Outdoor Retailer Show Scouts New Venues Amid Industry Unrest

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market
The Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City.
Peter Verry

Utah has been the home to Outdoor Retailer for more than 20 years. But the biannual industry expo held in Salt Lake City could soon have a new home.

Outdoor Retailer — in conjunction with Outdoor Industry Association and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance — announced on Monday that it will seek proposals for new venue locations for shows and events. The proposals it will request are for events taking place in 2019 and beyond.

“We’ve been listening to the concerns from the industry and agree that it’s time to explore our options,” Marisa Nicholson, show director for Outdoor Retailer, said in a statement. “Salt Lake City has been an incredible home to Outdoor Retailer and the outdoor community for the past 20 years, and we aren’t opposed to staying, but we need to do what’s best for the industry and for the business of outdoor retail.”

The announcement comes at a time when Utah politicians are looking to rescind the national monument status of the Bears Ears National Monument.

According to multiple reports, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Friday sent by the state’s Senate that challenges the monument’s status, and will ask President Donald Trump to either repeal its national monument status or reduce its size (Bears Ears spans 1.35 million acres in southeastern Utah). Former President Barack Obama designated Bears Ears as a national monument on Dec. 28.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. REX Shutterstock.

Major players in the outdoor industry, upset with the lack of support for public land conservation from Utah’s elected officials, have made it clear that the government’s decisions do not align with what the industry represents — and are also taking action.

One brand taking immediate action is Patagonia. And that action is removing itself from the expo.

“Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution on Friday urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument, making it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation, nor do they value the economic benefits — $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs — that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state,” Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia Inc., said in a statement today. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah, and we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.”

In an op-ed published last month in The Salt Lake Tribune, Peter Metcalf, founder of the Utah-based outdoor sports brand Black Diamond Equipment, called for Outdoor Retailer “to leave the state in disgust.”

“We are calling on Herbert, Utah’s congressional delegation and other state leaders to drop their efforts to take down Bear Ears National Monument, to gut the Antiquities Act, to transfer our public lands to the states and to gut funding for these monuments, parks and public lands. If they don’t, the Outdoor Retailer shows must leave Utah,” Metcalf wrote. “The Utah delegation has wasted no time in the first days of 2017 to enact their destructive agenda, and now the outdoor industry, too, must respond boldly and unified while we are here in Salt Lake.”

Sally Jewell U.S. Interior Secretary Dead Horse Point Moab Utah Sally Jewell, the U.S. Interior Secretary from 2013-17, at Dead Horse Point, near Moab, Utah, last July. AP Images.

The Bears Ears National Monument is sacred to many of the area’s Native American tribes, and in July 2015, five tribes founded the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition in an attempt to conserve its cultural landscape.

“It provides a link to our ancestors, from long ago. This cultural information is important for all Native people. This is why tribes have set aside any differences and come together: If this information is lost, it’s lost forever. It is devastating to think of that loss,” Octavius Seowtewa, an elder of the Zuni tribe from New Mexico, wrote in a report supporting the Bears Ears National Monument published on bearsearscoalition.org.

Darrell Denny, EVP for Emerald Exposition’s Sports Group — the operator of Outdoor Retailer —  said “facilities, hotels, transportation, labor costs, environmental policies and the degree to which host states are in sync with outdoor industry values” have to be factored into the decision to find a new home for the expo.