The winter ’14 Outdoor Retailer show kicks off later this month, and director Kenji Haroutunian said attendees are upbeat.
“In outdoor, it’s been pretty bullish. There was trepidation going into the holidays, but just in the past week, I’ve seen that turn around,” he said. “It’s very dynamic right now. No one is in shell-shock mode.”
Snowy, cold weather across the Midwest and Northeast has been a boon for sales of weather-dependent items. But Haroutunian said the outdoor market doesn’t completely move with the snow.
“OR is more than just the snow sports and resort businesses. It’s very much lifestyle and cuts across a lot of different market verticals. When you look at it that way, there is still a lot of strength in outdoor, a lot of growth,” he said.
This year’s winter event will feature what Haroutunian called a “record” number of exhibitors and a more navigable format. One of those initiatives will better identify freshman product. The New Product Zone on the show floor will group together many of the launches, and Discover New @ OR, a digital showcase, will highlight even more.
“There are far too many new products launched for us to put them in one spot, so we’re presenting them in a digital format,” Haroutunian said. “We have footwear all over the different zones, so it makes it easier for buyers to know what’s new.”
But the show’s growth has some downsides, as well. Housing concerns regarding available hotel space — especially close to the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City — continue to be an issue. “We don’t really fit in this city, and it’s starting to be really difficult to fit,” said the show’s director. “It has been particularly difficult this [season].”
The event has continued to crack down on local consumer attendance to the show to help ease traffic on the selling floor.
But Haroutunian said Outdoor Retailer is committed to its longtime home in Salt Lake City. (After an extensive surveying process, OR has agreed to stay in the Utah location until 2016.)
“We don’t want to be bad neighbors or stewards in the city. We are looking for ways to deliver more value to the local businesses of Salt Lake City, the citizens impacted by our event,” he said. “We’re supporting the recreational resources in that region. We want to bring something to the community.”