Outdoor Retailer Summer Market returned to Salt Lake City, August 9-12, with a record 1,051 exhibitors across 421,000 square feet of exhibit space. The most expansive Summer Market to date welcomed more than 21,000 total attendees, including over 150 new exhibitors such as Saucony and Otter Creek Paddle Works as well as 25-year veterans such as The North Face and Coleman. More than 6,500 buyers were in attendance.

“The overwhelmingly positive buzz at this year’s Summer Market paid tribute to the strength of today’s outdoor industry,” said Kenji Haroutunian, show director for Outdoor Retailer. “In addition to hundreds of new product innovations, it was inspiring to see the vast array of progressive exhibitor initiatives focused on sustainability, social responsibility, advocacy and youth awareness; these are the programs that will help the industry attract new consumers in the years to come.”

Progressive Programs
The movement towards sustainable business practices was illustrated across the show floor by the greatest Green Steps Program sponsor participation to date, new eco-friendly lines from Keen, GoLite and others, and consumer programs such as CamelBak’s sustainable hydration initiative “Choose to Re-Use.” This drive was also highlighted at the Outdoor Industry Breakfast where keynote speaker Ben Packard, director of environmental affairs for Starbucks Coffee Co., stressed how small sustainable steps add up to meaningful change.

Other exhibitors are connecting with buyers and consumers through cause programs. This trend was evidenced by companies such as Ocean Kayak, which will donate a portion of its new angler’s gross sales to the Breast Cancer Fund, and El Naturalista, which will donate one Euro for every pair of shoes sold to the Atauchi Project, a non-profit organization supporting educational projects in Peru.

“I was really impressed with the overall feeling of consciousness and attention to where we are headed as an industry,” commented Paige Boucher, public relations director for Mountain Hardwear.

Another hot topic at Summer Market was the push to get youth outdoors. Numerous exhibitors launched new youth collections such as Timberland’s b-life collective, a shoe line designed to attract the millennia generation. Other industry members are enlisting young athletes to help with product development or getting involved in outdoor events to motivate children to get off the couch and enjoy the outdoors.

“Imagine a time when children no longer play outdoors, when their laughter disappears from woods and fields, when they no longer know the wonder and joy of nature. For many children, that time is now,” remarked Outdoor Industry Association president Frank Hugelmeyer. “There are 73 million Americans under the age of 18, who in the last year spent an average of more than 4 hours a day in front of a screen. The good news is there are many great programs already working to get kids active.”

Attracting Tangential Markets
Summer Market also saw an increased presence from some of the traditionally tangential industry segments such as endurance sports, surf and skate. Surf brands such as Reef, QuiksilverEdition and Body Glove are realizing the crossover potential to the outdoor market and thus, putting more emphasis on their Outdoor Retailer presence. Bouldering also made a big splash at Summer Market with the Mammut/EMS Bouldering Championship, the feature event of an international competition.

“I was really impressed with the quality of the bouldering competition on night three of the show, and we were proud to be a sponsor of Pete Ward’s NE2C event,” said Haroutunian. “Bouldering represents an important way for young people to engage with the outdoors in a way that lets them express themselves with friends and set goals to achieve, without missing too much homework.”

Given increased fringe-segment interest and the overall growth of the show, Outdoor Retailer created New Product Feature Areas to help attendees navigate the Summer Market floor more efficiently. Similar to successful category-focused areas like Climbers’ Ranch and the Paddle Tank area, the Gear Loft, Footwear Focus Area, and New Apparel Feature Area clustered relevant brands to serve the needs of the specialty buyer. The Endurance Sports Zone catered to buyers looking for brands in the trailrunning, adventure racing and triathlon segment.

Open Air Demo
The last-minute relocation of Open Air Demo (OAD) from Willard Bay to Pineview Reservoir’s Cemetery Point proved successful, with a record 90 OAD exhibitors coming together with retailers and media at the scenic park to test the latest boats, paddles, sunglasses, GPS devices, tents, packs and more. Show management is considering Pineview Reservoir for future events.

“Our first Open Air Demo was a very positive experience, as it provided the chance for people to see and feel just what our boats are all about,” said Blake Young, president of NuCanoe. “We saw many people we weren’t able to connect with prior to the event and feel our attendance at this venue establishes us in the outdoor market.”