Retailers set up shop as Salt Lake is still the place for premier outdoor trade show

Published: Monday, July 29 2013 9:45 p.m. MDT

Eureka! employees set up tents in preparation for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market at the the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 29, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Frantic but familiar sounds of banging tools assembling elaborate displays and heavy equipment moving huge crates of merchandise filled the Salt Palace Monday in advance of the annual Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

Across the convention floor, equipment for climbing, hiking, boating and biking began to emerge from storage containers and an army of mannequins was outfitted in brightly colored active shoes and apparel.

It was a maze of organized chaos, but by the time doors open at 9 a.m. Wednesday, it will be a bustling and polished trade show assembling nearly 1,300 retailers from across the country.

Debate arose last year about whether Salt Lake City's accommodations and infrastructure could continue to handle the crowds associated with outdoor industry's premier trade show, but an announcement in January settled the question:

For now, this is still the place.

"We kind of figured it would stay here," said Justin Kline, pausing with his colleagues Monday after hanging a series of suspended lights at their booth, Princeton Tec. "It seems like the city benefits a lot for it, and puts a lot of resources into keeping it here … A lot of the alternative cities where they were thinking about having it didn't seem realistic."

The trade show has come to Utah every winter and summer for 16 years, bringing with it an estimated $40 million annually for the state.

Last year, 26,700 people attended the show, a 9 percent increase from 2011, and this summer's attendance is expected to match, according to a release from the Outdoor Industry Association.

Open-air demos including gear for camping, fly fishing, geocaching, hiking, hydration, paddlesports and trail running will take place Tuesday at Pineview Reservoir. Kline and his partners agreed that quick access to beautiful outdoor terrain is one of Utah's biggest advantages in hosting the show, voicing their enthusiasm about a planned mountain biking excursion while they're in the area.

"It's nice that it's a city and state that really embraces (outdoor) culture and activities," Kline said.

Alongside the January decision that the Outdoor Retailer market will return to Salt Lake City until at least 2016, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the creation of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, adding further incentive to keep the show in Utah. In March, word came that two new hotels will be built downtown.

"It's an honor to partner with the Outdoor Retailer Show and the Outdoor Industry Association each year to not only show off the latest innovations in outdoor products, but also the beauty of our state," Herbert said Monday. "We are excited for this relationship to continue into the future and I'm personally looking forward to touring the show later this week."

Retailer Mark Hrubant, who was busy Monday assembling tents and displaying sleeping bags and other camping gear for Eureka and Silva, has been attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market for years and drops by Utah in the winters to ski.

Along with the familiar menus at Red Iguana and Ruth's Diner, he looks forward to the familiar faces he sees in Salt Lake City each year.

Hrubant and his team sat amidst piles of products and packing equipment Monday, all new items from next year's line that will appear in the Spring 2014 catalogue.

"We start planning for the show during teardown of the year prior," he said over the noise of construction. "You're ramping up quite a bit prior to the show … We have a lot of good energy, and a lot of appointments with our retail partners. We're ready to go."

The show is open only to qualified retailers, manufacturers, advocates and media within the industry, and registration fills up fast. As the show has grown, registration requirements for both vendors and participants has become stricter.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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