Third Annual Paddlesports Retailer Tradeshow Goes Off Without a Tangle, Sees Growth


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While the heat may have oppressed the vendors and buyers at this year’s Paddlesports Retailer tradeshow in Oklahoma City, much like the tariff war currently oppressing the entire outdoor industry, the mood remained cool, calm and collected both indoors and out as hundreds of industry kinfolk gathered for the third year under the new PSR banner.

PSR reports that 122 vendors set the stage for more than 200 stores to come and view, as well as test out, next year’s goods. Format changes to this year’s event included a modified on-water demo at RiverSport OKC whitewater park — allowing whitewater and flatwater brands to be together at the same venue at the same time; as well as a final (third) day that ended early, as they usually do organically anyway.

PSR founders continue to fine tune the show to support paddlesports buyers and, in turn, suppliers, with an emphasis on endemic specialty shops, steering away from big box and mainstream outdoor. All told, 275 stores and 530 buyers were registered for the show, along with 540 individual exhibitors, although some folks were hampered by weather and the Labor Day holiday.

“This show is openly a work in progress, and it’s meant to accommodate the business needs of our exhibitor and retailer stakeholders,” explained show director Charles Conner. “We get many suggestions on how to tweak the formula, and if these suggestions approach a consensus we’re not afraid to make core changes. For example, timing is always a consideration, as we have lots of demand for post-Labor Day dates, that could happen in 2021.”

“We met some new dealers that are interested in opening accounts and met with some key existing dealers as well. For us it seemed to be busier than last year,” said Clay Haller of Advanced Elements, Inc. “The demo event for flatwater was better this year, being in the water park instead of the dirty river last year, but they did not require badges at the demo event so unless you knew the buyer already, there was no way to tell who was with what company. Like last year the temp was about 100 degrees and 80% humidity which is hard to do anything in, but from an outside perspective it looked busy.”

And while folding kayaks and inflatables battled it out for the “space saving” consumer, many also had a keen eye on price points, arguing that “value priced” kayaks and SUPs are truly damaging the marketplace against the greater good.

Kristin Thomas, executive director of the Stand Up Paddle Industry Association (SUPIA, representing stand-up paddleboard manufacturers, retailers, sales reps and distributors globally), said her group’s biggest challenge is reconfiguration amid slowed growth. This year was SUPIA’s first time exhibiting at PSR, and the group was well received in the otherwise quiet non-profit/education area of the show. That said, the ACA (American Canoe Association) and PSR did a great job of hosting talks and educational seminars throughout the first two days, allowing buyers and others to bop over from the aisles and take in some valuable in-person knowledge from industry experts.

We’re really happy with year two in OKC,” continued Conner. “The Demo Day took another huge step forward and we think it’s the best demo in the outdoor industry. The new location of the New Product Showcase gave it a stronger impact on the show experience and our speaker and seminar schedule was much stronger.”

Chung-Shih Sun, co-founder and product designer of Gearlab, a Taiwanese-based company that makes Greenland-style paddles, made the trip all the way to OKC for the access to specialty paddlesports buyers that only this show provides. “Greenland style kayaking and paddles are still niche to this market,” Sun said. “But we are very happy to be here.”

“We base our exhibitor invitations and curation based on post-show surveys sent to both attending and non-attending paddle shops,” said Conner. “The show isn’t huge, but it’s super concentrated–when you walk the floor as a Paddlesports Retailer there are legit, vetted, relevant, top-notch exhibitors and product all around you. And we’d want to ensure that any new exhibitors would work with that mix.” 

PSR is endorsed by the Paddlesports Trade Coalition, providing a premier commercial and cultural experience for exhibitors, retailers, media and industry advocates. Paddlesports Retailer ran from August 26-29, 2019, at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center; with demo day at Riversports Rapids Adventure Park on the 26th.

Paddlesports Retailer’s media partner Rapid Media presented the second annual Paddling Magazine Industry Awards at the PSR Industry Dinner, voted on from 92 products featured in the New Product Showcase, which had free coffee and a bar open all day while people voted. Award winners are as follows:

Best Touring/Recreational Kayak—Virgo by P&H Sea Kayaks
Best Whitewater Boat—Rewind by Dagger
Best Fishing Boat and Board— Mirage Pro Angler 14 with 360 Drive Technology by Hobie
Best SUP—Okeanos Air-Glide 12’6″ x 31″ Inflatable by SIC Maui
Best Canoe—Explorer Carbon by Mad River
Best Paddle—Surge by Werner Paddles
Best Safety & Rescue—Hustle R by Kokatat
Best Clothing/Apparel—Torrent Pro by Chaco
Best Rigging & Outfitting—5 Circuit Digital Switcher by Yak Power
Best Transport/Storage/Launching—Deck Bag by Gearlab
Best Paddling Accessory—Gator Guards

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