Outdoor Retailer hosts second trade show in Denver | AspenTimes.com

Outdoor Retailer hosts second trade show in Denver

by barbara platts

After a big move from Salt Lake City to Denver at the start of 2018, Outdoor Retailer will have its second trade show in the Mile High City on July 23 to 26. This show will take over all three floors of the Denver Convention Center, with nearly 300 new exhibitors covering everything from overlanding to specialty surf.

Outdoor Retailer's move to Denver came after many brands and companies affiliated with the show protested the stance that Utah's governor and several other state Republicans have on public lands. The first show in Denver was at the end of January, and it was a huge success, according to Marisa Nicholson, the director of Outdoor Retailer and the vice president of Emerald Expositions, the operator of the trade show.

This summer's show is a good representation of the growth the outdoor industry has seen in recent decades. Outdoor Retailer started 36 years ago in Las Vegas with just a few exhibitors. Today, it's the largest show of its kind in North America.

Although the outdoor industry is quite healthy today, it's also seen some changes as of late. Back in January, it came out that sales in the U.S. were down 6 percent from December 2016 to November 2017, coming in at $18.9 billion. These numbers became available around the time of Outdoor Retailer's first Denver show, and many news outlets published stories on the shift. Who was to blame for the fall in profits? The NPD Group, a large market research company that keeps track of trends in many industries, including the sports industry, said it was a shift in demand for kinds of products, which was made by none other than the millennials.

I wrote about this in a column that came out in January once the retail sales numbers were released. According to the NPD Group, millennials weren't looking for specialized, expensive gear like generations before them. They were more interested in versatile items. As a millennial, this made sense to me. Sure, there are always exceptions to the stereotype, but generally I think my generation does look for more versatile products that can be worn or used in many different situations. And, if the industry wasn't responding to this need, it would make sense that sales would decrease slightly.

However, this got me interested in learning more. What did Gen X look for in their outdoor gear and apparel? What about the baby boomers? And even before the boomers? Were members of the Silent Generation or the Greatest Generation spending time in the outdoors? And, if so, were they buying gear to better equip them for the experience?

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I've talked with a lot of experts and read a lot of research on this topic. I've found that, yes, the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation did spend time outdoors. Even the Lost Generation and the Interbellum Generation did. How we interact with the outdoors has changed a lot over the years, but our love for it has remained very much the same.

I'm sure you'd like to learn more about my findings, but I'm not going to tell you. At least, not this week. In next week's issue, I'll have a much more conclusive explanation of what different generations wanted and demanded from the outdoor industry. Until then, enjoy the weather and spend some time in the great outdoors. And, if you're headed to Outdoor Retailer, have an amazing week in Denver.

For more information on this topic, check out Barbara's feature and column in next week's issue. Reach her at bplatts.000@gmail.com or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.

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