OR Moves Tradeshow Dates to Early June in 2018: Will It Affect Paddlesports? Paddling Co’s Big and Small Chime In


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Like rains and snowmelt coming at different times each year, paddlesport manufacturers and retailers are now dealing with different timeframes for the industry’s biggest tradeshow. On Nov. 8, Outdoor Retailer and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance announced they are shifting the outdoor tradeshow season schedule, with Outdoor Retailer, starting in 2018, moving its Summer Market tradeshow to June 11-14 (Monday-Thursday) in Salt Lake City…

The new OR dates follow Grassroots’ show the week prior, which will move to Sandy, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. For 2017, OR will move its summer show dates forward to July 26-27.

While this coming OR tradeshow is still expected to retain its traditional, large paddlesports presence, in both paddling and sup, the jury is out on what the next year’s move forward spells for paddlesports participation once it moves into retailers’ prime selling time of early summer.

“Might be tough to attend,” says Barry Smith, owner of Steamboat Springs, Colo.’s Mountain Sports Kayak School, who used to attend the show every year to suss out new boats to carry in his shop. “That’s right during our prime instruction season.”

Many other retailers and schools feel the same way. When the sun shines in early June, it’s time to make hay — whether you’re selling boats or building them.

“We think our industry—both paddlesports manufacturers and retailers—is in agreement that the show is too early and therefore too disruptive to our business,” says Cheri McKenzie, chief marketing officer for multi-brand paddling powerhouse Confluence Watersports.

“Paddlesports is officially being kicked out of summer OR,” says Andrew Stern of Bending Branches. “The softgoods exhibitors have bigger booths, deeper pocketbooks, and more pull with the decision makers at Emerald Expositions and convinced them to move the show up. 2017 will be the last summer any paddlesports vendor exhibits at the OR show.”

Stern echoes Smith’s sentiment regarding retailers. “Most paddlesports-focused retailers won’t attend either, unless they have a strong foothold in softgoods and footwear and can afford the uncompromisable, high costs of Outdoor Retailer and Salt Lake City,” he adds. “I was a part of the paddle advisory luncheon at OR Summer Market 2016 when they told us the news. The consensus from all exhibitors and retailers was that we would no longer come to OR. The latter half of the luncheon was on the transitional plan of where paddlesports goes instead of OR. That looks to be Surf Expo.”

The new time also affects manufacturers’ ability to design and build. “Having it during one of the biggest outdoor festivals- GoPro games is a terrible idea for us and the outdoor athletes,” says Emily Jackson of Jackson Kayaks. “Also, because OR has historically been August to August, we launch our 2017 products them. Changing that will cause a change in design timing and everything.”

Other manufacturers agree. “The June dates are problematic for us,” says AIRE sales director Chris Callanan. “We typically ship more orders in June than any other month, which means we need a full sales staff in-house to ensure orders are received, processed and out the door. Since the entire Aire sales team goes to the show our ability to take care of business will be problematic.”

Specialty retailers, he adds, will be hard-pressed to attend. “Our primary fishing show (AFFTA/IFTD) dates moved up a couple of years ago to mid-July and it really killed the specialty dealer attendance,” he adds. “I’m guessing June dates will have a big impact on the specialty paddlesports shops since they can’t afford to miss those key summer dates. Those that do come will be there for just a few days so the last days of the show will be even less important.

As a manufacturer, we will go anywhere and anytime that our dealers want us there, but I don’t think June will be that time. Werner Paddles seems to thrive and they haven’t had a booth at OR for a long time.”

Recognizing this potential fall-out, Outdoor Retailer is scrambling to offer an alternative. According to Sporting Goods Business, one change possibly includes Outdoor Retailer establishing a “Paddle Life Expo” show in September, as part of or replacing Surf Expo; the move would attempt to separate what had been a significant watersports presence at Outdoor Retailer.

“Surf Expo announced their mission to greatly expand canoe and kayak representation in late 2015,” says Confluence’s McKenzie. “We were ‘an early adopter’ of Surf Expo, exhibiting there this year, believing it could become a destination for eastern retailers that often don’t make the trip to Salt Lake. When OR announced it would be would be moving to June in 2018, it became imperative that paddlesports have a strong trade show option.

