Outdoor ‘lifestyle’ growing element at OR Summer Market
August 6, 2010
One of the major growth sectors for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market concluding at the Salt Palace Convention Center this weekend is footwear and apparel, said show director Kenji Haroutunian.
That growth has been occurring for years as existing manufacturers come to the show because of a shift in branding.
People are buying clothes and shoes in the places they may also shop for other items. Both industries market a lifestyle, and outdoor culture appeals to people seeking both athletic and casual wear, Haroutunian said.
The Summer Show is also becoming increasingly attractive to people marketing endurance sports like running, he said.
Several companies relatively new to the show agreed with Haroutunian’s analysis, but a few mentioned another reason outdoor culture is "hot:" it’s welcoming to females.
Abbie Newell was at the show with Terry bicycle seats for women. The cycling industry’s main show is Interbike in September, but Summer Market is a better fit, she said.
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"The outdoor industry caters more to women’s marketing than the cycling world," she said. "And women feel more comfortable in an outdoor retail store than in a cycling store."
Women like retail stores in general, she added. Bike shops are more like hardware stores.
Abbie Durkee was at the show selling My Alibi Clothing undergarments for female cyclists, she said.
"Interbike is very men-oriented," she said. "I’m trying to reach active women, not necessarily cyclists, just women on bikes."
Her products are conservative and allow women to wear whatever they want and still feel comfortable on a bicycle to work or the store. They also dovetail well with yoga and hiking brands, she said.
At least two companies selling skirts for running said they like being at Summer Market because their products can be worn during other activities as well. Both said paddle sports stores have expressed interest because skirts are more flattering than bathing suits in a canoe or on a stand-up paddle board.
"We’re focused on running, but we’re expanding styles; it encompasses all sports," said Christy Baker with Running Skirts.
Chris Grack-Wilson with Skirt Sports said her company’s founder originally designed the skirts for triathlon competitions. At Summer Market, buyers can get a sense of what her company is about.
"They can see our entire culture," she said. "We’re asking women to make a paradigm shift."
She said OR is welcoming to people targeting women.
"It balances out the adrenaline that comes in this show. It’s nice to see pinks and purples," she added.
Sanita is a footwear company that was showing a lot of pinks and purples at its booth this year. It began participating in the show about four years ago to sell clogs and sandals for women.
While you wouldn’t run or hike in a clog, Sonia Alexander-White said the brand originated in Denmark and was designed for people who work outdoors. The footwear is popular in equestrian sports and any woman wanting durable, comfortable footwear with a natural look, she said.
Cushe is an 18-month-old shoe brand at only its second Summer Market.
Although owned by the same people as Wolverine and Merrill, Cushe produces a comfort shoe for people into the outdoor lifestyle, explained general manager Guillermo Perez.
The quality matches Merrill footwear, but the design emphasizes fashion and practicality. The three main lines are for surf, cities, and travel.
"Consumers today love water, they love travel, and they live in a city," he explained.
He compared his shoes to sport utility vehicles. They can go off-road, but people want them for going to the grocery store, he said.
"We go to the base of the mountain with the climbers, but then stay below and drink a beer," he said. "You’re not going to run a marathon in it; you’ll go watch a marathon in it. It’s about what we aspire to."
Denise Vill-Olson was at the show for the first time with Scott Hawaii a flip-flop manufacturer. People won’t be climbing mountains or running marathons in her footwear either, but Summer Market is still a great fit, she said.
"Every aspect of fun is here we sell fun. OR is about fun," she said. "In slippers, you’re going someplace fun."
There were also several debuts at Summer Market for other kinds of light-weight footwear.
This was the first show for Terra Plana, a company selling running shoes with 3 to 4.5 millimeter-thick soles. According to Sabra Ellingson, they give the sensation of running barefoot with more natural weight disbursal than Vibrum Five Fingers. Merrill also introduced a thin-soled shoe that looked more traditional than the Five Fingers attracting large crowds in the next booth over.
For people who want to try more, not less, padding on the foot, HOKA was introducing Hubbles sole technology. The new design looks like Skecher’s Shape Ups or Reebok’s Easy Tone but creates more rock near the toes, not the heel, explained Jay Taylor.
"All the good things about oversized technology have been rolled into a running shoe," he said.
Because it is "out of the box" technology, Taylor said his company is trying to attract buyers from across several categories and that’s why Summer Market is the best place to be.
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