As the 2014 Outdoor Retailer shows comes to a close, and we put Canoe Kentucky into drive for the 2015 season, we thought we might offer some thoughts about the show and the great new trends and gear in our sport.
First, it may not be known well enough what the Outdoor Retailer, or OR, show consists of. OR is the largest gathering in the United States of outdoor retailers, manufacturers, media and vendor reps. It is hosted by the city of Salt Lake City each year, usually around the first week of August. Top brands and small start ups alike have a five day opportunity to market, sell, show, demo and explain the product offerings they are releasing for the next season. Shops around the country and the world use this opportunity to plan and order their inventory for the next season, as well as network with other shop owners who share a passion for the outdoor industry.
Canoe Kentucky attempts to attend this show on a five year basis. On years that we are not able to travel to SLC, we attend smaller regional shows that highlight the new gear as well, but do not put nearly as much production into it. Some of the "booths" at the OR show are two and three story structures that literally take weeks to assemble! The reason for only attending every five years is one, it is not inexpensive to attend, and two, there is so much to see the actual working side of placing orders is normally done after the show. We feel that every five years keeps us energized and allows us to keep a pulse on where the industry is and where it is heading.
This year's gathering was no different on the pomp and show. In fact, it was even bigger than years past, and the 1.7 million square feet of the Salt Lake Palace was not enough to hold it all. Three huge Outdoor Pavilions were erected to house numerous smaller start up companies.
Upon arrival, we knew we needed to keep our heads down and focus on the paddle sports side of the outdoor industry as it becomes very tempting to shop for yourself and not for your future customer. We did this by arranging meetings on a very rigorous schedule with companies we have carried and are looking into joining ranks with. This began on day 1 as we went to the Outdoor Demo and were able to test drive numerous new kayaks and SUP boards from Jackson Kayaks, Bic SUP, Dagger, Mad River Canoe and Nucanoe. There were two boats that stood out to us as game changers for Canoe Kentucky. Those were the Jackson Kayaks thermoformed version of the Cuda, the Cuda LT, and the newest Jackson kayaks recreational kayak which has yet to be named. These two boats fit directly into the Canoe Kentucky family, and will make great additions for customers looking for lightweight, performance-oriented kayaks.
The actual show began on Wednesday, and it was huge! Unless you are able to attend the show, it is impossible to explain just how much there is to look at. We tried our best to stay on focus, but items like solar power phone chargers, instant fire starters, super bright flashlights and the latest in outdoor shoes can make it a daunting task!
One of the noticeable trends at the show this year was the continual growth of Stand Up Paddleboarding. It seems like numerous new companies come out every year trying to market the best of "something." Inflatables, composites, multiple person, whitewater, racing, and on and on. Every type was displayed. Also, tons of new gadgets are out to make it even more accessible and easy. SUP Yoga seems to be a big driver in the sport right now. Along with that, the accessibility to women seems to be continually growing. Another obvious trend was the evolution of the fishing kayaks. Years ago, fishing kayaks were just kayaks that we added rod holders to. Now, the wider boats, stand up ability, big framed seats, tracks, anchors, depth finders, etc., are all common-place and factory installed. There does not seem to be a ceiling on the activity anywhere in sight. Stay tuned for Part #2 of our Outdoor Retailer Wrap-up!