Outdoor Retailer Makes its Move to Colorado – Here’s What You Need to Know

By Something Independent July 7, 2017.

It’s official. The much anticipated announcement bringing the twice-a-year Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show to Denver came on July 6, with a press conference and industry celebration in Denver’s City Park. Backed by a crowd of enthusiastic outdoor industry leaders from across Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Luis Benitez, Director of Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, and officials from Visit Denver, OR, Snow Sport Industries America (SIA), Outdoor Industry Association and Emerald Expositions, delivered the news we’ve all been waiting for. Be assured, there will be plenty to come in regards to what this all means for Colorado, the ripple effect on the greater outdoor industry and just how Denver placed this OR feather in its cap. In the meantime, brush-up on the background that led to the big announcement.

  • By late 2016 influential outdoor brands began exerting public and political pressure in an effort to sway Utah elected officials toward a stronger pro public lands stance, eventually leading outdoor-giant Patagonia to announce that they would no longer participate in OR as long as the show remained in Utah. Not everyone took the same position. The respected Jen Taylor of Mountain Khakis made the case for the industry to fight the good fight and stay in Utah in her open letter to Yvon Chouinard and Peter Metcalf.
  • The Outdoor Retailer Show, owned by publicly traded Emerald Expositions and presented in partnership with Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association, ultimately made the decision to part ways with their host of 21-years, Salt Lake City. This, due to growing frustrations and the gap in alignment with Utah elected officials seeking to roll back designated protections of public lands, most notably within Bears Ears National Monument.
  • The move was a “done-deal” for Denver once OR and Salt Lake City parted ways. FALSE. Though Colorado seemed a no-brainer, there were significant hurdles to clear in order to pave the way for the two annual OR Shows (Summer & Winter Markets) to land in Denver.
    • The SIA SnowShow and OR Winter Market had to find a way to come together. They did. With the purchase by Emerald of the SIA SnowShow, there will now be a single-combined industry show each winter. In a statement from SIA, “Under the new ownership of Emerald Expositions, the January (2018) SIA Snow Show will merge with Outdoor Retailer to become the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show endorsed and sponsored by SnowSports Industries America and Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), and will be the largest outdoor and winter sports industry gathering in North America.”
    • Summer OR presented its own set of challenges. Rumor has it that Denver’s summer convention calendar was heavily booked as far out as 2025. It had to have taken a huge lift and plenty of wheeling and dealing by the likes of Visit Denver, the Luis Benitiez-led Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation and other key stakeholders. As reported by Jason Blevins of the Denver Post, “Visit Denver typically books large conventions several years out. It was no small feat to negotiate the right dates and rates for a show that needs that much space — it will fill, twice a year, the Colorado Convention Center’s 584,000 square feet of exhibition space and possibly use the National Western Complex in future years. The group probably had to move already-booked conventions to make room for Outdoor Retailer.”
  • Above all, this is a story of an alignment of values. The Denver Post’s Jason Blevins covers this industry like few others. For his July 6, story Blevins spoke with with Kim Miller, CEO of SCARPA North America and board member at both OIA and SIA. Miller offered, “Colorado and Denver has always looked at this as more than a trade event or how it delivers a one-time bump the city’s economy…This was, on the highest level, an alignment of values and visions and characteristics relative to the way the outdoor recreation industry wants to be and the way the state wants to be. To me, this is the definition of a true partnership. This was the moment for Colorado and it all tipped, in my opinion, toward the logical conclusion that these shows belong here.” Read Full Article Here.
  • This is not a Colorado vs Utah story. Utah was the first state in the nation to establish an official Office of Outdoor Recreation and Colorado followed suit. Following the announcement of OR’s move from Salt Lake City to Denver, Luis Benitez, head of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Office penned a letter in which he expressed, “Our politics may not perfectly align, but our passion does.” Benitez’s “Dear Utah Letter” is a must read.
  • The dates are set for 2018! We can expect a city-wide outdoor industry showcase like never seen before, including new opportunities for public participation. Don’t be surprised to see events and exhibits spilling out of the convention center and into Denver Union Station, REI’s Flagship Store at Confluence Park and eventually the National Western Stock Show Complex.
  • And this. Just this. A great piece by Frederick Reimers for Outside Magazine: How Colorado Lured the Biggest Trade Show in the Outdoor Industry
  • Mark your calendars and we’ll see you at OR in Denver in 2018!
    • SIA Industry + Intelligence Day – January 24, 2018
    • Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show – January 25-28, 2018
    • SIA On-Snow Demo – January 29-30, 2018, Copper Mountain
    • Outdoor Retailer Summer Market – July 23-26, 2018
    • Outdoor Retailer Winter Market – November 8-11, 2018
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