Since then, she adds, Surf Expo has created an advisory panel and is working hard to understand the needs of the paddling segment and what they can do to better position the show as ‘a center of gravity’ for paddlesports. “There are many advantages — September timing, affordable location with lots of hotel rooms, and their foundation in watersports culture — but there are challenges also: getting West Coast retailer attendance and building their East Coast attendance,” she says. “We think that 2017 will be a year of transition — Surf Expo needs to expand; paddlesports companies might ‘right-size’ the commitment to OR. For 2018, OR really left us no choice; we are hopeful that a strong show will emerge as the destination for our industry.”

“There’s been discussion among the paddlesports sector that OR may have turned their back on us, but I don’t think that’s the case,” says Kokatat sales director Jeff Turner. “There are just much bigger businesses they need to cater to. The move was really driven by the apparel and footwear sectors, most of whose business is does by June and are managing two to three seasons a year. For them, OR became more of an exhibit; they didn’t do much actual business there.”

“But it does put us in a bit of a dilemma,” he adds. “We’ve been showing at OR for a long time, and feel we’re one of the core brands in the industry. Now we’re dealing with a little separation anxiety.

The problem, he adds, is one of timing. “I don;t think we can get a small specialty dealer to consider buying next year’s product in June when he already has a shop full of this year’s products.”

“In the end we’ll go where our buyers go. Even though the show’s timing is right, I’m just not sure surf will be able to create an environment our retailers will all go to.”

A solution, he adds, might be taking better advantage of regional shows like the existing EORA show out East. But there’s not currently something similar on the West. As for paddlesports possibly going off on its own, I’m not sure one central location will draw everyone. It might have to go regionally.”

For OR, the synergies to be gained from aligning with Grassroots just outweigh the disadvantages of losing paddlesports participation. Grassroots represents about 70 retailers with $250 million in annual sales through more than 100 points of sale. And it has long been working to enhance OR’s appeal to independent specialty dealers.

Those in the wintersports market are in the same proverbial boat. Outdoor Retailer Winter Market will also move up to November 12-15 (Monday-Thursday), again following Grassroots’ show the week prior.
“We are working toward a forward thinking solution that will be better for the outdoor industry as a whole,” Darrell Denny, executive vice president for sports and e-commerce at Emerald Expositions, told SGB. “It’s important to talk about the full solution that we have in mind and not come out with partial answers, which we think can lead to questions that we simply can’t answer yet.”

Larger retailers and vendors tend to cheer the show’s expansion, saying it provides a much more comprehensive view of the market and unparalleled opportunities for collaboration and networking. But many smaller retailers say it’s tough for them to leave their stores for four days in late July/early August,

In July 2015, Emerald and OIA announced they would keep Outdoor Retailer at the Salt Palace through at least 2018. The next Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is scheduled to take place next year. The next Grassroots Spring Summit is scheduled to take place June 12 -13, 2017 in Albuquerque.

Full Press Release
Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Industry Association and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Support New Buying and Selling Cycles Resulting in Collaborative Outdoor Retailer Show Date Changes and Co-location
Summer Market Moves to June 11-14, 2018; Winter Market Changes to November 12-15, 2018;

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. – NOVEMBER 9, 2016 – Outdoor Retailer, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance are pleased to announce a collaborative new national tradeshow calendar for the betterment of the industry reflecting the changing needs of the marketplace. Beginning June 2018:
• Outdoor Retailer Summer Market moves to June 11–14, 2018, and Winter Market moves to November 12–15, 2018.
• Grassroots Outdoor Alliance’s Connect co-locates with Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Markets in Utah, and stages June 6–9, 2018, and November 7–10, 2018.
• Outdoor Retailer partners with Surf Expo to develop an expo serving market segments and product categories have later-season summer order deadlines.
• Outdoor Retailer will continue to provide a Winter Expo in January 2019 to serve market segments and product categories that have later-season winter order deadlines.
• Outdoor Retailer will present further details and strategies regarding future Demo events in the upcoming months.

