead, we do not need three shows as an industry–that was certainly a hot topic. Which shows will retailers and vendors attend?”

Ross Saldarini, President at Mountain Khakis: “Amazing show–was happy to see so many retailers in attendance and was thrilled with Denver and the excitement the Colorado community showed the outdoor industry. This new chapter for the industry in a new town could not have started off better.” 

Chad Altbaier, VP Downlite Outdoor: “I thought this OR was the best we’ve had in several years.  The show was buzzing, and the energy was great in the convention center. Traffic, especially on the upper level, seemed to be very strong, which contributed to the positive vibe. Most brands seemed to be in upbeat moods, largely caused by their strong current businesses with cold weather apparel. Denver was a great host city, and an excellent venue for the show in terms of lodging, restaurants, activities, etc., and the move to this city really felt like it created the “shot in the arm” that the show needed. [My] only complaint is around timing, and the obvious conflict with ISPO–which forced many of us to leave the show early in order to travel to Munich.

The weekend ending of the show is not ideal, as just about all of the folks we met with were only at the show on Thursday through Friday anyway.”

Michelle Fleming, Marketing Manager – Stanley, a brand of PMI: “We were pleasantly surprised and very well supported. We were pleased with the opportunity, the booth traffic, and the general vibe of the show. We got a lot of stoke for the brand that was new, exciting and different due to the mix of brands. Our team felt that the simple ‘shake-up’ was appreciated by retailers and brands.  Smaller isles on the main floor and the almost ‘room-like’ layout of the lower level made for a busy feel and a sense of discovery or exploration. We think Denver showed up well! There was a ton of different, high quality food options and transportation was really easy. Lastly, we appreciate that the camaraderie and partnership of Outdoor Retailer, OIA, and SIA. We still have really big issues to tackle as an industry and coming together like this, we will move mountains for sustainability, climate change, public lands and continued efforts to improve the economy of the outdoor industry.”

David Mesicek, Head of Marketing & E-Commerce, Honeywell Retail (XTRATUF, Original Muck Boot Co., Oliver Safety Boots):  “It’s good to shake things up, and we are pleased by the decision of show organizers to move and combine Outdoor Retailer Winter Market with the Ski Show in Denver. Despite the challenges that come with learning how to navigate a new city and venue, both turned out to be fantastic and valuable in their own right. We exhibited XTRATUF in Venture Out and The Original Muck Boot Co and Oliver Safety Boots on the upper/main floor. Traffic was strong in Venture Out through the entire show; however the peripheries of the main floor did get a bit quiet during the weekend. For Summer Market, we’d like to see an easier-to-navigate floor plan and guide for attendees and buyers. Overall, we are thrilled to be a part of the OR and SS industry community, and continue to see great economic strength in our segments (despite all the doom and gloom NPD is predicting for footwear!).”

Wendy Carey, EVP & CFO at Seirus: “This inaugural merged show had great energy and traffic and put us all in a position for much closer collaboration between the Snowsports and Outdoor communities. We are one at our roots and together can be a much stronger voice for all the issues important to both: participation, education, environment and advocacy.  I’m excited about the opportunities!”

Photo courtesy Outdoor Retailer