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Colorado Brands Focus on Sustainability at Outdoor Retailer

142 companies from across the state attended the 2019 Summer Market


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This week the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market took over the Denver Convention Center for the show’s second year in Colorado. The summer retailer event drew nearly 25,000 attendees and over 1,400 exhibiting brands to celebrate the beginning of the new retail season.

The show featured 142 Colorado-based brands ranging from more well-known companies such as Otterbox, Kelty and Smartwool to emerging ones such as Outdoor Element, Beat Outdoor Gear, Trail Fork and many more.

Many of the conversations at the show centered around how companies were implementing sustainability and giving back into their brand and products.

Many Colorado brands are using (or have been using) recycled materials in their apparel to offset their environmental footprint. Matador, a Boulder-based backpack and gear provider, uses a fabric called Cordura that eliminates manufacturing waste, enhances recycling initiatives and using recycled and renewable components -- and it encourages repairing their bags rather than replacing by offering to fix any damaged products.

Similarly, Headsweats, a Boulder hat company, recently partnered with Repreve, which creates a fiber from recycled plastic bottles to make some of its hats and visors. Soybu, a Denver-based, women-owned athleisure brand, uses recycled polyester in a number of its products. Another Boulder company, Sherpani, which makes bags for travel and outdoors, has been using recycled fabrics for ten years.

A number of other brands are integrating philanthropy into their companies to give back with their products. Revel Gear, based in Boulder, created solar-powered lights for the outdoors and works with a number of distribution partners to developing countries. And, it also partners with Agile International to empower women farmers by providing them a platform and support as well as the Colorado Coalition for African Empowerment.

TrailFork, a backpacking food company, combines the two: it uses biodegradable packaging and is part of 1% for the Planet, where 1% of TrailFork’s sales go toward other nonprofits that are helping the company.

Another example of sustainability in practice, is an industry-wide trend of consolidating the amount of gear one carries and “doing more with less,” says Ryan Bertrand, a sales and marketing coordinator with Sierra Designs.

Outdoor Retailer in Denver

Outdoor Retailer (OR) first moved to Denver in 2018 following controversy with its previous host-state, Utah. Both the Summer and Winter Markets had been hosted in Salt Lake City for 20 years, but after Utah sought to reverse the designation of certain public lands, many outdoor companies protested to have the shows moved.

After receiving a number of submissions to host the event, Outdoor Retailer selected Denver. According to the organization, it was selected as “the undeniable industry choice and basing the show in a state that places such a high value on outdoor recreation is the best move we can make for the outdoor industry.”

Flylow co-founder Dan Abrams refers to Colorado as the “center of the universe for outdoor.” Abrams and co-founder Greg Steen first started their outdoor apparel company in 2004, and Abrams says that when the OR show and the industry moved to Colorado 12 years later that it validated they had started their company in the right place “It’s a great place for little brands to be,” he says.

According to Lisa Ramsperger, the PR manager for Outdoor Retailer, the organization expects the annual direct and indirect economic impact for all three shows - Snow Show, Retailer Summer Market and Retailer Winter Market - to be $110 million a year in Colorado.

And certainly the outdoor recreation economy in Colorado is one of the state’s largest. The Outdoor Industry Association reports that this industry creates 229,000 direct jobs, $28 billion in consumer spending, $9.7 billion in wages and salaries and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

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Ali Longwell

Ali Longwell is the digital editor at ColoradoBiz. She has also written for SDxCentral, a B2B online technology publication, as well as Denver-area lifestyle magazines 5280, Denver Life Magazine, Avid Lifestyle and more. She can be reached at alongwell@cobizmag.com

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