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Outdoor Retailer

Outdoor Retailer forges head with Summer Market plans, opens industry-wide registration

The industry's largest trade show is set to stage in Denver this August after a year of digital-only Outdoor Retailer shows in 2020.


Twenty-two months after the staging of the last Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in June 2019, the industry’s largest trade show is finally set to run again in person.

The event, scheduled for August 10 to 12, officially opened registration today, and leadership is hopeful that in the 15 weeks until the show stages, a majority of past-show attendees will feel comfortable signing up to return to Denver and gather again face to face. Show director Marisa Nicholson told Outside Business Journal this week that interest in the show at an all-time high, and that she’s confident the event will be able to stage uninterrupted.

“As we’re planning to come back, we’re continuing to review the guidelines we’re utilizing with some of our other in-person events that have been staging as a part of [OR parent company] Emerald’s portfolio,” Nicholson said. “We’re also working closely with Colorado and the City of Denver.”

In a welcome change for OR leadership, last week the City of Denver ended its outdoor mask mandate and moved most of its indoor restrictions to Level Blue, allowing businesses to return to 100 percent capacity while maintaining social distancing requirements. For the OR Summer Market, Nicholson confirmed that the show won’t impose attendance restrictions, as the show’s anticipated capacity falls in line with the CDC’s requirements for the Colorado Convention Center, where the show is typically staged. It will uphold a mask mandate, however—a stipulation included in Emerald’s current safety plan for the show.

“Statistics we’ve gotten from The New York Times have said that we’ll have a 90 percent herd immunity [nationwide] by the beginning of August,” Nicholson said. “Right now, everything seems to be moving in the right direction.”

Pivoting back from Outdoor Retailer’s digital substitutes

Last year, the pandemic forced just about every business on the planet to adapt to new ways of operating, and the trade shows run by Emerald, including Outdoor Retailer, were no exception. In place of last year’s Summer Market and Snow Show (OR’s winter gathering), Emerald devised digital substitutes that, by and large, received mixed reviews from attendees and exhibitors.

As of this summer, Outdoor Retailer Online, as the digital stand-in was called, seems to be a thing of the past. Show organizers said they have no plans to stage another digital show unless it’s absolutely necessary. But that doesn’t mean the innovations of those events will be abandoned entirely. OR leadership said this week that they plan to carry some aspects of the digital shows into the future, using them to enhance in-person gatherings.

Read more: What worked—and what didn’t—about Outdoor Retailer Online

“We’re looking to have the education events be more of a hybrid model,” Nicholson said of this year’s Summer Market. “We’re going to start education as early as July, which will allow attendees to start preparing for the show, learning before they get there, and having time to learn on demand, if you will. During the show, our breakfast sessions will be more of a hybrid as well, where we’ll have both live and remote viewing options.”

How to register the show

Registration for the 2021 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market is officially open as of this morning. Those interested in signing up can do so here. OR also opened registration for housing today.

“If you’ve registered in the past, you’ll have a pre-determined registration profile that you can use to register again,” Nicholson said of the process.

Lisa Ramsperger, PR manager for Outdoor Retailer, said that while auto-registration will be completed for those who approved that option during a past show registration, no one on OR’s lists of past attendees will be registered without their permission.

“No one is registered without their approval and consent,” Ramsperger said. “Anyone who advance registered is welcome to contact us to make updates.”

As for expected numbers, Nicholson said it’s difficult to compare this show to past iterations. “We’re still in the recovery of a pandemic,” she said.

“A lot of brands still have corporate travel restrictions. In conversations we’ve had with brands, many of them have said they want to be there, it’s just a matter of whether their company will be in a position where they feel comfortable lifting travel restrictions in time for the summer show,” Nicholson added.

OR leadership confirmed that several hundred exhibitors have already signed up, with more contracts coming in daily. Some of the exhibiting brands planning to attend the show include Backpacker’s Pantry, GCI Outdoor, Hydro Flask, Klean Kanteen, LOWA Boots, Osprey, and Wolverine.

Some of the industry’s largest brands and most noticeable presences at past OR shows, like Patagonia and Black Diamond, still have corporate travel bans that may or may not lift in time for the brands to prepare exhibitor booths.

“For some of those larger brands that are typical presences at the show, we’ll just have to wait and see,” Nicholson said.