“Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people — people who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams, and applaud your victories.” – Jack Canfield
The feeling I get this time of year must be like what animals sense during migration. After more than 25 years attending Outdoor Retailer, my system knows it is time. The anticipation of being immersed in the world of business that is so true to my love for the outdoors pulls me like a pronghorn heading for the Tetons…I have to go!
When my kids were small, we would road trip every summer to Outdoor Retailer, always combining it with a family adventure. We backpacked in Rocky Mountain National Park, rafted the Salmon River in Idaho, visited Aunt Jessie in Wyoming, toured Yellowstone, climbed Devils Tower, fly fished and paddled before (or after) heading to the show. We watched consumers at gift shops, observed what people were wearing and buying, and visited other outdoor stores across the country. It always led me to the exciting realization that this is what I do for work!
Discovery, inspiration, connection
People often talk about the ‘energy’ that exudes from the show floor, and whether you’re a first-time attendee or a Woodchuck with over 25 shows, it remains the same. There’s the exhilaration of discovering all that’s new, combined with constant inspiration and time with people who feed your soul. Surrounding yourself with this energy elevates and grounds you at the same time.
My enthusiasm for protecting the environment has been cultivated at Outdoor Retailer. From attending The Conservation Alliance breakfasts that moved me to tears and 1% for the Planet fundraisers, to talking with nonprofits wearing hearts on their sleeves, these aspects of the show encouraged me. I started a small friends group with a local state park, joined community fundraising efforts, and ended up on multiple nonprofit boards, all thanks in part to the motivating energy.
Rebooting with enthusiasm
This last year has been rough, no doubt. Now is the time to reboot your knowledge, creativity, and passion. While everyone from your team may not be able to attend, passing along what you learn with them can uplift your business.
I remember days wheeling my briefcase around the show. When I arrived it was empty, but by the end of each day it was full of catalogs, brochures, magazines, samples, buckets of ideas, and swag. Sharing it all with staff upon return was a favorite way to involve them in industry excitement. To this day, I always leave Outdoor Retailer with a backpack full of knowledge!
All in one place
The opportunities for creative stimulation and boosting business acumen in our industry is beyond compare at Outdoor Retailer. Buyers can fact check buys, add to their mix, increase margins, make contacts, and find new brands. There’s inspiration down every aisle from displays, colors, and patterns pulled together by amazing brand teams to tell stories — it is phenomenal! Nowhere else is this collection of creativity in the same space.
Then add in education sessions on conservation, diversity, sustainability, trends, styles, business, and trade. These lead to conversations about important issues covering topics across our outdoor ecosystem. One show really does it all and is an indispensable business expense.
As Chief Seattle said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
This is the core purpose of our gatherings. Everything in our industry is connected to the greater world. How best can we survive—or thrive—doing what we love the most? By supporting the values of the outdoors. We are threads that bind our communities to nature.
The outdoor industry has always encompassed more than gear. And right now, with so many new enthusiasts with diverse and fresh faces exploring the outdoors, let’s embrace it all!
We invite you to strengthen our collective foundation. The knowledge you gain will boost your business, enhance local communities, and support the environment. Come to Outdoor Retailer to deepen your connections and share your voice.
Let’s work together to keep our ecosystem healthy and hearty, accept change, and be an active segment in the thread spreading the infectious joy of the outdoors.
Sarah Schuster is attendee relations manager for Outdoor Retailer and has over 25 years of experience in specialty outdoor retail.