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To ensure a “safe and successful in-person event” and meet the capacity requirements of the Colorado Convention Center amid ongoing Covid-19 precautions, Outdoor Retailer is altering its traditional show cycle and moving its Summer Market eight weeks back.
Outdoor Retailer, a subsidiary of trade show operator Emerald Holding Inc., on Tuesday said it would host its summer trade show August 10-12 at Colorado Convention Center in Denver rather than on the original June 15-17 dates.
The change was made “to facilitate a safe and successful in-person event,” said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer’s senior vice president and show director. She added that Outdoor Retailer is “working in conjunction with Visit Denver, the Colorado Convention Center, and show partners to implement the highest safety protocols and measures recommended by health officials and government agencies.”
If the show runs, it will be the first OR to stage in person since the January 2020 Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show. The last two shows, which began in June 2020 and January 2021 and lasted longer than traditional OR shows, were held virtually due to Covid-19.
Outdoor Retailer said the industry was clamoring to gather under a roof instead of on a screen, though digital elements will remain with the new format.
“In addition to the in-person experience, we will also provide ways to learn and discover new products throughout the summer, allowing everyone to stay connected,” Nicholson said. “We are looking forward to safely reconvening as a community and together welcoming the booming participation growth we’ve witnessed throughout our industry.”
The move to an in-person event isn’t surprising given the events of the last few months. Emerald hosted Surf Expo in early January in Orlando, Florida. As we reported, the event was a success, albeit a smaller show than usual.
So even with the two-month delay to August from June, even with more spacing on the show floor to account for social distancing, and even with attendees wearing masks during the event, Outdoor Retailer is optimistic for the show to go on.
“Having successfully done the Surf Expo show in January and a gift show in Tennessee, we were able to put together a playbook, if you will, on health and safety measures that we could implement,” Nicholson said. “We believe we can successfully host shows that allow our communities to come together.”
The desire for the industry to gather again notwithstanding, Emerald’s inclination to host shows in person rather than online makes financial sense, too, based on the company’s most recent quarterly earnings report. Emerald’s revenue plummeted 72.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, a staggering loss of $58.1 million.
So getting people through the turnstiles of a large-scale event like Outdoor Retailer is an imperative for this publicly traded company whose shares have declined about 50 percent since last spring when the pandemic began wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy—especially on live events.
On last week’s earnings call, the company’s executives hinted at a return to live shows sooner rather than later.
“We’ve seen early signs of a comeback at Emerald and we’re poised to return as the pandemic begins to recede and shows start to stage once again,” said President and CEO Hervé Sedky. “In fact, the relative success that our exhibitors and attendees experienced at…Surf Expo in January clearly highlights the vital role that face-to-face events play in driving connections, commerce, and growth for customers and communities. This provides real optimism for the future.”
Added CFO David Doft, “We very much believe that the live events are going to come back and come back strong. I think the timing is a question given the pandemic and the timing of vaccine rollout is crucial to that. But all the feedback we’re getting from our customer base from independent studies is that trade shows will remain a crucial part of the marketing mix of our customers.”
If Outdoor Retailer Summer happens in person—and there’s always a chance something could derail those plans—it would run alongside such events as The Big Gear Show, which will be held in person August 3-5 in Park City, Utah, and ISPO, which is hosting its OutDoor in person July 5-8 in Munich, Germany.
What’s more, the decision to delay but still remain in person comes at a pivotal time in Outdoor Retailer’s relationship with the city of Denver and the Colorado Convention Center. OR is in the fourth year of a five-year contract to host two shows a year—Winter in January and Summer in June (obviously moved to August this year)—so a return to normal event revenues could be critical.
Nicholson wouldn’t comment on how those contract negotiations are progressing, but she did say that Outdoor Retailer and Denver are collaborating on ensuring a safe show that will benefit both parties. The question now is if that relationship will continue, and she expects to have an update soon.
“We’re excited to be able to come back to Denver in a very safe way,” she said. “I think our community likes coming to Denver, and I think the Denver community likes having our people there.”