The Intelligence Gathering Process
In addition to the extensive industry wide research Outdoor Retailer conducted this past spring, we invited key specialty retailers, cornerstone brands and segment leaders to participate in newly established advisory panels to discuss show cycles and best practices. The leadership from these discussions shaped the new Outdoor Retailer strategy. In addition, Outdoor Retailer convened a historic gathering of rep event leaders and other industry show representatives to work on a common strategy to serve the industry’s ongoing needs. These advisory panels will continue to provide guidance in the future.

“Outdoor Retailer is a respected home for the outdoor industry,” said Marisa Nicholson, VP and Outdoor Retailer show director. “Thirty-five years ago, a small group of brands and retailers not only created an industry, but also, an economic powerhouse. We are proud of Outdoor Retailer’s role in that growth – as the place where the industry gathers. Now, as before, it’s our responsibility to produce a platform giving specialty retailers and exhibitors the best opportunity to achieve their business objectives. This agreement gives credence to that goal and showcases that we are all in this together.”

“It is a great time for the industry, as we strengthen our tri-parte relationships and embark on this effort to grow the vitality of the outdoor industry,” said Rich Hill, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance president. “Retailers, brands and reps will attend Grassroots Connect to review new lines fully and discuss orders, while Outdoor Retailer serves as the pre-eminent venue where the entire industry kicks off the industry’s manufacturing and order cycle.”

“Understanding the needs of the industry was paramount in our collaborative work with both Outdoor Retailer and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance to provide a valuable and productive opportunity to preview product, launch the buying process and conduct important marketing and media discussions,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of OIA. “As the industry’s trade association, we take great pride in uniting the industry and leading trade and outdoor recreation policy, sustainability best practices, youth engagement outreach and market and consumer research.”

Embracing Change to Support Changing Industry Needs
Moving Outdoor Retailer’s shows to early dates enables it to serve as the industry’s launch event – introducing the full breadth of product offerings, marketing initiatives and educational offerings at the top of the buying season. The co-located Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect focuses on integration between a curated selection of key outdoor brands and sales representatives.

The combined format featuring the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and Outdoor Retailer shows back-to-back with no overlapping dates and built-in time for a full day of specialty retailer education, is set for June 10, 2018, and November 11, 2018, between the two shows. Grassroots Outdoor Alliance leads in the production of specialty retailer education, with operational and financial support from OIA and Outdoor Retailer. The venue for the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect show, an invite only event, will be at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah, with Outdoor Retailer remaining at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Grassroots Outdoor Alliance and Outdoor Retailer are cooperating to ensure ease of housing and transportation.

“With the evolution of the order/buy cycles, research findings and feedback, we verified there are varying needs for exhibitors, retailers and reps,” continued Nicholson. “By moving to June and November and providing additional events, Outdoor Retailer provides options that best cater to their business goals. Outdoor Retailer is looking forward to presenting full strategies and operational details associated with these events in the coming months.”
Outdoor Retailer, OIA and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance will continue to partner to grow the outdoor industry while being sensitive to the movements of the marketplace. Outdoor Retailer and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance will maintain autonomy to produce their own events, but will cooperate ensuring that exhibitors and specialty retailers enjoy maximum benefit from all the industry has to offer in a cost-effective manner.

Community Support and Feedback Will Continue to Shape the Future
“Even with this important agreement in place, it’s imperative to continue to listen and innovate to safeguard the strength and future of the show,” noted Nicholson. “We will continue to engage in conversations with industry thought leaders that will help to shape the Outdoor Retailer future. These thought leaders played an important role in this collaborative process and will continue to serve this vibrant community.”

Future Dates:
Outdoor Retailer Winter Market: January 10-12
All Mountain Demo: January 9
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market: July 26-29
Open Air Demo: July 25

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market: January 9-11
Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect: June 6-9
Specialty Retailer Education Day: June 10
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market: June 11-14
Outdoor Retailer Expo @ Surf Expo: September 6-8
Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect: November 7-10
Specialty Retailer Education Day: November 11
Outdoor Retailer Winter Market: November 12-15


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