Inside the Outdoor Retailer Overhaul: New Winter Show Dates and Additional Events

Outdoor Retailer (OR) is undergoing an overhaul at a time when the trade show is facing obstacles in the wake of its move back to Utah.

In March, the biannual trade show announced it would move back to its former longtime home, the Salt Palace Convention Center in Utah, after spending five years in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center. While the venue is familiar, the dates of the winter expo will soon change.

Today, OR revealed the winter show will move to early November, starting in 2023. The shift is to better support buying and selling cycles.

In 2023, the OR winter show will take place Nov. 14-16. After that, the show’s dates will shift to Nov. 5-7 in 2024, Nov. 3-5 in 2025, Nov. 10-12 in 2026 and Nov. 9-11 in 2027.

“We’re working with all our different constituents on creating an efficient calendar,” OR senior vice president and show director Marisa Nicholson told FN. “The move to November aligns with what we’re doing in June around being at the launch of the sales cycle. This is an opportunity for brands to showcase products at the beginning of the cycle and allows retailers to gather information and intel as they’re making their buying decisions up until quarter deadlines so they can make the best buying decision.”

OR has also introduced several new events and initiatives in an effort to transform the experience.

One such event is The Summit by Outdoor Retailer, which will debut in January 2023. The event, which OR revealed at the top of the month, is an enhanced demo with guided snow sports activities and hands-on gear testing. It will take place at the Brighton Resort in Utah on Jan. 9.

“It’s new format. We’ll have the typical vendor village where brands can showcase their latest products for demoing on the mountain, but we’ll have an on-mountain experience with professional guides and a schedule so media and retailers can sign up for one-of-a-kind experiences,” Nicholson explained. “It creates opportunities for dialogue because they’re small and curated so you feel comfortable in these group settings. It’s a different way to engage the the industry before the show opens.”

Today, OR announced its plans for The Summit, which will begin in January 2024. Looking ahead, The Summit dates will shift to late January and expand to a multiday leadership conference with keynote speakers, educational programming, workshops, strategy sessions, advocacy and networking. Future dates of The Summit will be timed alongside the existing annual Winter Sports Market buying group event, which is open to invited retailers and also held at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Also announced today is a new format to the media preview, which will debut at the trade show in January 2023. This will be held at the new Hyatt Regency Salt Lake, which will also host keynote education, lunch sessions and the Innovation Awards.

“Historically, the media preview has represented brands who are in the show, highlighting products that they have. We’ve opened this up to allow for brands who are participating in the show and also brands who are not participating in the show, to be able to connect with media in a one-to-one format,” Nicholson explained. “You don’t necessarily have to have a booth in the trade show to participate in the media preview.”

Another event OR has recently created is Outdoor Adventure X, which will take place the weekend before the summer show that is scheduled for June 19-21, 2023.

Outdoor Adventure X — created in partnership with Lodestone Events — is a two-day adventure festival at the Snowbasin Resort in nearby Huntsville that will be open to the public. It is scheduled to take place June 17-18, 2023, with camping starting June 16. This event will feature outdoor product experiences including climbing, cycling, hiking, watersports and more, as well as workshops, gear demos, live music and food.

The thought behind the event, according to OR, is to give brands and retailers opportunities to connect directly with consumers and “get a first-hand look at the ways people of all ages are experiencing the outdoors.”

“This is an example of listening to our customers around how they want to get consumer insights and have connection points, while also being intentional in how we support specialty retail,” Nicholson said. “This is going to be an incredible, immersive event that allows for consumers and industry veterans to come together on the weekend prior to the summer show. It’s very different than anything that’s out there. Aligning it with the summer show is a great benefit because it’s just 40 minutes from the Salt Palace and having that event the weekend before the show helps to provide a dual purpose of Outdoor Retailer and bringing the community together.”

Although OR is has revealed several initiatives aimed at improving the show experience, numerous companies made it clear that they were not on board with the show moving back to Utah. In February, The Conservation Alliance released a statement — with the support of 24 market-leading companies — urging OR owner and operator Emerald X not to move the event due to state elected officials’ continued “attacks on national monuments and public lands protections.” With the move, several brands and retailers vowed not to return to OR.

Nicholson, however, believes the moves OR is making could potentially bring those brands and retailers back into the mix.

“The conversations are ongoing with all of our customers, and the decisions that we’re making are based on what the majority of our customers want and need. That’s what’s driving this forward,” Nicholson said. “The purpose behind all of the different changes that we’re making and the new events that we’re introducing is finding those different ways that brands can and want to engage based on what their business needs are right now and how it evolves into the future.”

What’s more, OR confirmed it will offer updates at the January show on Business With Purpose, an initiative aimed at influencing policy and addressing the challenges concerning natural and cultural spaces, which was revealed in March. The updates will include details on how the industry can get involved in Business With Purpose Business With Purpose, upcoming stewardship projects and more.

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