OutDoor takes on the market

David Pittman reports on a vibrant, if reportedly quiet, OutDoor show.

The official statistics say OutDoor 2011 was a record-breaking show, both in terms of exhibitors and visitor numbers.

As to be expected, the first two days of the show felt busier from the floor than the second, which fell on a weekend. It was also notable the increased number of children in attendance at the show on the Saturday and Sunday. Nonetheless, response from exhibitors was mostly positive.

From Jerry Ranger, chief executive of Powertraveller, to Adidas spokesperson Amanda Ellison, the reaction was that OutDoor 2011 was a good show with lots to talk about and much business to be done.

Many noted that the draw of meeting new customers was not as great as the ability to touch base with existing partners and suppliers.

“It was a good show for many reasons,” said Andy MacAuley, creative director at Aquapac. “It was a great forum for us to showcase our products, and afforded us the opportunity to meet our partners and suppliers all in one place.”

Hamish Ogilvie, sales and marketing director at Grangers, said: “It has been a good opportunity for us to talk to our distributors and grow our contacts in Europe. Our European business is going really well and we have worldwide partners, so the fact that OutDoor has grown to become a global show means it is the key summer outdoor show for us.”

Greig Barclay of P2i, the company behind the ion-mask nano coating technology, said: “We’ve been to the show to meet potential partners before, but this is our first year exhibiting outright. We’ve found that people have been intrigued by our stand as they knew the product but were less aware of us as a company.

“We’ve also seen people visiting the stand more than once and often returning with colleagues and partners of theirs.”

Around the halls there was plenty of opportunities to try out products and equipment, from rock climbing, trail running and slacklining exhibitions, to on-stand demos and giveaways from freeze-dried food manufacturers.

Some also took advantage of the captive audience to highlight the way their technologies can be demonstrated to customers through ‘retail theatre’, as it was described by Dan Trapp, Columbia’s UK and Ireland country manager.

Columbia was one of the key exhibitors using live demonstrations to drive home its product developments, as with Omni- Freeze Ice and Omni-Dry.

Footwear brand Teva used vegetable oil and an angled platform to show how its J-Step traction system improves grip by breaking the surface tension of a liquid compared to a traditional sole.

Others were less enthusiastic though, with Go Travel, Highlander and Jack Wolfskin noting it felt quieter than at previous shows.

Alan Perrins, Jack Wolfskin UK and Ireland country manager, said: “We’re disappointed as it has been quite a quiet show for us.

“All of our representatives have been busy meet with existing retailers and partners. This kind of show is less about picking up new clients and more about us showcasing the brand and telling the industry what we are all about.”

Tim Butcher, brand manager at Trekmates, said: “We know who we want to do business with, so it’s less about the walk-ons. Our guys have been busy though as they had meetings already booked in.

“It’s important that we arrange meetings with people prior to the show as we can’t afford to come to an event like this and wait to see what happens; if we did that we’d fail as a business pretty quickly.”