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The top 10 outdoor industry stories of 2018

To cap off 2018, we've taken a look back and picked the 10 biggest stories of the year.

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This year was evidence that change is upon us, whether it’s how and where we do business, learning to live without a handful of outdoor industry icons, or recognizing just how much influence the outdoor industry has in local communities and across the globe. Through all the change, we’re thankful for our loyal readers and we’re approaching 2019 with eyes and ears wide open to deliver an even better version of Outside Business Journal and The Voice.

When we reflect on the hundreds of stories we’ve published over the last 12 months, these 10 topics stand out as having the greatest impact. And likely, we’ll be writing more about some of them in 2019.

Attendees swarm the lobby of the Colorado Convention Center at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show January 2018
The Colorado Convention Center in Denver became Outdoor Retailer’s new home.Outdoor Retailer

10. Changes to Outdoor Retailer

Outdoor Retailer moved to downtown Denver, and after buying Snowsports Industries America’s Snow Show, they brought the entire industry together for the first time in January at Colorado Convention Center for the Snow Show. It was also the first time Outdoor Retailer hosted three shows. Dates of the shows shifted, and then were reduced by a day. And despite OR polling the industry about which dates work best for them, there’s still discussion around whether or not three national shows is too many.

Read: It’s official: Denver is the new home of Outdoor Retailer; Outdoor Retailer shifts 2019 shows to three-day format; Confusion still looms over the November and January shows

A shot from ‘Free Solo’ the movie about Alex Honnold’s 3,200-foot ropeless ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

9. The most anticipated movie of the year

To date, our story about the trailer for ‘Free Solo’ has been viewed more than 22,000 times. It’s fair to say that the movie by Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi was one of the most anticipated films of the year—by both climbers and non-climbers. Watching Alex Honnold’s 3,000-foot ropeless ascent of the Freerider route—which he completed in 2017—was by far one of the highlights of our year, that’s for sure.

Read: ‘Free Solo’ trailer teases Alex Honnold’s journey up El Cap

all types of backpacks hang on the walls of rusted moon outfitters
Backpacks and sports bags made the list of imports from China impacted by new tariffs.Rusted Moon Outfitters

8. Tariffs hit gear makers

To punish China for unfair intellectual property practices, President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on many imports from the country. But in doing so, he also punished American businesses. In a second round of tariffs, outdoor brands, such as NEMO Equipment and Hestra USA, were hit with a 10 percent increase on all sorts of goods, from backpacks and sports bags to leather gloves to camping furniture. The tariffs were going to rise to 25 percent in January, but the hike is on hold while Trump and China negotiate. This will be one of the topics that threads into 2019, with brands potentially shifting their supply chains.

Read: 5 things to know about the trade war with China; Brands weigh options in light of Chinese import tariffs; Trump delays raising tariffs

Democrat Jared Polis, an openly gay man, is Colorado’s new governor, replacing John Hickenlooper.Photo by Nick Cote

7. Midterms restore some hope

The 2018 midterm elections might have been the most closely watched in a generation—and Americans went to the polls in droves. Outdoor Industry Association, Protect Our Winters, and a number of other outdoor organizations urged people to vote the outdoors and choose climate champions. Businesses even took political stances. And the result? Democrats took the House, an outdoor industry friend took the Colorado governor’s seat, and participation was up. But there’s still more work to be done in 2019.

Read: The post-election playbook

Warren Miller
Warren MillerWarren Miller Films and Entertainment

6. Friends we lost this year

We wrote obituaries about Warren Miller, Elizabeth HawleyLama GesheAnn KrcikMarc-André Leclerc, George “Ryan” Johnson, Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg, Peter Noone, Charles David Cole III, Andrea Gabbard, Steve Crisafulli, and Carol Momoda.

All of these people will be dearly missed. Click their names to read each story.

