Versatility, Show Venue Top of Mind at OR

SALT LAKE CITY — Less-insulated, dual-season product topped the list of key trends at the Outdoor Retailer show, held here last week.

Brands including Columbia, Chaco, The North Face and Timberland said that expanding their leather and weather-resistant boot and shoe offerings — as opposed to heavier, insulated product — made sense not only to increase fall sales but also to appeal to retailers during warmer winters.

Greg Duffy, director of outdoor performance for Timberland, a division of VF Corp., said the brand has focused its efforts on men’s and women’s boots that put a premium on sleek, casual styling and feature waterproofing elements.

“We want to make styles that work for ‘inconvenient winter’ — slush, ice and cold,” he said.

Last week’s announcement that the trade show would stay in Salt Lake City through 2016 was also a big topic of conversation among attendees.

In general, buyers and brand execs told Footwear News they were pleased with the decision.

“I love it. It’s such a great outdoor space, and you’re so close to any number of unbelievable mountains, climbing or downhill mountain biking,” Duffy said.

Jim Zwiers, president of the performance group at Wolverine World Wide Inc., noted the proximity to outdoor recreation and the familiarity of the location were critical. “They made the right decision,” he said.

However, some expressed concern that the show is too large with too many attendees to remain in its current location at the Salt Palace Convention Center. And one brand executive, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was disappointed the show wasn’t moving. “I want a better placement for our booth, and unless the show moves to a bigger space, that’s not happening,” he said.

Matt Powell, analyst for Sports-OneSouce, said that while he recognized the cultural reasons for keeping the show in Salt Lake City, he wasn’t convinced the frustrations would be improved. “This is a logistical nightmare as an attendee,” he said, citing difficulties such as getting hotel rooms, restaurant reservations and taxis around town.

Tom Berry, VP of sales, marketing and merchandising for Tecnica, said the discussion about the future of the show was a distraction from bigger issues. No matter the location, he explained, “it doesn’t change anything fundamental [about the show]. We need to spend the time and energy on engaging consumers and building great product.”