While the recession may not be fully over yet, retailers are clearly investing in retail staff training, as evidenced by the Outdoor Academy Southern California, held April 27-28 at Irvine Lake in Silverado, Calif. In its 11th year, the Outdoor Academy had a record retailer attendance this year with nearly 450 people for the two-day event — 250 attended day one and close to 200 on day two.
Retailers from the Southwest attended with Sport Chalet and REI leading with the highest numbers of attendees, SNEWS® was told. Other retailers included Adventure 16, Mountain Air Sports, Nomad Ventures, Santa Barbara Outfitters, Bass Pro, Sports Authority and The Gear Co-Op. Sport Chalet even flew in employees from Utah, Nevada and Arizona to attend.
“Sport Chalet got behind the event and registered over 250,” Greg Kaiser, of Global Contacts rep agency and one of the Outdoor Academy organizers, told SNEWS®. “Sport Chalet felt it was important to put money behind training for its climbing and outdoor department, and agreed to pay its staff to attend Outdoor Academy so they are better trained to compete in the competitive Southern California marketplace.”
Kaiser told us that the retail attendance set a record for a number of other reasons, too.
“The attending reps really talked it up and promoted it through word of mouth, as well as email and phones. Also, with the registration fee that reps and manufacturers paid to attend, we were able to make this event completely free for the retail staff in attendance,” said Kaiser.
The Outdoor Academy showcased 28 booths representing over 60 brands with nearly 40 sales reps and company people in attendance. Participating brands included (in no particular order): GoLite, Primus, Mammut, Wisconsin Pharmacal, Nite Ize, W.L. Gore, Backpacker’s Pantry, CamelBak, Arc’Teryx, Petzl, Scarpa, Spot, Delorme, La Sportiva, Bluewater, JanSport, Lowa Boots, X Bionic, Tecnica Footwear, Suunto, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, Kayland, Magellan, Mountain Hardwear, Montrail, Kelty, Sierra Designs, Boulder Outdoor Sports Group, Granite Gear, Sterling Ropes, Klean Kanteen, Icebreaker, Ultimate Survival, McNett, High Gear, eGear, New Balance Sports Monitors, AGS Labs, Dakota Watch Co., Aquis Sport Towel, Marmot, Big Agnes, Osprey, TrekSta, Merrell Footwear and Apparel, Chaco, Salomon Footwear, Jetboil, Pacific Outdoor Equipment, Leki, Deuter, Metolius, Lowepro Camera, Nemo Equipment (tents), Katadyn, Optimus, Black Diamond, Bibler Tents, Evolve, The North Face, Cascade Designs, Gregory, Vasque and MSR.
Veteran mountain guide (and former Adventure 16 employee) Kurt Wedberg capped off the first day’s festivities with a slideshow on climbing Kilimanjaro and an African safari.
Food was sponsored by W.L. Gore and came from a local organic caterer. While Kaiser and his team had planned for extra food, it was apparently so good that by the end of day one, it was all gone.
Rest assured that retailers weren’t just there for the food, slideshows, fun or educational opportunities. “Outdoor Academy has always had a reputation for the schwag fest at the end of it, and we did not disappoint,” said Kaiser. “We held a random drawing for those in attendance, giving away nearly $3,000 worth of key outdoor gear each day.”
Next year, the Outdoor Academy will be April 26-27 at the same Irvine Lake location with a few improvements and changes, Kaiser said.
“We are planning on eliminating the use of plastic bottles for water. We’re working with Katadyn to bring in some of their large volume filters and we will be handing out re-usable bottles that attendees can fill with filtered water. This will save over 800 bottles from being recycled,” Kaiser told SNEWS. “We also plan on having a climbing wall not only to test equipment but to let people try it out after classes. Overall, our goal is to make the Outdoor Academy an event that people will want to have their families come to after classes are over for more fun.”