Winter Market begins today
The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market begins today with the Backcountry Base Camp at Snowbasin. Booths open on Thursday. Organizers paint an optimistic picture, but locals predict a slower show this year.
Press releases announce that registration and rented floor space are nearly identical to last year. As good as that may sound, spokesperson Maura Lansford said the show had been growing incrementally every year.
A survey posted on the market’s website reveals that of 50 respondents, 30 percent said they were skipping the show or coming fewer days due to the economy.
"Retailers are saying they’re coming fewer days or sending fewer staff," she said.
Suppliers are still coming, as the press release said, but they aren’t requesting additional badges for extra employees coming. Whatever the initial registration fees allow, that’s how many are coming, she said.
Group Show Director Kenji Haroutunian said via email that some businesses are being affected by the economy more than others. Those focusing on "basics" are doing well as Americans turn away from more "luxury" types of recreation, he said.
"The ‘correction’ we are experiencing is essentially a move away from jet skis, expensive cars and spendy vacations and a move to simpler ways of taking time off," he said. "This is a pattern borne out in past recessions, and there is cautious optimism in the industry that though this is a deep trough, we’ll recover more quickly and be less damaged than most."
The winter and summer markets are promoted as a "celebration or festival" by the sponsoring Outdoor Industry Association. They’re the place to see new trends in both form and function, Lansford said.
In the past, three key trends were: products made to be compatible with technology like iPods, Bluetooths and Blackberries, products made in a sustainable way or with eco-friendly material, and more fashionable outdoor products, she said. This year is expected to be more of the same.
Fashion is a great way to attract a larger market for outdoor garments, she said. Companies are trying to reach out to younger consumers, more minorities and women.
An example is a line of women’s shoes called "Off The Beaten Track" by Consolidated Show Company. A press release describes the line as "Inspired and designed with fashion-conscious, urban travelers in mind." They look appropriate for shopping on Main Street, but aren’t something you’d wear downhill mountain biking at Deer Valley.
Lansford predicts the economic impact on the industry will be seen in the quantity ordered by retailers. The same number of buyers and sellers will attend, they’ll be looking to buy the same types of merchandise, but just less of it, she said.
"Stores aren’t carrying as deep," she added.
Margie Brice is the owner of Alpaca International on Main Street. She’s not planning on attending the winter market, but as a wholesaler, she attends many similar shows throughout the year as both a buyer and a seller. She said the last retail event she attended last fall in New York was the slowest she’d seen.
She expects retailers to be conservative in what they buy since many are nervous about getting rid of what they already have in stock.
As a seller at trade shows, she said she’s been offering fewer lines since she has to order a minimum number from the manufacturer. If she isn’t confident she’ll sell that number, she won’t even show retailers the product.
Aloha Ski and Snowboard shop owner Greg Ottoson does regularly attend the winter market, and also expects it to be more conservative this year.
"There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there," he said. "I can’t see that purveyors will be throwing out hugely new things."
All trade shows are reflecting the economy, said John Jensen at Norsk Leather and Fur. They’re still important places to be, however, because retailers have a commitment to customers to carry products of quality and longevity.
He said well-to-do tourists and residents have been good to Park City retailers, and he is grateful for that, but it makes him feel like he has a responsibility not to let them down.
"We treat that with the utmost respect because them stepping up shows complete faith in our product," he said.
Mariane Flint, co-owner of Overland, said her husbands always tries to attend the show to meet up with their suppliers. Justin Parkhurst, an employee at a Main Street shop, is also trying to start up his own snowboard retail business and finds the networking at the winter market to be invaluable.
What: Outdoor Retailer Winter Market
Who: Nielsen Business Media endorsed and sponsored by Outdoor Industry Association. More than 800 vendors and 17,000 people are expected to attend.
When: Jan. 22-25
Where: Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City
How: See http://www.outdoorretailer.com to register for the show.
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