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Public Lands, REI Co-op and Patagonia Among Market Leaders Opposing Utah as Potential Outdoor Retailer Home

Update: Feb. 16, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. ET

Outdoor Retailer SVP and show director Marisa Nicholson has responded to The Conservation Alliance’s objections to a potential move of the trade show to Utah.

“Outdoor Retailer and Emerald remain committed to supporting the outdoor and winter sports industries through hosting gatherings that both meet business needs and foster the spirit of our community. We have been in ongoing conversations with many across our industry and are taking all input and perspectives into consideration, including responses from recent surveys — we appreciate the passion and respect everyone’s point of view. As we continue the process of evaluating all possible and realistic options, we remain thoughtful in our deliberations. Our goal is to host a vibrant event that not only reflects today’s new normal, but also presents an engaging event that draws more people into this community in ways that are authentic and affordable. No decisions around future dates or location have been decided at this time, and we look forward to sharing our thoughts in the coming days,” Nicholson said via statement emailed to FN.

What We Originally Reported on Feb. 15, 2022

As Outdoor Retailer weighs its options for the semiannual trade show’s next home, several industry juggernauts have spoken out to oppose Utah as a potential landing spot.

The Conservation Alliance, a collective dedicated to the protection of the outdoors in North America, released a statement today urging Outdoor Retailer 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.”

In February 2017, after spending more than 20 years in Salt Lake City, Outdoor Retailer began to consider a new home amid industry unrest stemming from then Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signing a resolution to rescind the national monument status of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Outdoor Retailer announced in July 2017 that Denver would be its new home.

Since leaving Utah, President Joe Biden has restored environmental protections to Bears Ears National Monument — as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts — reversing the moves of former President Donald Trump.

However, The Conservation Alliance called out current Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in its statement for “once again 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.)

“We stand with our colleagues in The Conservation Alliance,” Public Lands president Todd Spaletto said in the statement. “It’s incredibly disappointing that Utah’s elected officials are seeking to tear down the protections for Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. We love the outdoor opportunities Utah has to offer and would consider a move to Salt Lake if we saw a true commitment from the state’s leadership to align with our values and those of the outdoor industry.”

On behalf of REI Co-op, EVP and chief customer officer Ben Steele stated the retail giant would not attend the event if Utah will be the new home moving forward.

“In 2017, REI Co-op strongly supported the decision to move the outdoor industry trade show out of Utah when the state’s leadership refused to protect duly designated national monuments and natural treasures,” Steele said in the statement. “Although those protections have since been restored by President Biden, Utah’s leaders are again aiming to undermine those monuments and their protections. As a result, REI will not participate in any OR trade show in the state — nor will we send members of our merchandising or other co-op teams — so long as Utah persists in attacking our public lands and the laws that protect them.”

Patagonia, which announced in February 2017 that it was removing itself from the Utah expo, also spoke in opposition of Outdoor Retailer’s potential move to the state.

“For decades, Patagonia has worked in solidarity with Indigenous communities, local activists, outdoor athletes and businesses in Utah,” Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert said in the statement. “We love the state and its spectacular cultural and natural landscapes. We were thrilled when President Biden restored the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments this past October, and we will oppose any effort to undermine their protection. Our position on the location of the Outdoor Retailer trade show remains clear and unchanged: The show belongs in a state whose top officials value and seek to protect public lands.”

Other industry standouts aligned with The Conservation Alliance in its stance against a move to Utah include The North Face, Keen, Oboz, Scarpa, Smartwool, Timberland, La Sportiva and Arc’teryx.

The conversation surrounding Outdoor Retailer’s next home has been center stage for months, and in January, show director and SVP Marisa Nicholson confirmed with FN that its contract with the Colorado Convention Center is up following the June 2022 show, and that the search for a new home was on.

Last month, Nicholson told FN that Outdoor Retailer was hoping to announce its new home not long after the Snow Show, which took place Jan. 26-28.

“Ever since we did that [potential new location] survey back in June, we’ve had a lot of feedback in conversations recently around challenges and changes that we’re hearing from the marketplace, which is why we haven’t been able to make the final decision,” Nicholson said to FN of the venue search last month.

Aside from Salt Lake City, the survey also included Houston, Las Vegas, Denver, Orlando, Fla. and Anaheim, Calif. as potential venues.

FN has reached out to Outdoor Retailer for comment.

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