Outdoor Retailer buyers look for innovation off beaten track
In a retail world filled with basic sleeping bags, tents, flashlights, water bottles and climbing gear, finding something different at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show can be a challenge.
That's why manufacturers assigned to the three huge pavilions on North Temple separated from the main Salt Palace Convention Center often find themselves surprised at the interest their often new and innovative inventions receive from retail buyers.
This year, for example, the tents are the place to find a solar-battery powered gadget that works as a flashlight, portable lantern and cellphone charger; purses designed to hold a concealed weapon; an ACE bandage-type tape that provides a cold compress without needing to be refrigerated; or an ax designed by a famous lighter company that does four different camping tasks.
Several sales people working in the netherworld of the pavilions said they were pleasantly surprised at how busy they have been.
"We were skeptical when we were assigned here," said Barry Vickers of WallUp, who greeted those who made it to the northwest corner of the most remote pavilion by thanking them for making the long trek to his booth. There, he introduced them to an easy-to-assemble shelter from wind and sun.
"But we could not be happier. If we had any more business, we would have had to have hired more people."
Terry Peterson of St. George-based HybridLight, a company that makes solar-powered products, including the combination flashlight-lantern-charger, viewed being in the tent as a positive.
"People come here searching for new products," he said. "And that's us."
Marty Ours of Zippo said the company, mainly-known for lighters and hand warmers, loved being grouped with manufacturers specializing in new camping products. That's because the company was introducing a waterproof, floating, shockproof lantern and an ax that also can be used as a saw, tent stake puller and mallet.
"We're happy over here," he said. "We were nervous because we were the third tent all the way down. But the quantity of our customers met our expectations. We wouldn't hesitate to be here again."
Jeff Dubak of Cool'ntape, the bandage-like tape that provides cold compression pain relief therapy with no need for freezers, said when he came to his first show this year and saw his booth space, he figured it would rate a three or four on a scale of 10. After three days, he said he'd rate it as a seven or eight.
A few, though, would have felt better being in the convention center with the more mainstream outdoor gear.
"We thought it might be difficult but it's been OK," said Drew Sfurgaras of DiscoBed, a bunk-like cot system. "I would love it if they could get more space and expand the convention center."
Regan Muir of Kelly Kettles said that traffic hadn't been as good as last year.
James Li of California-based Emperia, which manufacturers fashion as well as camouflage-colored purses with pockets designed to carry a concealed pistol, said many of the potential major retail buyers were having difficulty finding his booth in the pavilion.
Others, though, reflected the thoughts of first-time convention-participant Michele Seiler of Field Notes, a speciality outdoor notebook company with a new product that is a waterproof and tear-proof.
"We've done really well," she said. "It's nice that all the new products are in our space."
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, a not-open-to-the-public trade show, ends its 2013 run Saturday. The trade show included about 1,300 exhibiting brands and 27,000 attendees.