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Trade Shows & Events

Confusion still looms over the November and January shows

Letter by OIA recently caused SIA to react and prompted host of more questions

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When Outdoor Industry Association posted a letter saying the January Outdoor Retailer show is “still too late for many outdoor brands and likely will not be sustainable for years to come,” Snowsports Industries America was taken aback. After the energy and momentum at the first combined Snow Show, President Nick Sargent wondered how that could be true. But what OIA really meant to do was clarify the purpose of the November show and express which big brands are committed to 2019. Yet for some, all it did was add to the confusion and frustration.

“It’s not pro November, anti-January,” Outdoor Retailer Show Director Marisa Nicholson told SNEWS. “Those two shows serve very distinct marketplaces and product introduction timelines. You’ll continue to see snowsports at the center of the January show.”

Even before Outdoor Retailer acquired the Snow Show in 2017, there were three national trade shows brands had to choose between. But rather than keeping two winter shows three weeks apart and fighting for participation, Outdoor Retailer polled the industries to determine the best dates for all categories—both snow and outdoor. They heard that having the national trade shows ahead of the sales cycles was better for outdoor business, which is why they moved Winter Market from January to November and Summer Market from July to June. Nicholson said they would have changed the dates whether or not they acquired the Snow Show. The snowsports industry’s feedback was that late January—enough after the holidays and after Martin Luther King Jr. Day—is best.

But SNEWS has heard from numerous industry members that three shows is too many and unfeasible, especially for emerging brands. Many people support two, longer shows.

“I don’t know that there is any confusion so much as frustration with OR running three shows,” said John Wilder, GM of Origin Climbing and Fitness, a climbing gym and retail shop in Nevada. He no longer attends Outdoor Retailer because the move to Denver increased travel costs beyond what he could afford. His opinion is based on his past experiences at OR. “If they really want us to all attend November, then they need to eliminate January. Three shows is simply a cost burden that is too high for most small retailers to incur.”

James Morin, co-owner of Flowfold, doesn’t disagree with OIA’s letter and is especially in favor of the point about the outdoor industry being more powerful when it comes together.

“I want to support that. But I’m a little confused on the call to action,” he said. “Is it to attend all three shows? Just November? At one point the letter eluded to the fact that the January show ‘likely will not be sustainable for years to come.’ So does that mean we will eventually go back to two shows? Outdoor Retailer is a fantastic experience. It’s where we come together to celebrate innovation and discuss and challenge each other to make our industry more sustainable and inclusive. But it’s also expensive and brands like Flowfold can’t change the world in Chapter 11. The sooner I know the longterm plan for the shows future the sooner I can prepare my budget and my team for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.”

Ultimately, OIA’s intent was to provide direction, but not advocate that anyone go to one show over the other, Executive Director Amy Roberts said. OIA lists November as being the right show for outdoor brands because of the national launch of products and the co-location with Grassroots Outdoor Alliance—but 2018’s show was quiet, and for some, disappointing.

“It should have been a smashing success, but attendance was below expectations,” OIA’s letter reads. Patagonia and The North Face did not exhibit at last month’s show, but they have committed to the 2019 Winter Market. “After a great show last January, it is no surprise that many companies were asking or trying to guess, ‘which shows should we attend?’ And many brands probably couldn’t resist the energy we experienced last January.”

Sargent agreed that the joint Snow Show had momentum.”[It] was the best one in recent memory, it was exciting and exceeded all expectations from a business and community perspective,” he said. “It was also a significant collaborative effort between the winter and outdoor industries. It is clear to us, that the January show is, and will continue to be, the show for winter business.”

Nicholson said, “We are 100 percent invested in the January Snow Show and we’ll continue to be producing that show for the brands and retailers who benefit from this later product introduction timeframe.”

But Sargent also agreed with OIA that there is confusion around both winter shows, and is calling for public discussions and internal communications between Outdoor Retailer, SIA, OIA, and members and attendees.

“As such, we welcome a joint dialog with the outdoor industry and OR on how to better clarify and position the November show to our respective members,” he said.

There were and still are three trade shows—they just have new dates. Yet like before, brands are finding it unfeasible to attend all three along with regional shows and GOA, so some are trying to decide which one—or more—to sit out.