The Changing Face of Trade Shows for the Endurance Industry

By: Brian Metzler

This coming week marks the return of the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver, but after 18 months without in-person trade shows, it remains to be seen how effective it might be. After the fear of a resurgence of the Covid-19 virus via the Delta variant, the future of massive indoor, in-person trade shows is up in the air.

“After more than a year apart, we’re looking forward to reconnecting with the outdoor community in Denver,” Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer senior vice president and show director, said in an announcement to registered attendees this week. “The show remains the biggest opportunity for our industry to come together to build relationships, find new brands and products for stores, and share ideas. These three days together will offer valuable ways for the community to grow and build a stronger foundation for the future.”

That’s the best case scenario, for sure, but Outdoor Retailer parent company Emerald Expositions has been scrambling to adapt to the changing needs of exhibiting brands and retailers, especially after the entire industry adjusted to not attending trade shows for the past year and a half.

For years, the OR trade show in Salt Lake City was the gathering place twice per year for the outdoor industry and increasingly that included trail running brands. It was a great place to meet-and-greet, attend seminars, see and try new gear, and even write new orders for the coming season.

But after Emerald Expositions bought the show and moved it to Denver after the final summer show in 2017, it merged Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show with the SIA Snow Show because of a decline in exhibitors and attendees of each of those shows. It continued its Summer Market show in August 2018 and then added a third show that November hoping to absorb the bike industry after the demise of the Interbike trade show.