Before I went to Outdoor Retailer I thought this show (and all trade shows) were synonymous with consumers. I assumed Outdoor Retailer was a place where every brand and manufacturer would show off their new gear to anybody and everybody that might want to see it. I was wrong. Outdoor Retailer isn’t a consumer show at all, it is specifically a trade show where the focus is to bring retailers and brands together in one spot, making business transactions easier.

The folks that attend are generally: manufacturers, outdoor distributors, brand reps, bloggers, designers, retailers, and non-profits. Everybody references the show as “OR” which can lead to a challenging learning curve while separating this OR from the clothing brand Outdoor Research’s OR acronym.

Below I’m listing the most asked questions WeighMyRack receives (and the advice we tend to give in return) when talking about the Outdoor Retailer trade show.

Since 2018, the show was moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Denver, Colorado.

When is the 2020 Outdoor Retailer trade show?

  • Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show: January 23 – 25, 2020
  • Outdoor Retailer Summer Market: June 23 – 25, 2020

When is the 2021 Outdoor Retailer trade show?

  • Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show: January 27 – 29, 2021
  • Outdoor Retailer Summer Market: June 15 – 17, 2021

Which Outdoor Retailer show should I attend?

Depends on your market, but if history repeats itself the Summer Shows are MUCH MUCH bigger than the Winter Shows. In the past the Winter Shows have seemed “slow” compared to the Summer Shows. If you can only afford one and your market isn’t winter-focused (ie, ski/board) then I always recommend the Summer Show.

What is Outdoor Retailer?

A quick distinction first, each year there are two shows, the Summer Show tends to exhibit products that will be available to consumers next summer. Similarly, the Winter Show most often showcases goods that will come out the following winter. The Winter Show always has less exhibitors than the Summer Show because less goods tend to be released when it’s cold out. Winter show = lots of skis, boards, and snowshoes and no SUP boards.

The goal of the trade show is for the outdoor brands/manufacturers to show all the retailers the new products and get orders from the retailers for the upcoming season. A secondary goal is getting media press of these new products so when the retailers start carrying these new products, consumers know about them, and want to buy them.

If you want specific show information (dates/badges), go to the official Outdoor Retailer website.

Before going to the trade show, you (the retailer/media person) set up appointments with each company you want to visit that exhibits–most appointments are for 30 min, possibly but less common is an hour. If you don’t have contact information for a company you want to visit, you can find the schedulers info on the Outdoor Retailer website, once you’re registered and logged in.

Time slots are limited, sometimes this is because there are only 2-5 representatives available. Some booths are staffed with a lot of people (like Black Diamond and Petzl) so it’s easy to walk up to their booths and see what’s going on and have an employee tell you about the new gear without an official appointment.

Want to see what climbing goods have been released at Outdoor Retailer in the past?

How does WeighMyRack attend OR?

WeighMyRack attends the tradeshow as “Internet Working Media.” Because of our traffic (2000+ monthly visitors was the minimum required when we signed up) and our content (stories of the brands who attend Outdoor Retailer + roundups of what we see at OR), we get a writer and a filmer in for free. If we didn’t have a media badge, we would not be able to walk around with our camera equipment and take photos.

When WeighMyRack had just started, before we had much traffic or unique content, I paid over $500 to attend as a Non-Buyer (this badge type includes folks with the titles of: Media Sales, Agencies, Consultants, and Non-Exhibiting Manufacturers). The main downside of the Non-Buyer badge is it’s a different color, which seems to identify you as someone to avoid talking with as you likely aren’t going to place an order or give them good press.

Can you buy gear at Outdoor Retailer?

For the most part, manufacturers do not have gear for sale at the trade show. Usually the showcased products are prototypes or pre-production units that the manufacturers are using to entice retailers to purchase for their shop. Often, the final production versions of the product do not exist during the show and will only become available 3-9 months in the future.

Occasionally there are items for sale that the manufactures don’t want to pack up and fly home, so they sell them for 20-50% off. Other brands might have a “deal sheet” where they have some particular gear they want to get out into the market so they sell it cheap.

As for free stuff, your schmoozing skills will directly correlate with the amount of free schwag you bring home. Schmoozing aside, any attendee will find it easy to grab free outdoor magazines and at least a pair or two of socks to bring home.

How can I (you) get into Outdoor Retailer?

The Outdoor Retailer website wording states OR is: a trade event and is not open to the public. All attendees must be active retailers, importers/distributors, or otherwise affiliated with the Outdoor industry in order to attend. 

