Feb 21, 2017
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Outdoor Retailer pulls out of Utah

Feb 21, 2017

What a difference a few days makes! Last week, organizers of the Outdoor Retailer show, the US’s largest semi-annual trade show for the outdoor industry, announced that after 20 years, they were considering leaving Utah and seeking a new venue.

Under pressure from some its major exhibitors over concerns about state environmental politics, Outdoor Retailer will be pulling its show from Utah.

While Show Director Marisa Nicholson had announced in a statement last Monday that the show would remain in Salt Lake City through 2018, that plan unraveled on Thursday.

​After a conference call between Utah's Governor Herbert, trade show organizers, and representatives from Patagonia, REI, and The North Face on Thursday, Nicholson announced that they would not be accepting RFPs from the state of Utah, indicating that the show would definitely be leaving the state. "Salt Lake City has been hospitable to Outdoor Retailer and our industry for the past 20 years, but we are in lockstep with the outdoor community and are working on finding our new home," Nicholson stated.

In recent weeks, several major brands, including Patagonia, had pledged to pull out of the Outdoor Retailer show in protest of Governor Herbert’s lack of support for the outdoor industry in his state. Most recently, Herbert had asked President Trump to undo federal protections that former president Barack Obama granted in late December to Bears Ears, a sacred ancestral Pueblo site in southeastern Utah, sparking the current outrage from the outdoor industry.  In response, Outdoor Retailer organizers announced that were accepting RFPs for new venues.  
Arizona and Colorado are reportedly among the states who are courting the show, which contributes millions of dollars to Utah’s economy every year.  In a statement, Amy Roberts from Outdoor Industry Association, the leading trade association for the outdoor industry and the title sponsor of Outdoor Retailer said: “Over the last 20 years, Outdoor Retailer has been in Salt Lake City, generating more than $45 million in annual economic impact.” 

Roberts added in the statement: “Further, the outdoor recreation economy in Utah adds more than $12 billion in direct spending, supports 122,000 jobs in the state, pays $3.6 billion in salaries and wages, and contributes more than $856 million in state and local tax revenue every year. We believe these numbers and our values will be of great interest to other states in the West.”
Paul Edwards, Herbert’s deputy chief of staff, called the decision by the Outdoor Industry Association to prevent Salt Lake City from bidding for the Outdoor Retailer Summer and Winter Market “offensive.”
He added that Utah had contributed much to the show’s success over the past 20 years. “It reflects a gross ingratitude to a community that has embraced the Outdoor Retailer show, subsidizing its success and expansion through direct investment — let alone extraordinary hospitality.”
Trade show organizers, along with the Outdoor Industry Association and the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance will be reviewing proposals, evaluating criteria including facilities, hotels, transportation, labor costs and the degree to which the host city aligns with the outdoor industry’s core values. The search is expected to take between 2 or 3 months.
“We are doing the work necessary to procure an alternative location for Outdoor Retailer,” said OR show director Nicholson. “Though we may wish it different, this is far from a snap of the fingers thing to make happen. Convention centers and hotels are not sitting idle. In every instance at every potential venue, there are hurdles that have to be cleared and that simply cannot be done overnight. We expect that our current proposal process, which we initiated before any of the company withdrawal announcements last week, will take between 60 and 90 days."

Outdoor Retailer's decision is already having a domino effect, with other shows leaving Utah as well.  Darrell Denny, EVP Emerald Expositions, the company that owns Outdoor Retailer, announced that “Emerald Expositions will also not extend the request for proposal to Utah for relocating the Interbike tradeshow.”


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