Whether to move Outdoor Retailer from Salt Lake City in 2015 tops the list of questions posed by the trade show to industry insiders in a survey sent out last spring.
According to survey results, the Nielsen-run OR show will either stay put or move to Denver, though neither location can meet the event’s needs right now. (OR is in contract with Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace though 2014.)
“We’re building pavilions in either city’s current configuration,” show director Kenji Haroutunian said. “And the hotel impact is also roughly equivalent, with people staying way outside the city boundaries.”
While both cities have other conference space available, Haroutunian said exhibitors have consistently objected to being placed off the main show floor, and the distances between locations in both cities is enough to be a concern. “Trying to connect those dots has been a huge challenge,” he said.
In addition to the survey, Nielsen and the Outdoor Industry Association in April launched the Collective Voice platform on Outdoorretailer.com, outlining the history of the show and the options that the board is considering. Former SNEWS President Michael Hodgson was hired as a neutral project manager to oversee the process. Through the site and surveys distributed to industry stakeholders — primarily exhibitors and retailers — almost 3,000 responses have been tallied, according to research released by the show last week.
Remaining in Salt Lake City is the top choice of both retailers and exhibitors if exhibit space and hotel offerings can be expanded, the survey said. However, an overwhelming majority of exhibitors — more than 85 percent — were unwilling to relocate from their main floor positioning, even if it was required to stay in Utah.
Hotel space is also a key issue. According to the survey, both retailers and exhibitors cited lodging concerns. The variety of accommodations available, location of rooms and cost of accommodations were the top three challenges.
“We can manage as long as we have the current footprint, but when people are staying in different counties or literally 40 or 50 minutes away, that’s a big negative for someone new,” said Haroutunian.
He added that the show plans to announce the final location decision before the winter Outdoor Retailer in January.