Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2015
Venture Out celebrates 1 year anniversary with major growth; Made in the USA & A focus on Consumer Responsibility Key Product Themes
Outdoor Retailer's Summer Market Trade Show concluded in Salt Lake City over the weekend after 4 days of product showings, parties, demos, workshops, discussions and meetings.
This show marked the 1st anniversary of the Venture Out Zone, which is curated to connect specialty outdoor retailers with brands like Poler, OurCaste, Iron & Resin, Topo and many others that attract a more youthful and urban consumer.
Venture Out debuted last summer with 16 brands and showed remarkable growth with 53 participating exhibitors at this summer's show. The retention rate for participation, according to curator Scott McGuire of The Mountain Lab, is around 90%.
Poler has participated in Venture Out since its inception and the brand showcased their upcoming collaboration with heritage brand Pendleton. The towel, tent, poncho, knapsack and wool blanket will drop during holiday 15. Rumor has it, there’s a possibility of an upcoming Nike collab.
Poler founder Benji Wagner takes a long-term approach when it comes to this show. "We're a new brand, it will take time to build awareness," he said. He hopes to help retailers connect with a younger audience and build on the brand's success in primarily boutique and action sports distribution channels. Poler's product offering for spring delivers what retailers have come to expect from the brand. We saw fresh, modern takes on throwback prints and was pleased to see an increase in SKU's in their women's category.
Casual streetwear that suits an urban environment was evident elsewhere. The OurCaste crew debuted their new line for spring, which showcased custom knit jacquards, clean design lines, a muted color palette and added performance. Expect moisture-wicking properties on denim and antimicrobial coatings on tops for added value in their trend-forward line.
Many brands in attendance were telling a Made in America story. From Topo to Iron & Resin, to OR newcomers Shwood and Duckworth, brands in this space are looking for ways to offer premium products with a point of differentiation. Products made in America perhaps offer a touch point for national pride, but primarily, in this space, it seems to offer a more personal connection to product. It's not just about jobs, but creating connection and valuing the artisanal quality of making something.
James Williams at Topo noted that boutique and specialty retailers are seeking out made in America goods to curate as a unique merchandizing story. This is a good thing for brands like Shwood, who manufacture their eyewear using high quality Italian acetate in their warehouse in Portland, Oregon.
At Duckworth, Montana-raised wool was spun into some of the softest materials felt at the show. They offer retailers unique fabrics like a waffle knit blend of nylon and wool that has a cotton hand to it. Other innovations included insulator vests filled with wool and a wool poly blend that is lightweight and selling well in their boxer brief style. They offered cozy and cool silhouettes for both men and women that are 100% made in the USA.
The influence of heritage brands continues to be felt in subtle ways throughout the lines showcased in Venture Out. At Iron & Resin, the throwback Americana vibe is about more than offering a premium made in America product. Jackson Chandler pointed out workwear design details that offer functional protection for motorcyclists and give customers products with a longer lifespan. Their collaboration with Danner Goods will be limited to 400 pairs of boots, a lightweight jacket, and coordinating 5-panel cap.
Limited runs of products were seen elsewhere on the show floor. At newcomer Swrve, the brand offers limited short runs of Made in America product for cyclists who prefer denim to spandex. Their most popular products aren't made in America, but include incredibly durable cordura cotton blend denim in 3 fit silhouettes with reflective trims and the reasonably priced Milwaukie Jacket, which retails for $150.
Other notable newcomers to Venture Out included Kickstarter success Rumpl and their DWR-coated technical blankets, which have been embraced by the festival set, car camping surfers, and anyone who likes a spontaneous picnic or couch-surfing mission.
Action sports industry veterans Electric and Mizu joined Venture Out for the first time this summer and were pleased with the response.
"Retailers who we never would have met have stopped by the booth," said Tim Pogue at Mizu. The brand launched their new steel-topped line of water bottles at the show.
A new product line at Electric also debuted. Their S-Line offers the next level of functionality with lighter weight frames designed to slip less and offer versatile performance for a variety of activites.
Product innovations were abound, but an overall ethos of philanthropy encompassed Venture Out and the main halls of the trade show. Perhaps born out of industry-leader Patagonia's historical business practices, or simply inspired by preserving the outdoor space that exhibitors recreate in, the desire to create positive change in the world was more than just a marketing story.
Coalatree’s approach to products is directly influenced by their origins as an organic farm. Work-wear inspired styles for men and women we saw use sustainable materials and organic products wherever possible.
Jungmaven's tie-dye event each day of the show encouraged buyers and attendees to appreciate the hemp products that they provide as part of a larger goal to increase reliance on hemp as a more sustainable alternative to cotton or paper. For their 10-year anniversary, they are launching a 10 oz. tee as well as a 10-year guarantee on their products.
A desire to promote, protect, and preserve open spaces inspires the crew at Parks Project, where T-shirt sales help fund projects in our nation's parks. Goods are made in L.A., backed by the National Park Service and currently sell well at Urban Outfitters, with REI planning to sample their wares in an upcoming pop up shop at their flagship Seattle location.
This desire to make a change for the better through commerce continued beyond the walls of Venture Out, with new D to C brand Cotopaxi, Fair Trade Certified shoe manufacturers Oliberté, and through philanthropic ventures at Patagonia and other brands.
With all of this growth in Venture Out and established brands taking notice, the question begs to be asked, how should growth be managed? For smaller independent brands the attention is welcome and necessary and for established brands the energy is enticing. Continuing to curate Venture Out and retain the community vibe of earlier shows will be the markers of success. For now, it's the freshest thing at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show and the future looks bright.