What Really Happens at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City?

Friday was my first day to attend the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Trade Show in Salt Lake City. This is the largest trade show for the outdoor sport industry. You must show credentials to attend the show and they check badges at every door. Since so few people from outside the industry ever see the inside, I'll share a little bit about what actually happens inside the OR show.

As I read up on OR before I got here, I saw articles about how much business is actually taking place during the show and I also read articles about how it is a fun party atmosphere. So which is it? Both.

I tagged along with a few of the Sierra Trading Post buyers to get a feel for what is going on behind closed doors at Outdoor Retailer. It was difficult even catching up with these guys and gals. They have appointments set up every hour or half hour all day long. STP Buyer, Bryan Vernetsen said, "We've got 14 buyers here and we're booked 8 am to 6 pm. We're really busy, super busy."

Sierra Trading post Buyers Meet with New Balance

I asked a few Brand Reps how the show was going and they almost all replied with how busy they were and how many deals are getting done at the show. It is clear that this isn't just a place to show of new products but an opportunity to make new connections, build relationships, and move some product.

Band playing inside the show

But wait. While there is a lot of work getting done, we're all in the outdoor industry because we like to play. There are climbing walls, pools for trying kayaks, fly casting in parking lots, slack lines, hammocks and more ways to get your mind off work for a few minutes.

Then 4:00 pm hits and people start to relax a little. Vendors start pulling out coolers full of bottled beer. A few vendors, like our friends at Big Agnes, started pouring beer straight from the keg. Other booths featured live bands. Not one guy on guitar but entire bands set up right in the show. The folks at Teva even had a live DJ playing in their booth.

So I guess it is all true. The Outdoor Retailer (OR) is all about working hard and playing hard. Tons of products are sold yet lots of fun is had. That is what makes OR such a huge success.


DJ rocking the afternoon party
Andy Hawbaker
posted by
Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
Join the Conversation