Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show may be outgrowing Ogden

Jun 14 2013 - 2:21pm

Images

John Austen talks with Rick Spicer about Camelbak products during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday. The show represents the first opportunity for retailers from around the U.S. to check out the latest trends in virtually all categories of outdoor gear. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Evan Shapiro talks with vendors about Kuhl clothing during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
John Austen talks with Rick Spicer about Camelbak products during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Julissa Villegas-Downing talks with clients about Olukai footwear during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Julissa Villegas-Downing talks with clients about Olukai footwear during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
John Austen talks with Rick Spicer about Camelbak products during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday. The show represents the first opportunity for retailers from around the U.S. to check out the latest trends in virtually all categories of outdoor gear. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Evan Shapiro talks with vendors about Kuhl clothing during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
John Austen talks with Rick Spicer about Camelbak products during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Julissa Villegas-Downing talks with clients about Olukai footwear during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Julissa Villegas-Downing talks with clients about Olukai footwear during the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show in Ogden on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- At one display, John Pieper shows off the features of his company's new backpack/duffel bag hybrid.

A few stalls away, Mike Sullivan touts the benefits of Smartwool's new running clothing, designed and woven to maximize ventilation.

Such is the scene at the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance spring show, the first national outdoor industry trade show of the year.

The show represents the first opportunity for retailers from around the country to check out the latest trends and new developments in virtually all categories of outdoor gear -- and two months before the much larger, high-profile Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.

"It's the first time in the outdoor industry that these products are available," said Roanne Miller, president of Grassroots. "This is where the buying gets done."

Grassroots is a Park City-based organization representing 46 independent, specialty retailers with 98 storefronts nationwide. The group organizes trade shows every year in June and November, and the manufacturers hawking their wares range from major international brands to small niche companies.

"It's an early opportunity to show off next year's products," said Pieper, director of sales and marketing for the Salt Lake City-based backpack company Gregory Mountain Products.

"It's a great chance to start early. These small, independent shops really have their finger on the pulse of outdoor retail."

The Grassroots spring show, a private affair attended only by member retailers and invited manufacturers, has been going on for 13 years. It has moved around to several cities over the years and just wrapped up its third consecutive year in Ogden.

Jeremy Hancock, a representative for Camelbak, said the show provides a more intimate and personal setting than larger ones like Outdoor Retailer.

"We get to spend a lot of time with the specialty retailers, and work out special terms and programs for them," he said.

Attendees also get chances to explore Ogden's various outdoor activity offerings, including exploring local trails and climbing the Mount Ogden Via Ferrata course.

Hancock said he met someone who loaned him a fly-fishing rod, and he was planning to fish the portion of the Ogden River that runs through downtown.

Miller, who runs the group along with one other person from her Park City home, said Ogden was a natural choice after the show outgrew its previous home at Snowbird resort near Salt Lake City.

"It's very important to be in a location with an outdoor spirit," she said. "There's a small-town feel here that makes us feel welcome. The blue-ribbon fisheries, the trails -- it's all very intriguing, and it matches what we're all about."

She said a meeting with then-Mayor Matthew Godfrey sold her on the city's vision of becoming a mecca of outdoor recreation and the industry built around it.

"They really walk the walk with that vision and attitude," Miller said.

But while outgrowing one venue led to the show relocating to Ogden, it's growing to the point that it may have to look for an even larger venue in future years.

This week's show at Ogden Eccles Conference Center drew a record attendance of 330 people, who fully booked two local hotels and filled downtown restaurants all week.

"We want to stay in Ogden, but the challenge is, we're at maximum capacity in our exhibit space," Miller said. "It's going to be difficult to stay if we continue to grow."

She said there's a real sense of community among the people who attend, and they all like to eat meals together and stay in close proximity.

"We need a facility where 300-plus people can eat together."

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