Outdoor Retailer to Salt Lake City: ‘Take a hike’
In a blow to some Park City companies, trade show says it will leave Utah
February 17, 2017
The Outdoor Retailer will pitch its tent elsewhere.
The trade show, one of the largest of its kind and a boon to Summit County outdoor businesses that rely on it to market and move product, announced Thursday evening that it will no longer consider Salt Lake as it evaluates potential host cities for 2019 and beyond. That declaration came after the trade show and officials from several influential outdoor companies, such as Patagonia, The North Face and REI, participated in a call with Gov. Gary Herbert to discuss Utah lawmakers' stance on public lands.
"We expect that our current proposal process, which we initiated before any of the company withdrawal announcements last week, will take between 60 and 90 days," said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer's show director, in a statement Thursday evening. "Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home."
Outdoor Retailer, and much of the outdoor industry as a whole, has voiced strong dissatisfaction in recent months with what they perceived as hostile actions toward the protection of public lands from the state's lawmakers. The show threatened to leave Salt Lake — and multiple high-profile companies promised to boycott it if it didn't — after the Utah Legislature passed a resolution urging President Trump to rescind the recently designated Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah and a similar one advocating for a reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Herbert signed the Bears Ears legislation, while the Grand Staircase resolution is still awaiting his approval.
Herbert had indicated that he hoped to patch up the relationship in Thursday's call and remind Outdoor Retailer how it has flourished during two decades in Salt Lake. That effort was apparently unsuccessful, and the trade show indicated it will move on in its search for a new home. Its contract with Salt Lake expires in 2018.
Losing the Outdoor Retailer is a blow to the Salt Lake economy, as the twice-yearly show claims to bring in more than 45,000 people and an estimated more than $40 million annually in direct spending. But the damage will extend into Summit County, where several outdoor companies rely on the show to display their latest products or to stock their shelves for the upcoming season. The close proximity of the event has allowed them to save thousands of dollars each year on travel and lodging, an advantage over their counterparts that flock to Salt Lake from other parts of the country.
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Jack Walzer, general manager of Park City-based Jans Mountain Outfitters and White Pine Touring, said he and many others involved with local outdoor companies were pleased to see the industry stand up for the protection of public lands, even if it means they will have to spend more to attend the show in the future.
Still, he was frustrated that Utah lawmakers were unwilling reverse course on public lands and do more to keep the outdoor industry placated, especially given how important it is to the state's economy. He added that Jans will still go to the Outdoor Retailer, wherever it ends up, but it will be without the convenience of having it just a short drive away.
"It's going to be different as far as what it costs for us to go, no question," he said. "And that may affect how many (of our) people go to the show. The luxury of having the show here was we were able to send not just our buyers but multiple staff members down there. We're going to miss that because that was an important part of participating."
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