The reaction from vendors and retailers alike was unanimous. Moving the Open Air Demo to Willard Bay changed the event from a good day on the water — if you can ignore the mud — into an event that buyers and vendors cannot and should not — miss. The longer drive was certainly worthwhile and everyone appreciated the sun and beach along with the ability to retreat into the shade as the day heated up. Vendors and retailers that missed out on the event certainly missed out on several opportunities.
The usual contingent of paddle sports brands was in attendance, with Confluence, Johnson Outdoors, Bell Canoe, and several others showing off their latest on-water innovations, but there was a definite increase in the number of hiking, trail running and backpacking brands. GoLite made their second appearance at the Open Air Demo as well as Gregory, Mountain Hardwear, Dunham and nearly every Nordic Walking brand in the U.S. market. This increased presence from the land-based companies is giving the event a well-rounded feel to it, and attracting more retailers.
Traffic was definitely up, with more people on the water and on land putting gear through its usual trials and having fun at the same time. Several more sails sprouted up across the bay thanks to an appearance by Hobie with their catamarans and kayaks.
The buyers were taking full advantage of the chance to try the gear and ask questions before getting to the show floor, and the bus was full of retailers thumbing through catalogs. With official numbers still out, it is hard to quantify the success of the event, but judging from the attitudes of all of the attendees, this was the best Open Air Demo yet, and relocating to Willard Bay was certainly the best decision OR management has made since the idea pushing to expand the Salt Palace.
Look for more Outdoor Demo review in next weeks issue of The B.O.S.S. Report