Deuter products available on
Within 24 hours, products dropped off Walmart’s premium outdoor store as brands

5. Walmart starts selling outdoor gear

In August, Walmart unveiled its new outdoor microsite curated by Moosejaw. Deuter backpacks, Black Diamond harnesses and headlamps, LEKI trekking poles, and more premium products were listed for sale. But in less 48 hours, a handful of brands dropped out of the store, either claiming they didn’t know the store would be hosted by Walmart or because they changed their minds. In an OBJ poll, nearly half of voters said selling on abandons specialty retailers. While the flurry may have been short-lived, the debacle fits into a larger discussion: Are anonymous 3P sellers the biggest threat to outdoor specialty retail?

Read: Black Diamond sends cease and desist to Walmart; Deuter, Katadyn withdraw from premium outdoor store; LEKI withdraws from Walmart; Why brands quickly changed their minds about selling on; An open letter to the outdoor industry from Grassroots Outdoor Alliance

An aerial view of Denver, showing the mountains
Denver is home to Outdoor Retailer and will soon be home to VF Corporation.Pixaby

4. VF Corporation’s move

One of our most-read stories was VF Corporation’s announcement that they’d be moving to Denver, Colorado, in 2019. That means splitting into two companies, keeping its jeans and outlet business in North Carolina and bringing 800 outdoor jobs to Colorado. Over the next two years, we’ll see brands including The North Face, JanSport, Eagle Creek, and Altra call Denver home. Smartwool will also move from Steamboat Springs and Boulder to join the conglomerate in the state’s capitol.

Read: VF Corp moving to Colorado; How VF Corp chose Denver as its new home

Thru Hike Syndicate
Hikers and outdoorists rejoice! Your investments in the outdoors—from purchases on gear to trips—matter.Thru Hike Syndicate

3. Outdoor recreation’s impact

Finally. This year, the government recognized the outdoor recreation economy as a force to be reckoned with. A report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows outdoor recreation as making up 2.2 percent ($412 billion) of the total GDP—larger than the extraction and agriculture industries. The recognition was a long time coming. Outdoor Industry Association laid the groundwork. Also noteworthy: More states have created government offices or task forces dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation. Maine could be the 12th state with an office.

Read: Federal report measures outdoor industry at $412 billion; Maine poised to get OREC office; OREC update: Reaching an accord

Giro is one of four BRG Sports companies Vista Outdoor will acquire. Photo courtesy of Giro.
Giro is one of Vista Outdoor’s brands.Giro

2. MEC and REI “buycott”

After the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida, Vista Outdoor—parent company of a slew of outdoor brands as well as Savage Arms, manufacturer of assault-style rifles—fell under scrutiny for supporting the NRA. Both REI and Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-op halted orders from Vista-owned brands. Our story about it went viral with 111,290 views. The ‘buycott’ raised many questions about the crossover of sportsmen and outdoorists, guns purpose in the outdoors, and the moral obligations businesses face when listening to their members. Even months later, our outstanding questions include: When will REI and MEC resume orders? How did the ‘buycott’ affect them financially? Did you make your point and was it worth it?

Read: REI, MEC drop Giro, Bell, Camp Chef, and other Vista brands (at least temporarily); Guns and the outdoor industry: Where do we go from here?; Vista looking to sell off Savage Arms

The Voice, a magazine cover mock up
A mock cover of our new trade journal, The Voice, hitting newsstands on Jan. 30.Designed by Mike Leister

1. Our new trade journal

We’re so excited about this new chapter in our 34 years that we want to yell it from the mountaintops! At the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in January, we’re launching a brand new and radically different trade journal that captures the voices of everyone in the industry. Our industry needs to have real discussions around big topics that inform the way we’re doing business now, and the way we’ll do it in the future. As Editor-in-Chief Kristin Hostetter puts it: “We can’t afford to shy away from the uncomfortable matters, like REI’s growing impact, sexual misconduct in the outdoor industry, the escalating cost of attending trade shows, and so many more.” We can’t wait to share the first edition with you.

Read: Welcome to a new era of trade show coverage; Welcome to The Voice