Saturday, August 16, 2008

OUTDOOR RETAILER MARKET S/S '09 –A SUMMERY CELEBRATION FOR ENTHUSIASTS



LARGEST VENUE FOR GEAR, GADGETS, PADDLESPORTS, CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES WOWS SALT LAKE CITY ATTENDEES AND EXHIBITORS

SALT PALACE CONVENTION CENTER, UTAH


Words, Images Judith Ecochard

THE SET-UP

The economic scene drags …but we never saw spirits lag at this humongous six day business to business extravaganza (two outdoor demo/ four indoor) that attracted over 40,000 people to sell, buy, and covet the latest anything and everything for the outdoors.

Sure, this industry, like everything else, has to constantly re-invent itself or suffer the misfortunes of Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

Meaning- a life lost while drifting around in a tattered wedding dress.

But we thought this tradeshow, produced by Nielsen Sports Group, was far from THAT.

In fact, this end of the retail environment appears to be booming…and frankly, there were so many exhibitors…the Salt Palace Convention Center couldn’t accommodate the eager merchandisers ready to display their products and services.

And we were told the structure has already been expanded twice to accommodate this tradeshow that like an annual journey to Mecca…is a ritual for so many.

ECO-DRIVEN

We were delighted, but not surprised that attendees and members of the OUTDOOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION went all out to recycle, encourage paperless pr releases and offered a plethora of educational seminars on how to be a environment friendly company/manufacturer/consumer. Newer, smarter fabrics made from organic or recycled materials, re-useable/recycled packing materials, better engineered gadgets and gear that delivered at better price points, and eco friendly display units contributes to industry’s innovative MOs.

The amazing commitment by seemingly everyone encountered…to give back to a community/eco cause through volunteer work, employing fair trade practices, donations of some profits (to eco, children, microfinance projects etc) via assorted 501c3s and foundations, is a big YEAH.

After all, if there’s no clean outdoors, (and another generation to enjoy it) they’re all out of business.

HIGHLIGHTS FOR A SUSTAINABLE LIVING

Maybe there is something in the water in Utah…’cause the good vibrations kept coming one email after another.

In a wish we get a lightbulb moment, the city of Ogden (near SLC) announced a $20,000 reward for the “country’s first outdoor recreation-specific innovation contest.” Open to seemingly anyone inventive or small businesses- the winning entry gets the cash or the equivalent value in consulting or prototyping services to help bring the idea (focusing on non-motorized outdoor sports) to fruition-as long as it’s based in Ogden. (INFO: LAUNCH UTAH

Another highlight was the SRO, 7AM breakfast hosted by the Conservation Alliance that featured Environmentalist Bill McKibbon. In an engaging talk where he made the case for Reducing Carbon Footprints, McKibbon introduced the crowd to 350.org-a website (in ten languages) that educates and promotes action oriented projects and activities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Lastly the trade associations- the Paddlesports Industry Association (PIA) and the Trade Association of Paddlesports (TAPS) “signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to unify and create one single paddlesports association.”

We figured strength in unity reasoning it costs bucks to convince our elected officials to do the obvious- ie to NOT promote polluting the waterways). Additionally, the merged entities launched a consumer focused website LetsGoPaddle…to drive us into/onto the river.




PARTY ON

Okay we grew up in Manhattan, so we can be so been there done that. Not here. At 4PM on the dot it was HAPPY HOUR-with booths morphing into open bars and cocktail stations, bands and djs busting out tunes…alongside outdoor superstars (like the Sherpe who’s climbed Mt. Everest the most times) signing books and autographs…or giving pep talks on How It’s Done-in front of hanging onto every word crowds of adoring (envious) dudes.

Giveaways and raffles added to the festivities that then spilled over onto the outdoor plazas surrounding the Salt Palace…with Rusted Root jamming one night (presented by Redwood Creek Wines of California), and the legendary George Clinton and his entourage rocking the nearby Port O’ Call Social Club-for a raucous fire hazard packed crowd courtesy of the backpack/luggage company, Jansport.




Another pre-dinner event was sponsored by Kavu® Elements, Keen hybrid outdoor shoes (LOVE THEM) and “powered by Clif Bar”…titled “Oil + Water Happy Hour.” Under sunny skies, the well attended event (with a silent auction) showed off a fueled by vegetable oil ONLY- Japanese Fire Truck named “Baby” that’s already journeyed 61,000 kilometers …and is about to embark on a 42 city tourElementsto get buzz out on renewable energy and nature propelled sports.

PRODUCT REVIEWS TO FOLLOW....