Tradeshow Wars Continue: Hasta Luego, Paddlesports Retailer, Hola Big Gear Show


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Just when you were getting accustomed to traveling to Oklahoma City (and padding its whitewater park) at the end of every August for the annual Paddlesports Retailer tradeshow, organizers have swirled the waters even more by announcing a new, bigger show to replace it, July 22-25, 2020 — back in Salt Lake City.

Dubbed The Big Gear Show, the new tradeshow is being organized by longtime retailers and Paddlesports Retailer founders Sutton Bacon and Darren Bush (Bacon is the former CEO of Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Bush the president of Rutabaga in Madison, Wisc.) The new show will be a hardgoods-only show, say organizers, with a focus on paddling and hardgoods categories including camping, climbing, biking and more. It will also include a day at the end for consumers to come see and even buy products, as well as onsite demo opportunities and pre-show excursions.

Bush confirmed with Paddling Life that the new show will replace the existing Paddlesports Retailer tradeshow in Oklahoma City, now entering its fourth year.

“We’re starting this show for hardgoods manufacturers, innovators, and industry start-ups who don’t have the profit margins to afford expensive trade shows,” said Bacon. “This show is about the future and not the past. It’s about parity, curation, the democratization of floorspace, and the prioritization of innovation. We’ll have booth size limits for larger brands and VIP placements for start-ups. We understand the importance of being in one room – no more basements, tents, or ballrooms. We are all about heralding product innovation in all aspects of the show and challenging the entire industry to answer the fundamental question of ‘what’s next?’”

In a story originally reported in Snews (, Bacon and Bush, both former OIA board members, said the new show “will challenge traditional trade show norms” and that it should “solve many of the problems that retailers and brands—in particular paddlesports and bike brands—have expressed with the Outdoor Retailer show: the too-early timing, the excessive expense, and the lack of connection to the consumer.”

A scene from an earlier OR tradeshow in Salt Lake City.

Bacon and Bush are basing the show’s format and timing on survey responses they fielded from PSR attendees, maintaining exhibitors wanted more foot traffic from different buyers and retailers wanted to see also see hardgoods and accessories added to the mix. They added they want to bring the focus back on to gear—specifically for paddle, bike, camp, and climb—keeping footwear and apparel out.

They’re anticipating 450 exhibitors and 1,500 stores to attend.

“Hardgoods are completely different than soft goods,” Bacon told Snews. “The way they’re sourced, manufactured, prototyped, produced, and purchased is radically different. The margins and the business model are totally different. The sales velocity is totally different. There are already several outstanding trade shows focused on apparel and footwear, like Outdoor Retailer, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect Show, and regional rep shows. But we’re focused exclusively on gear.”

Ways The Big Gear Show will be different

Less expensive: Exhibitors will pay between $12 and $15 per square foot, compared to the nearly $40 per square foot at Outdoor Retailer.

Adding consumers: The final day of the show, July 25, will feature a consumer day, similar to what Bush currently runs at his Canoecopia consumer show in Madison, Wisc. Its doors will open to the public, letting companies show and sell gear to the public.

Onsite demos: Unlike the typical OR Summer shows, whose Demo Day is held before the tradeshow, The Big Gear Showwill offer paddle tanks, bike tracks, climbing facilities and more throughout the show, allowing attendees to test gear throughout the show. Following the “see, try, buy” formula, they’ll also facilitate trips outside before and during the show for further testing opportunities.

Outdoor Retailer pulled out of Utah in February 2017 in protest of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s policy on public lands, moving their winter and summer shows to Denver. Bacon and Bush are willing to put that aside, citing Salt Lake’s many attributes for such a show.

Read full Snews story here:






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