Exhibitors mixed on Outdoor Retailer moving to Colorado

Exhibitors mixed on Outdoor Retailer moving to Colorado

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, File)

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SALT LAKE CITY — All good things must come to an end, as the saying goes, but for some local companies that have been longtime participants in the Utah's largest annual convention, the realization of finality is starting to sink in.

"We not a fan of it moving," said Bill Harmon, general manager of Goal Zero, a Bluffdale-based company that makes solar-powered battery solutions. "We're a Utah company. We're very sad to see it go."

Early this year, organizers of the Outdoor Retailer summer and winter trade shows announced they would be ending their 22-year run in Utah and moving the shows to Colorado. The decision followed months of political posturing and acrimony between show organizers and state leaders over public lands in general and monument designations in particular.

"I'm fearful of the costs of (exhibitors participating in) the show going to Denver," Harmon said.

Because the Colorado Convention Center is a "union shop," potential exhibitors would have to pay more to attend the Denver events, he said, which could impact overall participation, along with higher costs for lodging, dining and travel expenses.

"We're going to go to (Outdoor Retailer) as long as it makes financial sense to us," Harmon said. "We're a part of the industry, and we want to support (it). We're not going to throw a temper tantrum because it moved, but I sure wish it would have stayed (in Utah)."

While Harmon expressed disappointment regarding the show's exit, other exhibitors took a more pragmatic point of view of leaving the Beehive State.

"It's sad for me. It's one of my favorite places to visit for both summer and winter," said Sam Bryant, eastern regional sales manager at St. Louis-based Popticals Sunglasses. "(But) I'm excited to go to Denver. The biggest bonus is the combination of (Outdoor Retailer) and the (Ski Industry Association) shows in one place."

Show owner Emerald Expositions and the Outdoor Industry Association also announced they would spread the three events over the course of the year in the same venue. Bryant noted that having three large shows in one location will offer some advantages to many participants who can now plan on spending less time away from their respective businesses.

"Now we've cleared up one full week, and moving to a new city brings new energy," he added. "It's a good thing and will add a new flavor to it for sure."

Bryant noted that booking flights to Salt Lake City could be challenging for some across the country, and he suggested that Denver would be more accessible because it has more direct flights.

From a business perspective, the move could prove valuable to many participating retailers and suppliers, Bryant said.

"It's going to bring more dealers in front of us," he said. "It will open up (opportunities) for companies to do year-round business that had been seasonal before."

One large exhibitor said the move will have little impact on its participation. Brady Barry, U.S. marketing manager for outdoor apparel company Helly Hansen, said Salt Lake City has been a fantastic host for many years, but the move to Colorado has become necessary "for the greater good of the outdoor industry."


"From our side, we're in support of (the decision to relocate)," Barry said. "Any move is tough. (But) we love Colorado, and it's not too much of a departure in our minds."

Helly Hansen is a big proponent of advocating for public lands preservation and conservation, he added, which is why the company supported the show's move to Denver.

"(Organizers) made the decision they needed to," Barry said.

He also hopes the decision will serve as a message to other states in their considerations for public lands use and monument designations, he said.

"The message is really, 'Don't take this for granted,'" Barry explained. "Value (public lands); don't just lip service it. The general public is in support of public lands, and more states need to pay attention and preserve their lands."

Meanwhile, a large Utah company that has been a longtime participant in the Outdoor Retailer shows was also saddened at the thought of the event leaving, with its president saying that based on his experience, the cost of doing business in Denver for many companies will climb significantly.

"When we go to the (Ski Industry Association) show, it costs us more money to take (our display) from the truck to the place you want to put it than to ship it (from Salt Lake City)," explained Gary Heward, president of Liberty Mountain, a large-scale distributor for the outdoor industry.

Heward blames the higher cost on the previously mentioned union drayage requirement in Denver, along with other travel-related expenses. He said a number of smaller exhibitors may be precluded from participating as much in the new venue as they had in Utah.

For now, Heward laments the realization that the state's 22-year relationship as the host of the Outdoor Retailer shows is coming to a close.

"I'm heartbroken," he said, fighting back tears. "We've put a lot into this industry, and I'm sad this show is leaving, but we're going to carry on and keep doing what we do."

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