Outside Business Journal

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Outdoor Retailer

This summer marks Outdoor Retailer’s 35 birthday. To celebrate, we unearthed 15 fun facts you probably never knew about our industry’s biggest show

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  1. The very first OR show—called the Outdoor Retailer Trade Expo—took place at the Sahara Hotel in Vegas in 1982. The entire show was smaller than the Ballroom at the current one, with 93 exhibitors.
  2. For the first time in the history of OR, our industry will galvanize as one and March for Public Lands on July 27 at 4:30 P.M. We’ll gather outside the Salt Palace and march to the Capitol, where industry leaders, tribal leaders, politicians, and athletes will be on hand to speak about the future of public lands.
  3. It’s gonna be a packed house: This summer, former Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, will speak at OIA’s Industry Breakfast on July 26 at 7:00 A.M. at the Downtown Marriott. OIA says she will “set the record straight on Bears Ears and rally the industry to continue to use our political power to fight for public lands.” Jewell is the latest in a long line of interior secretaries who attend OR including Dirk Kempthorne, Bruce Babbit, Gale Norton, and Ken Salazar.
  4. In the past four years, Outsiders Ball has raised over $1 million to fund more than 300 community-led outdoor initiatives, providing 65,000 youths with opportunities to experience the outdoors.
  5. This year, retailers can combine in-depth sales training with their trade show experience. Each day of the summer show OR, in partnership with Outdoor Industry Association and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, will offer a free two-hour session led by The Mann Group.
  6. On August 11, 1999 as Summer Market was about to get underway, an F2 grade tornado touched down in Salt Lake City. “Its sudden onslaught sent pavilion workers and exhibitors, setting up for the trade show, diving for cover and running for their lives in a matter of seconds,” Outdoor Retailer said in a later synapsis. Allen Crady, 38, of Vegas-based Renaissance Management was killed, 83 people were injured, and 330 booths in the pavilions were destroyed. Show organizers delayed the opening of the show by one day and got creative to shoehorn the displaced exhibitors onto the main floor, often with as many as five companies sharing a single booth space. Dieter Tremp, then director of the trade show, said, “This event has become an exciting reminder of the outdoor industry’s core values paired with surprisingly solid and optimistic business results. Summer Market ’99 will be remembered for more than just a tornado.”
  7. In winter 2002, the show temporarily moved to Anaheim when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics. It was not a great cultural fit, and attendees were eager to return to the Beehive State.  “No trails, no mountains, no good restaurants in walking distance, no personality. There was nothing about that location that viscerally connected to the outdoor lifestyle. Least enjoyable of the 40+ Outdoor Retailers I’ve attended,” said Jon Dorn, general manager of AIM’s Outdoor Group.
  8. Did you know that Patagonia helped relaunch the show in Reno in 1988? Around that time OR hired Jack Gilbert from The North Face in an effort to more firmly connect with the outdoor market and bring authenticity to the show. Gilbert’s first move was to court Patagonia. “If we make it cool and you show up, where would be the right place for you?” Gilbert asked Patagonia. The reply: Reno. “Jack convinced Patagonia to take a chance on the show, to see if it would work, and they did,” said David Loechner, Gilberts colleague at OR at the time. “From that day forward, everybody felt like if ‘they’re going, then we’ll go.’”
  9. Golf and Outdoor Retailer? An unlikely pairing, to be sure, but for several years starting in 1990 there was an annual pre-show scramble tournament that raised money for various outdoor-related nonprofits.
  10. There used to be an unofficial post-OR camping trip. It started in 1990 with just ten hardy souls: Outdoor Retailer’s Chris Marentis, David Loechner, and field editor Bob Woodward (founder of OBJ‘s previous incarnation, Snews), Steve Pfeiffer of MEI, Tom Mendl of Malden Mills, Bill Dodge of Salomon, Dave Secunda of Orca, Beth Rundquist of Rivers and Mountains, and Andy Knapp of Midwest Mountaineering. “It was so relaxing and fun,” recalled Woodward, that the idea took off and carried through for several years, becoming a highlight of the show.
  11. In 1993, Outdoor Retailer announced plans to move the show to Denver, but industry feedback causes show management to re-think the move. Working with Reno city officials, the convention center and hotel operators, Outdoor Retailer says it has reached workable and cost-effective solutions which will allow Expo West to remain in the city.
  12. Peter Metcalf first called for Outdoor Retailer to leave Utah in May of 2003 in op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune, after a backdoor settlement between Utah governor Mike Leavitt and interior secretary Gale Norton stripped wilderness protections on nearly six million acres in Utah.
  13. OR launches the Daily Exposure in 1995, the daily show newspaper that was the precursor to OR Daily. Joan Alvarez, Outdoor Retailer Magazine’s editorial director at the time, shared this story: “While I was at the NSGA show in August of ’94, I picked up a sad, little, four-page newsprint sheet that was the official NSGA show daily newspaper. On the way back to the hotel on the shuttle bus with Michael Hodgson (Outdoor Retailer’s technical editor), I showed him the paper, and said something like, ‘Don’t you think we can do something better than this for our show?’ We both agreed that it was a no-brainer for the Outdoor Retailer business, and put our heads together thinking of the various areas of coverage that should be included. I made a pitch to our sales team, and the rest is history.”
  14. VIP visitors are a longstanding tradition. Robert F. Kennedy, Ken Burns, and Bill Walton are a few notables. And awesome music has been a part of the scene for many years, with shows by Macklemore, Michael Franti, Black Eyed Peas, Lyle Lovett, Capital Cities, and G. Love to name a few.
  15. On the heels of his astounding free solo of El Cap, Alex Honnold will regale the industry with stories at the OIA Industry breakfast on July 26 at 7:00 A.M. at the Downtown Marriott. Don’t miss it!