Go to the Outdoor Retailer Badge Registration page to get the official details

  • If you’re willing to pay, and are in some sort of outdoor sales, or do consulting, or you’re a manufacturer that wants to set up appointments but doesn’t want to rent the booth space, you can pay around $500 to attend as a Non-Buyer.
  • If you write articles or take photos for outdoor brands you can attempt to get a “Media” badge by submitting your qualifying bylines.
  • If you’re a designer you can submit your invoices for work that you’ve done with the outdoor brands.
  • You might be able to convince a large publisher to put you “on assignment” to cover Outdoor Retailer. If so, you can get a Media badge as a Freelance Photographer or Freelance Writer on assignment for a major publication.
  • Otherwise, you’re left to making friends with an exhibiting manufacturer, as they can bring more people into the show at no cost.

Essentially, there is no “simple” (or cheap) way into the show if you’re not directly associated with the outdoor industry. The easiest way to get into the next show (if you currently don’t have a connection) if you’re a writer or photographer is to find places to guest-blog on different outdoor related websites.

What is the Outdoor Retailer show like?

Simply put: Organized Chaos. Lots of people, lots of products, lots of marketing talk.

An oldie, but a goodie, this video clip highlights the type of info we got from attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Show (2013) of gear that’s going to debut in 2014. Watch the video to hear the type of talk that is going non-stop at Outdoor Retailer:

What to expect at Outdoor Retailer

Before I went to my first Outdoor Retailer show I tried to google what it would be like. I was definitely nervous to enter a lion’s den of people I didn’t know.

An overwhelming majority of the advice centered around wearing comfortable shoes and staying hydrated. And it was clear that if you want to blend in, wear plaid (see the 50 Shades of Plaid for photographic evidence). I found myself frustrated at the blog posts that stated concrete advice such as: “don’t worry, something awesome will happen.”

Yet, that’s exactly what happened. My feet got sore, I didn’t drink enough water, and magic happened.

After fearing isolation, having no idea what actually went on, and slightly unsure of my role at the show, I spent the first day walking around the place to get my bearings. I practiced talking to folks and quickly figured out what was going on: business. Manufacturers come here to sell their products to retailers.

That first evening there was a gathering with food trucks, beer, and bands open to the OR attendees. After checking out the scene I was about to go home, already a bit overwhelmed from the day, my introvert tendencies kicking in, until I saw a guy I knew. I had taken an avalanche course with the American Alpine Institute (AAI), and my instructor was here. I went over to say hi, as this is the first person I’d seen that I knew, and before I realized what was going on, I was taken under the wings of Richard Riquelme (my instructor) and Jeff Voigt (the AAI shop manager).

They told me that I could just sit in on all their appointments and they’d introduce me to the folks they knew (people that I could hand my freshly printed business cards to!). They even got me a pass into the Reel Rock preview party (which, while walking to the event, we shared the same street corner with Alex Honnold).

The show quickly went from frightening and overwhelming to absolutely amazing as I quickly made connections thanks to the AAI guys. I got business cards from all the manufacturers that prepared me for the next show. It felt like magic. It’s easy to say I don’t know what I’d do without Richard and Jeff – they honestly made the show for me. Yet, in reality, there are endless opportunities to meet new friends, if the effort is made to put yourself out there.

What if I don’t know anybody?

If you’re an extrovert, you will not have a problem meeting people. If you’re an introvert, it may help to go on the internet beforehand and try making friends with other people who might be going. Tell them you’re a newbie and ask them if they have any time to show you around or any tips.

At the show you can find lots of friendly folks (especially those in media) by looking up OR hashtags (like #ORshow) and then you can easily stalk them on Facebook and Instagram to find some known-friendlies.

The easiest place to meet people is in the new exhibitor tents (summer only). The exhibitors here generally don’t have appointments like all the brands in the Salt Palace. They’re new too! Practice talking to people here as it’s a shame-free place to say it’s your first show and you’re not sure exactly what you’re doing (these exhibitors are feeling exactly the same way, they just have a few more peers to lean on for confidence).

The #1 conversation starter is: Where did you get that beer? Even if you’re not into beer, this is a sure-fire conversation starter, especially after 4pm. Everybody will be stoked to help a new friend with a parched throat. At this point you can decide to keep the conversation going depending on the detail and interest of the response.

My favorite way to meet new people is to play a game I’ve dubbed Suckerfish. The game premise is simple: Find one person you know and stick to them. That person will inevitably be more popular than you and know way more people at the show (many attendees have been coming for YEARS). When a new person comes up to your new friend, you get the introduction. At this point you transition to this new person, because that person knows even more new people to introduce you to! Remember… Suckerfish.

By playing Suckerfish you take all the work out of awkwardly introducing yourself to strangers. You’re given instant credibility as your popular new friends introduce you to their friends!

Want more tips about attending OR?

If you’re a media attendee, check out Calipidder’s 15 tips (by a 7 times show veteran)

If you’re a brand and want media coverage, check out: 9 tips for getting media from Celtic

Have any more questions? Write them in the comments and we’ll happily answer them!

Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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