Big changes are afoot in the outdoor industry calendar. The Outdoor Retailer trade show, held three times a year in Denver, will drop from four days to three during its June Summer Market and November Winter Market shows. And the bike industry’s annual trade show, Interbike, has been killed, at least for 2019 and likely beyond. Both shows are owned and operated by Emerald Expositions in San Juan Capistrano, California.
“We have made the decision not to proceed with the event that had been scheduled for Reno in 2019,” Darrell Denny, executive vice president at Emerald, told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.
“We are not going to bake the same cake again…It became pretty clear (after surveying the industry this fall) that the market has changed quite a bit. We need to look at how we can serve the market in a pretty different way. It will have to be pretty cost-efficient, with inexpensive travel…As we got closer to the end of the year, we realized that companies needed to be able to budget for it, so we wanted to reach out before the end of the year.”
Trade shows were once a back-end operation generally hidden from consumers, but in the last decade have become newsmakers in their own right. Several years ago, Outdoor Retailer became a major chess piece in the battle over public lands, as industry organizers threatened to relocated from its longtime home in Salt Lake City if Utah’s public officials didn’t act as better stewards for conservation and public access to recreation opportunities. Utah refused to change, and OR was moved to Denver for the first time in January 2018.
Along with the move to Denver came an increase in the number of Outdoor Retailer shows, with the addition of a November show. The idea was that an autumn show gave footwear and apparel manufacturers, which have longer production lead times than hard goods, a more fortuitous calendar for closing deals with retailers. That show had half the exhibitors of the summer show and was sparsely attended, however. And while some brands saw success, there was notable and vocal pushback.
Peter Sachs, general manager of Lowa, told industry trade publication SNEWS that smaller brands felt hosed by larger ones. “To me the disappointment in this show is the companies that have pushed for early dates and pushed us to move to Denver and asked for a bigger convention center, are the companies that are not here,” he said. “So Patagonia, The North Face, Arc’teryx, Columbia, Marmot, etc.: With all due respect, F.U. very much.”
The cost for a mid-level brand to exhibit with a smallish booth can run $100,000 for the space, the booth materials, and travel and lodging for staff. For a large brand, it’s well north of that, and adding the third shows increases costs by half again.
Shellie Dunbar of Sea to Summit told SNEWS, “I’m glad we weren’t exhibiting. It’s such a huge investment to be an exhibitor. Three big shows a year is too much. You’re splitting everything up and how can retailers possibly attend them all? Who is this three-show format for? The brands and retailers or the company making money from all these trade shows?”
Sea to Summit now will only exhibit at the summer show, she said. “Instead of spending well into six figures per show to have big booths three times a year, we’ll take the money we save spend more on marketing or offer better discounts for our retailers.”
Interbike’s death has been a long time coming. First launched in 1982, it bounced from Las Vegas to Anaheim, California, and back to Vegas before moving to Reno in 2018, a move that was widely panned. Changes in the structure of retailing have reduced its importance, regional shows compete with it, and the spring Sea Otter Classic, as well as the North American Handmade Bicycle Show offer alternatives for retailers to see new stuff. Trump administration tariffs on Chinese-made products is also hitting the industry.
“The past four years have been difficult for the U.S. bicycle market,” said Denny, in a press release. “The substantial increase in tariffs on bike related imports during 2018, and announced for 2019, is compounding these challenges. As a result, we are rethinking how to best serve the cycling industry and will conduct a review of the possible timing, locations and formats with dealers, brands, distributors, reps, designers and media over the coming months. Our goal is to develop and deliver thoughtful solutions which provide strong returns on investment for all industry participants.”
While retailers have lots of other options for seeing new gear, some bike non-profits will be hurt by the show’s demise. The Interbike show contributed a substantial amount to PeopleForBikes—hundreds of thousands of dollars—and also to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. That money has now dried up.
2019 Outdoor Retailer Show Dates
• Snow Show: January 30-February 1
• Summer Market: June 18-20; Demo Experience: June 17
• Winter Market: November 5-7