OR Leader on First In-Person, Post-Pandemic Show
As the U.S. slowly gets back to normal, industry trade shows are starting to ramp up.
Outdoor Retailer returns Aug. 10-12 in Denver, Colorado. We asked Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer SVP and Show Director, how OR is shaping up and how how the show is navigating the unique environment as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic.
Some companies still have pandemic travel restrictions in place. How is that impacting the summer OR show?
Outdoor Retailer SVP and Show Director Marisa Nicholson: We understand businesses are at different places of recovery and reopening, so we’re continuing to help everyone find novel ways to attend, support specialty retailers, and engage with the industry.
This summer’s Outdoor Retailer show is the first opportunity for the entire outdoor industry to be together again. We can have important conversations, renew connections, open new accounts, and help each other move forward from the impacts of the pandemic. The show may look a little different for everyone this summer, and that’s OK. For those ready to get back out there, it will be a great opportunity to cultivate relationships and get back on track.
This is a pivotal moment in the outdoor industry after witnessing an incredible participation boom in the past year, which hasn’t slowed. We’re in position to embrace and support this growing consumer base, and the show can provide great opportunities and the knowledge to help us reach everyone who’s getting outside.
Will there still be pandemic safety precautions at the show such as masks and social distancing?
Marisa Nicholson: We are taking precautions to ensure the health and safety all attendees, exhibitors, workforce, and staff at Outdoor Retailer. We understand practices at the national and local level are evolving, and we will be modifying our COVID-19 protocols as we consider the latest guidance and make sure we’re operating consistent with CDC and venue standards. Our current guidelines are available at outdoorretailer.com, and we’ll keep the industry updated as things change and as we get closer to the show.
How is the Venture Out section shaping up? Any interesting brands taking part? How will the size of Venture Out compare to previous years?
Marisa Nicholson: Venture Out continues to be a must-visit area for attendees, and this summer’s show will have another really strong lineup of brands that are shaping the modern outdoor movement. Jetty, Outerknown, and Nomadix are among the exhibitors returning to Venture Out; Poler is back at the show after a hiatus; and Coalatree and OTIS Eyewear are a couple of the new brands in Venture Out this year.
Are you offering any new education elements to the show?
Marisa Nicholson: We are taking a hybrid approach to education and continuing to provide more ways for more people to take advantage of learning opportunities offered around the show. The sessions kick off online in July with two webinars per week leading up to the in-person event. Pre-show education begins July 8 with the NPD Group discussing post-pandemic retail.
Over the next four weeks, education runs Tuesdays and Thursdays and includes Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) sessions on climate action and policy, plus trend insight from Fashion Snoops and WGSN. These webinars are opportunities to dive into trends and consumer data that can equip you with knowledge to make meetings at the show more productive.
At the show in Denver, education continues in-person and we’ll also make sessions available online. OIA, The Conservation Alliance, and Camber Outdoors will each lead the traditional breakfast conversations. And all sessions will be held in a larger meeting room space in the Colorado Convention Center, allowing more people to comfortably attend. The full education schedule will be available at outdoorretailer.com.
Do you see any difference between what types of brands are exhibiting? For example, hardgoods more than softgoods given the huge demand for hardgoods during the pandemic?
Marisa Nicholson: Brands of all sizes and across all categories will be exhibiting and are ready to get back in person. We’re also seeing a lot of young brands making plans for the show, ready to get their product in front of buyers and media. And retailers are anxious to keep inventory filled and customers coming in – buyer registration for the show is strong.
With the participation boom and demand for outdoor gear, combined with supply chain challenges, retailers will be looking for both new and at-once products to keep shelves stocked and customers engaged all year. The show will be a great opportunity for everyone to make new connections.
Any other new initiatives at the show that you’d like to share?
Marisa Nicholson: We’re creating a new outdoor gathering spot called Basecamp. The lot adjacent to the convention center will be a place to enjoy a cup of coffee or latte from Summit Coffee, grab breakfast or lunch at food trucks, and meet up with colleagues. On the first night of the show, Basecamp becomes home to the 5 Point Film Festival, and night two it plays host to a watch party for the 11th annual Outdoor Retailer Inspiration Awards. Attendees can also join morning yoga sessions and networking events at Basecamp.
Also new, this summer’s show will mark the debut of a zone known as Fresh. This space will highlight a curated group of young brands and first-time exhibitors. Fresh will be great for retailers looking to diversify store offerings and attract customers with new products all year.