OR Winter Market: Attendance Light, Time to Schmooze

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market became less of a market and more of a gathering for many exhibitors at this year's show in Anaheim, Calif. SNEWS® heard the gamut of responses to the question "How's the show for you?": "This sucks." "Slow, but good." "Getting lots of time to visit with other exhibitors." "I have to be here." "Getting a lot of pool time."

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market became less of a market and more of a
gathering for many exhibitors at this year’s show in Anaheim, Calif.
SNEWS® heard the gamut of responses to the question “How’s the show for
you?”: “This sucks.” “Slow, but good.” “Getting lots of time to visit
with other exhibitors.” “I have to be here.” “Getting a lot of pool

A few echoed the sentiments of Kelty president Casey Sheahan who told
us Kelty was having one of the company’s best Winter shows ever: “We’ve
been able to spend quality time with some of our best buyers discussing
long-term buying strategy.”

Still, there was no ducking the fact that in most instances, black
exhibitor badges (isn’t black the color of mourning?) far outnumbered
green retailer badges in virtually every booth. One exhibitor told
SNEWS® you know its bad when the first badges into the booth on the
first day were black.

Things were so slow for East Coast reps that the entire board for the
Eastern Outdoor Reps Association (EORA) was able to leave their booths
for several hours during the first day of the show for a meeting —
without missing an appointment, SNEWS® learned.

Throughout the day on Monday, we watched in amazement as attendees with
black badges, who were tired of simply standing around and weren’t in
the mood for Disneyland, began rebooking flights to leave the show that
afternoon or night. Of course, top management at most companies had
already planned to scoot out on Monday.

What was interesting to us though is that almost without exception,
exhibitors were generally upbeat and enjoying the quality, albeit
expensive, opportunity to network with other exhibitors and engage in
lengthy conversations with friends and media that would have otherwise
been impossible at a normally attended bustling trade show.

Bottom line, what SNEWS® heard from many we spoke with is that
exhibitors simply wished OR hadn’t tried to sugar-coat reality, and had
instead simply come clean early on that attendance was not what it
wanted, expected or needed, that it was sorry, and had issued a thanks
for the support.


Questions regarding the trade show wrestling match between VNU and SIA
in 2003 when the two shows — Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and SIA —
overlap slightly, and then in 2004 when the two shows are virtually on
top of each other came up at virtually every sit-down meeting. SNEWS®
heard many suggestions, with one common thread: VNU and SIA need to
check their egos at the door and figure out what is best for the
industry (ski and outdoor) and come up with a solution that minimizes
expenses and travel for exhibitors, retailers, and reps.

The overwhelming sentiment SNEWS® has been hearing is that Winter Market
attendees would like to see one show, or at the very least, two shows
at the same time in the same location, similar to ispo — the European
sports trade show that manages to combine more than a dozen different
sports and fashion segments under multiple roofs.

On the last day of Winter Market, the Daily Exposure ran a story that
stated SIA is willing to combine shows with Outdoor Retailer — as if
this was new information. SIA President David Ingemie has long been on
record that co-locating shows was an option SIA would be willing to
entertain. The difficulty is that OR charges booth rates in the range
of $18 per square foot of space and SIA charges $8 to $9 (plus SIA
membership fees).

SNEWS® agrees with Eagle Creek CEO Steve Barker’s personal position that
this trade show scheduling challenge presents a superb opportunity for
OR and SIA to find a way to create a much larger show with lower booth
rates than OR currently charges. (Barker is also chairman of the
Outdoor Industry Association.) A combined trade show does not have to
jeopardize individual communities and cultures (consider the ispo
example again) and can provide a tremendous opportunity to generate a
vastly increased retailer attendance for both shows and, potentially,
and greater opportunity for cross-over business.

SNEWS® View: Good for exhibitors, good for retailers, good for reps, good for business.

Love the Warm Weather!

With few exceptions, it didn’t take long for attendees to warm up to
conducting business in such close proximity to the home of Mickey
Mouse. Stepping out in the morning in T-shirts and shorts and heading
to dinner without having to bundle up brought huge smiles. Runners were
evident in much larger numbers than usually seen on Salt Lake’s streets
before and after the show each day. Oh, and many attendees took
advantage of nearby Hilton and Marriott pools for a quick lunch-break
swim, lounge and snack respite, under warm sun among friends.

Love the Service!

“You mean we can have two drinks on the table at one time?” Unlike in
Salt Lake City, those heading out to dinner here appreciated the fact
you could order a several beers and even a shot or mixed drink and —
gasp — have them sitting all in front of you without violating any

At the “Block Party,” a shindig thrown jointly on Sunday by Marmot,
Sierra Designs and Mountain Hardwear on the convention hall floor, the
beer kegs ran dry when attendance surpassed expectations. That would
have been a disaster in Salt Lake, but not here. Make a quick phone
call and, within minutes, more beer arrived, and the party continued.

Need a taxi? They arrive within minutes of calling and there are more than enough.

Look for more Winter Market coverage to come during the next week …

And we’ll see many of you once again in Las Vegas for SIA and round two.