Inside the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show: The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Diminished Turnout

The attendance at this year’s Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver was considerably smaller than in years past given the nationwide COVID-19 surge. But brands and retailers in attendance found an unintended benefit from the diminished turnout: meaningful conversation and new business.

“We’re one of the few [retailers] here, so it’s a great opportunity to interact with brands in a bit more casual of a setting where it’s not frantic,” Jason Mazzola, president and CEO of Gabe’s, told FN. “The last few shows we’ve gone to, even though they’re not as highly attended, have been terrific for us because we get more individual attention. For a company like us that’s off-price oriented — with this being more of an inline show — brands have the time for us where they normally wouldn’t.”

Mazzola said although Gabe’s only set up about 10 appointments, the most valuable part of this show was discovery. The exec said he walked the show floor and met with several new accounts, and confirmed with FN that Gabe’s had landed four new vendors before 11 a.m. on day one, just two hours after doors opened.

Matthew Brucker, VP of sales at Nester Hoisery — the parent company to Farm to Feet — shared a similar sentiment.

“There’s a blessing and a curse to having a really packed show. When your show is packed, you don’t get to interact,” Brucker said. “When there’s slightly fewer [attendees], you can leverage the number of people you bring from your company to support that. You have longer, more meaningful conversations.”

He continued, “We look for every opportunity to get in front of the retailers. If OR continues to be a large national show, we’re going to participate. If OR transitions into a smaller regional show, we’re going to participate.” (The future of OR remains uncertain, with organizers evaluating venue and city options as the Denver contract nears its end in June.)

2022 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show Venture Out
The Venture Out section of 2022 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show.
CREDIT: Peter Verry

Although some brands opted to pull out before the show’s start date due to COVID-19 concerns, brands that did show up planned ahead in order to cut costs.

Pajar Canada, for example, reduced its typical costs to attend by working with a nearby furniture company to fill the booth — which included a gondola and repurposed snowboards and skis — rather than fly in its own furniture.

“We cut expenses by, first of all, not bringing in 10 people from our head office. We have four, including me. But we still have quite a large booth, 1,000 square feet,” Jacques Golbert, president and CEO of Pajar Canada, said.

Prior to this week’s Snow Show, Marisa Nicholson, show director and SVP at Outdoor Retailer, spoke with FN and said she expected a similar turnout to summer 2021. The summer event, which took place in August, had more than 7,600 attendees, 388 exhibitors and upward of 2,200 retail buyers and importers/distributors.

FN has reached out to Outdoor Retailer for attendance results from this week’s Snow Show.

2022 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show
The entrance of 2022 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show on the morning of day one.
CREDIT: Peter Verry

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