Outdoor Makers and Retailers Pack Convention Center

Nearly 1,100 exhibitors and 85,000 visitors came out to support the outdoor industry

One organizer dubbed it the “Super Bowl of outdoor expos,” and with roughly 1,100 exhibitors, 85,000 visitors and an event directory resembling a mid-size city’s phone book, the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show lived up to its super billing.

The nation’s largest business-to-business event of its kind brings manufacturers, retailers, distributors, marketers and others together in a captive environment – in this case Denver’s Colorado Convention Center. The expo ran Jan. 25-28.

One reason the convention center is bustling more than ever: For the first time in nearly 30 years, the outdoor and snow industries combined for a single event. Outdoor Retailer, which had held its main event in Salt Lake City the past 20 years, acquired SnowSports Industries of America, merged the two shows and moved to the Snow Show’s existing Denver venue. Outdoor Retailer’s departure from Utah came about partly over disputes with state leaders about public lands policy and major brands threatening to boycott the event.

Now, back to the products designed to heighten the outdoor experience. Among them: the QuietKat electric mountain bike. Jake Roach, one of those 1,100 exhibitors, founded the Eagle-based company in 2012, explaining it as a merger of “technology and passion, for bikers and outdoor enthusiasts.”

“QuietKat’s niche is its ability in range and also power,” Roach says, estimating one of his bikes, depending on the model, could travel more than 20 miles on a single charge, or 40 miles if the rider chips in with some pedaling. Batteries are charged on a common household outlet and take about five hours to recharge. Extra 6-pound batteries can be brought along to extend trip distances. Bike prices range from $2,199 to $4,299; the deluxe package for hunting and fishing, with extras like racks, bags and a trailer, runs about $6,500 when all the accessories are added up.

“QuietKat is kind of the leader in the hunting and fishing space,” says Roach, whose bikes can be found in Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops “and sporting-goods shops that focus on the outdoors.” Demographics – specifically an aging U.S. population – bode well for QuietKat’s future, the way Roach sees it.

“Thirty percent of America is going to be over 60 in two years,” Roach says. “For those who still want access to camping and fishing and hiking, this (bike) is a matter of need, not a matter of want.”

Outdoor Retailer’s move from Salt Lake City didn’t seem to be an issue one way or the other for most exhibitors, and the Denver venue wasn’t a change for the ski-focused manufacturers who previously attended the Snow Show. A company called OTCF, a Polish skiwear giant with a strong presence in Central Europe, already distributes to about 15 retailers in the northeast U.S. and is looking to gradually expand westward.

“The U.S. is new for us,” says Tom Nawalany, head of North American operations for 1,600-employee OTCF. “We started two years ago, trying to figure out the best way to do distribution. We’re approaching it step by step.

“You could compare us to Under Armor in the U.S.,” Nawalany continued. “But we have a much wider product line in ski wear.”

Representatives of Zuke’s, a maker of pet treats, had attended the last 20 or so expos in Utah, but the trek from Denver is about the same as Salt Lake City for the Durango-based company. For other Colorado companies, the expo’s move to Denver spares the bottom line and saves time.

“This is our second year going to shows,” says Jon Frechin, co-founder of Bfresh, a Denver-based maker of fanny packs and other gear. “We were going to go to Salt Lake. Glad it was moved here. Now we don’t have to lug all our stuff so far.”

Categories: Industry Trends, Travel, Tourism & Recreation