Despite Backlash From Industry Giants, Outdoor Retailer Is Heading Back to Utah

Outdoor Retailer is heading back to Utah.

“After much deliberation and input from all sides, we’ve decided the best move for Outdoor Retailer is to return to our basecamp. We’re heading back to Salt Lake City and County to the place we grew up and where our industry matured into the dynamic and powerful community it is today,” the trade show announced today in a statement. “Moving forward, Outdoor Retailer will bring the community together in January and June at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.”

Salt Lake City was the host of the trade show for 22 years, but organizers announced in July 2017 that it was moving the expo to Denver, a decision that largely stemmed from a disagreement over public land protection.

The issue of public land protection was addressed in today’s statement.

“We have a strong relationship with Salt Lake City and a committed partner in Mayor Erin Mendenhall, whose values align with ours following tremendous investments in clean energy and a strong commitment to public lands. This proved to be a real turning point in our recent negotiations,” the statement read.

In today’s statement, OR outlined several commitments to enact meaningful change, which includes dedicating revenue over the next three years from OR events in Utah to fund programs that supports outdoor recreation and protect public lands. Also, OR said it has formed the Business with Purpose in partnership with Visit Salt Lake that will bring stakeholders together biannually to address challenges concerning natural and cultural spaces, as well as influence policy, assist in advocacy efforts and more. Lastly, OR said it will provide increased opportunities for the industry, locals and media “to participate in panel discussions, educational activities and volunteer projects.”

OR also said in today’s statement that it is redefining the event “to meet the needs of the growing outdoor recreation economy” by “adding channels for the industry to interact directly with consumers and conduct commerce with buyers year-round.” Also, OR said it is working to present unique opportunities for commerce, storytelling, advocacy, knowledge and celebration outside of the convention center, and will unveil these plans at this summer’s show in June.

“As we plan for the coming years back in Salt Lake City and County, we move forward with the same optimism and values that have always guided our industry, and we’re ready to work with you to explore endless opportunities to help our industry grow. We are excited about what the future holds for Outdoor Retailer.

Although OR may be optimistic, time will tell if brands and retailers in the space will support the move.

Last month, The Conservation Alliance released a statement urging OR owner and operator Emerald X not to move the event to Utah. In the statement, The Conservation Alliance — with the support of 24 market-leading companies — said, “We’ve joined together in stating that we will not support or attend a trade show event in Utah so long as its elected officials continue attacks on national monuments and public lands protections.”

The Conservation Alliance called out Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in its statement for “moving to strip these magnificent lands of federal protection — while simultaneously attempting to woo Emerald to move the Outdoor Retailer trade show from Denver to Salt Lake City.” (Cox released a video in September 2021 urging Outdoor Retailer to return.)

The major names aligned with The Conservation Alliance’s statement include Public Lands, Patagonia, REI Co-op, The North Face, Keen, Oboz, Scarpa, Smartwool, Timberland, La Sportiva, Arc’teryx and others.

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