For those who have attended the Snow Show and called Denver home since 2010, returning to the Colorado Convention Center is part of a comfortable routine.
The overall vibe, however, was different in many ways last week as the space welcomed the outdoor community for the very first time, in addition to snow sports, and maximized every square inch of the 584,000 square foot building. The resounding consensus? Everyone was stoked to be in Colorado, and call this city the industry's new home base.
“After so many years in Salt Lake City, I think the community enjoyed a different landscape,” said Smith Optics Global Brand Director Eric Carlson. “Maybe it was the increase in nearby coffee shops, but the energy was high for sure!”
The initial reaction from the show’s staff was also a positive one.
"I thought the show was a wild success,” said SIA President Nick Sargent. “When we first discussed combining the shows, this is what we had in mind – organized chaos [laughs]. In all seriousness, I thought it was a great representation of what outdoor and winter sports look like together, and it was a long overdue look at that.”
Attendance saw a major uptick, measured against OR and SIA Snow Show’s 2017 numbers, clocking in at 29k total attendees and 7,500 verified buyers, according to Outdoor Retailer Marketing Director Jennifer Holcomb.
“This show was bigger than both shows have ever been, so that’s really good,” Holcomb said.
With so many adventure sports brands venturing into the outdoor space, and vice versa, the move was inevitable, Sargent points out. The combined, larger attendance was a recurring theme for the show and for its surrounding activities, including a record attendance for SIA’s Industry + Intelligence Day and a solid turnout for On-Snow Demo.
And while it was mostly a smooth transition, he acknowledges that they still have some logistics to iron out.
“The organized chaos might have potentially been too much for some,” Sargent said. “But that’s what gives it the vibe, the cool factor. It also forces the retailer to schedule their time efficiently, to navigate the show and get to meetings.”
There was certainly a much larger and more densely packed floor space to cover for those walking the show this time around.
On the ground floor of the convention center, in a space flooded with floor to ceiling windows and natural light, OR's Venture Out section came to life with help from exhibiting brands like Vuori, Iron & Resin, Snow Peak, Topo Designs, Parks Project and Corkcicle.
"Colorado is our home, we are literally two blocks from here," explains Topo Designs Retail Store Manager Eric Reed. "We've seen a lot of new diverse retailers but also, all our reps are here and busy with their accounts.”
Inside the main hall on the second floor, major outdoor brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Keen, Smith Optics and Clif Bar, were all present near the center, while one corner was dedicated to core snow-specific brands like Jones, Ride, 686, Spy and Rome.
"I'm so happy with the move to Denver," says prAna Brand Engagement & Partnerships Director Andre Walker. "This is the first time I'm here at OR in many years. I don't see many cons besides from a layout perspective."
Many of the brands we spoke with agreed that while it was expected that the combined shows would be more complicated to navigate than normal, the layout of the show floor did present challenges.
“The energy of the show was dispersed,” observed Dakine Global Vice President of Product and Marketing Shawn LaRowe. “The outdoor brands were mellow, while the action brands seemed to bring the edge/attitude.”
Some of the brands also landed in zones that didn’t quite align with their respective categories, LaRowe pointed out, adding that Dakine felt like it was in the perfect zone for their brand to tell its story.
“For sure there was an increase in retailer traffic,” said Dakine VP of Sales Chico Bukovansky. “Some snow accounts that hadn't attended in a few years came back to check out the combo show format and see new outdoor-related brands.”
Dakine, a brand that has a large number of retailers across several categories, said it had ample time to see all accounts, and the combined show didn’t result in bringing additional staff to Denver. However, “everyone was busier overall for longer periods of time than prior shows,” Bukovansky commented.
Smith’s Carlson echoed those sentiments, adding that the benefits of the combined shows — including cost savings, reduced time away from the office/retail stores and tightened schedules — seemed to far outweigh the challenges.
“There are clearly concerns on space availability for booth growth, and where new brands get placed, but overall the flow was strong,” said Carlson. “By bringing everyone together it felt positive and energizing — everyone there is 'for the outdoors' one way or another, and it's great to share our beliefs.”
Dakine CEO Ken Meidell said the conversations he had at the show were all positive, including those from the outdoor industry who seemed “happy to be joined up with” the snowsports community. “I think people were super-impressed with how smoothly everything worked for the first combined show in the new venue,” he said. “Even the long badge lines on day 1 moved quick once you got in them!”
While the combined show has generated increased energy, it has left some worried about future dates. For 2018, the industry will attend three iterations of the show — compared to past seasons, which just happened once per year for the snow community and the twice per year for outdoor.
Holcomb explains that the new show format will remain at three shows per year, with November’s show — or Outdoor Retailer Winter Market — focused on helping retailers get a jump start on new product education and making buying projections ahead of the winter season when their open-to-buy budgets are still in place.
January’s show — or Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show — will be a chance for everyone to touch base again during an extremely intense, busy three-month window that is the snow sports season.
“These retailers are really going to need both shows to understand what is happening with both hardgoods and softgoods, which are on two dramatically different production timelines,” she explains.
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018 will take place during the same time frame in July, but will be moved up to be held in June for 2019, says Holcomb. The intent behind the move to an earlier time frame was the same for the Summer Market as it was for Winter OR, Holcomb says.
“We would have wanted to make these timing changes even sooner, but because of the move to Colorado and a new venue, those dates were already taken for 2018,” she says.
Outdoor Retailer parent company Emerald Expositions acquired the Snow Show in May 2017, and has signed a contract for the next five years to host its shows at the Colorado Convention Center.
SIA remains in tact as a non-profit organization that supports and advocates for the snow sports sector of the industry, with Sargent at the helm, helping to advise and make positive changes for the brands and retailers. So far, Sargent says he is optimistic about the combination of the two shows in Denver.
“All in all, I thought it was a great confluence of our industries,” he said. “I think we will take what we learned, download and debrief, and build it even stronger for OR shows over the next year.”
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