Outdoor Retailer expo sold out and thriving

Published: Friday, July 30 2010 9:50 p.m. MDT

Rush Sturges gives a kayak demonstration at the 2006 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show at the Salt Palace. Some 4,100 booths have been booked for this year's show.

Kim Raff, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, which saw smaller attendance last year, has sold out all its exhibit space for this year's expo, which will run Aug. 3-6 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

"Every nook and cranny the convention center could sell us is filled," said Maura Lansford, an expo spokeswoman. "The show is healthy. Our numbers are up, and we couldn't be happier."

Lansford said pre-registration statistics indicate the show will have slightly more than 1,000 exhibitors this year, and 4,100 booths have been booked.

Lansford said show organizers expect 21,000 people will attend this year's show, which would be an increase from last year's 18,000. The figures include retailers, exhibitors and their employees, industry guests and media representatives.

Another good sign, according to Lansford, is that many exhibitors have more items to display this year.

"Exhibitors are bringing more products than ever. Anyone who had the option to up their space did so. The fact that people have these products and are not afraid to be manufacturing — these are all good signs that things are looking up for the industry," she said.

"Obviously, having the retail numbers up is a sign people are willing to leave their shops and look at new products. In the years that were more difficult, shop owners wanted to stay close to home, they were less interested in new products, they were stressed."

Among other things, one new concept that will be available for attendees is information from the Adventure Travel Trade Association, which offers a variety of cross-promotional services, including assisting retailers in setting up programs for their customers to help them plan destination outings.

"Retailers can schedule appointments with the Adventure Travel Trade Association to learn how to sell these products and services so it is a service they can offer in their store. It is really new and exciting for the show, especially for the smaller shops, which are always looking for opportunities," Lansford said.

Planning an adventure trip by yourself could turn out to be a disaster, she said, with wasted vacation time and money and family members who are miserable.

"You'd have to do a lot of research on your own, and you would not know what you're getting into until you actually arrive. There's only so much information you can find online," she said.

It would be far better, Lansford said, for a customer to have a trusted retailer who is knowledgeable about a particular kayaking experience or mountain biking region, or who has access to additional information, to help plan a trip so it turns out to be a success.

The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market will kick off Monday with a "Demo Day" at Jordanelle State Park, where retailers can try out various products on land and water, rather than just observing them on a showroom floor. Set-up work at the Salt Palace begins Sunday, and the expo will open its doors on Tuesday.

The event is expected to pour more than $19.4 million directly into the Salt Lake City and Utah economies, according to figures from the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

An additional and more long-term benefit is that the expo highlights Utah's outdoor recreation. BEBR has said that industry puts $4.8 billion each year into the state's economy, employs 65,000 people and puts almost $300 million into Utah's tax coffers.

The trade show initially benefited hotels, restaurants, taxi firms and shopping centers, but it has become something the Governor's Office of Economic Development believes is a driving force for many companies to decide to locate here, which again expands Utah's economy.

"It's exciting that the outdoor industry and Nielsen Business Media (which produces the Outdoor Retailer events) continue to embrace our destination and the business opportunities this trade show represents for their industry," said Scott Beck, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Trade shows continue to be an important business tool for this industry, due to the importance of face-to-face contact with their clients and their peers," Beck said. "When you combine the incredible natural surroundings of Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, our destination is the perfect place for this unique gathering of outdoor-related businesses and retailers."

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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