Behind the Booths at Outdoor Retailer

By Matter

A beach blanket and sandals that drain sand, a magnetic peel-away balaclava, and folding ski poles — these are a few of the amazing active lifestyle innovations on display at the recent Winter market Outdoor Retailer Show.  And the rookies’ products were not to be outclassed – newcomers launched bold, three-in-one kiddie footwear, a zero emissions motorcycle and a slow burn energy bar.

Equally creative were the booth designs. Outdoor Research used a tiny house as its centerpiece, decorated with hand painted wooden plaques that could be purchased to support Conservation Alliance. Optic Nerve Sunglasses plopped an Airstream into their booth for retailer appointments and Yeti Coolers incorporated an old steel water tank – very cool.  But Best of Booth was snagged by Keen Footwear, with a newly designed, hyper-recycled space, featuring a fabric dome with images of trees and sky projected overhead, complete with rippling clouds and sporadic flares of lightning.

Tactics to draw booth traffic were also clever.  Over 100 people lined up at the Otter Box booth to spin the wheel and possibly score a cooler. A graffiti artist at a snowboard booth wowed the crowds. And with a prominent nod to the company’s public lands and climate change agenda, Keen installed an upcycled phone booth—with a working line and book of legislators’ phone numbers and call scripts – aptly signed Call to Action.

From the products to the exhibitor booths to the events, this is an industry that isn’t afraid to express itself in bold and beautiful fashion. And it doesn’t stop at creative marketing.  Members of the outdoor industry are committed to causes.  Conservation is probably number one on the docket but other issues including the marginalization of indigenous populations took center stage.

Show exhibitors also paid tribute to outdoor legends, both living and deceased. The death of the iconic ski filmmaker Warren Miller occurred on the first day of the show and the media was rapid and generous in their praise.  The industry also honored snowboard legends Donna Carpenter and Jake Burton Carpenter with an Inspiration Award for “decades of innovating organizing and always staying true.”

What’s abundantly clear at this show is that it is a way life not a job for these exhibitors and retailers, and, for any lucky visitor who loves the outdoors, it’s a “kid in a candy store” kind of experience.

Check out some quick snap shots from the event: