At its most basic, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market is a business trade show during which manufacturers display products inside the sprawling Salt Palace Convention Center to buyers for retail stores who must decide what to stock on their shelves.
But the big show, one of Utah’s most important outdoor economic drivers, is more than that.
It’s the place where government officials such as Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell come to network and speak. It’s a venue where politicians such as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert receive awards for their contributions to the industry. And it presents an opportunity for outdoor companies, environmentalists, politicians and the media to network during parties, educational seminars and product showcasing events.
The Winter Market, which is expected to draw 22,000 people, experienced a “soft opening” Tuesday at Solitude where the annual All Mountain Demo kicked off the event.
Trying gear before buying it is valuable to retailers, Kenji Haroutunian, the show’s director, said about the demo day during which buyers testing cutting-edge products in Big Cottonwood Canyon. “It’s one thing to be dazzled by the story, but it’s the experience that drives home a product’s value,” he said. “Delivering that experience back to the shop employees and customers drives the ‘authenticity’ factor, which is increasingly crucial for specialty retailers.”
Later Tuesday evening, the Outdoor Industry Association was scheduled to honor Herbert at its Advocacy Leadership Awards Celebration at the Salt Lake City Marriott. Herbert was to be feted for his 2013 efforts to promote the outdoor recreation industry.
The show gets under way Wednesday when the Salt Palace opens for business at 9 a.m. with thousands walking the aisles to examine new products through Saturday at the closed-to-the-public event.
Prior to that, Jewell is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at breakfast at the City Creek Marriott Hotel. The former CEO of recreation retailer REI, she is expected to address the need for the private sector to work with government to promote the economic importance of conservation and outdoor recreation.
She also is expected to talk more about her goal of providing 100,000 work and training opportunities to young people and veterans on public lands. Jewell has set a target of raising $20 million from private partners to support the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps by 2017. American Eagle Outfitters recently committed $1 million to that program.
Plenty of other events during the week will keep Outdoor Retailer Winter Market visitors engaged.
These include a New Product Zone, a runway fashion show, an industry party, the Outdoor Inspiration Awards Banquet, a backcountry business forum and several competitions. Much of the business also is conducted at networking events or at bars and restaurants throughout downtown Salt Lake City.
Combined with the Sundance Film Festival, which continues through Saturday, Outdoor Retailer marks one of the busiest times of year for Salt Lake and Park City-area hotels and restaurants.
The Winter Market, coupled with the larger Summer Market show, will bring millions of dollars to the state as it has for years.
It is estimated that direct delegate spending will generate more than $20 million before the Winter Market ends. Since the Summer and Winter Market shows moved to Salt Lake in 1996, the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research estimates that direct delegate spending by Outdoor Retailer attendees has totaled more than $468 million, accounting for nearly $43.6 million in city, county and state taxes. The average delegate spends $923 while attending a convention in Salt Lake City.
“Salt Lake is the ideal location for the Outdoor Retailer conventions,” Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said. “Convention -goers benefit our local economy when they eat in our restaurants, ski at our resorts and shop in our stores.”
Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of the OIA, said every state should have an economic strategy for outdoor recreation.
“Right now, policy makers are considering devastating budget cuts to public lands funding that could ripple for years and negatively affect the outdoor businesses that depend on them,” he said. “It’s more important than ever to make the link between a well-funded and well-managed national outdoor recreation system and the economic contributions that outdoor recreation makes to local communities.”
Outdoor industry and the economy
Utah • Outdoor recreation contributes $12 billion annually to the state’s economy, supports 122,400 jobs, generates $846 million in annual state and local tax revenue and provides $3.6 billion annually in wages and salaries.
Nationwide • The outdoor industry is responsible for 6.1 million in direct American jobs, $646 billion in direct consumer spending, $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $39.7 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Source • Outdoor Industry Association