The Outdoor Retailer Show is one of the largest trade shows in the nation. Both the summer and winter show are in Salt Lake City, Utah, where buyers and vendors can hit the nearby mountains to try the goods.
The OR Show is also an accurate predictor of coming trends in the outdoor industry. The recent winter show was no exception. However, the overall coming trend is a huge change. For the first time ever, the city is influencing the outdoors when it comes to gear and accessories. The endless selection that marks the city has moved to outdoor products.
In the past decade, the outdoor industry has moved swiftly from a theme of survival (think of those cord-woven bracelets) to a theme of adventure, from products for the purist to outdoor-styled goods for urban life. In 2014, suddenly, it’s all about selection.
As these new goods hit the retail market, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, it will no longer be a simple thing even to buy a simple pair of socks. What do you want them for? There are socks for running, walking, working out, or working out at various levels. There are socks made of natural materials or blends or the newest tech in fabric.
One new fad will be base layers as outerwear. But those waffle-weaved thermals are history. Base layers today are sleek, like speed suits. If you’re in shape, you will WANT to hang out in them.
But even with base layers, consumers face a multitude of choices. Do you want muscle compression along with your base layer warmth and moisture wicking? Choose from base layers with compression for the whole lower body or just the leg, thigh or just the calf.
Shoes have also become much more complicated. Where there once were only a few athletic shoe specialists—Nike, Adidas, New Balance and so on—there are now many dozens, most offering hundreds of different shoes.
Mark Pabsek, of Merrell Shoes, explains the new explosion of more selection : “The Outdoor Industry is in a renewal phase. We have to target our core consumer as well as attract new and younger consumers.”
Pabsek says Merrell is doing exactly that. “We’re trying to build shoes for each one of those consumers separately. So we’re really trying to target different consumers, driven by activity levels. Some people may go on a multi-day hike, with a 65-pound pack on their back, others just want a quick hike where they can be back in time for dinner. Our shoes (also) have to stand up to everything Mother Nature can throw at them,” he says.
As a note of interest, there is also a social change which may predict a future trend in the general business world. The past decade has seen the growth of online shopping and the great narrowing of the survival zone for retail speciality stores. Many outdoor shops have closed. Competition between vendors has an increased intensity. The casual camaraderie of previous years has lessened to a startling degree.