The Trail Head buyers, Erin, Doug, John, and I just returned last week from the summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City. It is a whirlwind of 4-5 days of appointments on the hour, late night dinners followed by early morning meetings. We get to talk with the decision makers at companies, exercise our handshake and do some politicking. We also get to meet with other buyers in our buying group, the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, to compare notes. We all look a little worse for the wear by weeks end and the 8 hours in the car heading home is a long ride for everyone.
We get to see old friends and ex-employees who have gone on to do other things in the outdoor industry, try and get a feel for what is trending up and down and try and make deals that will bring you, our customers the best in new products and good values. So here is a brief synopsis of what we saw.
The joke in the show was plaids, thousands upon thousands of plaid shirts in the aisles. I wore 3 standards as did Doug and John, well us and 10,000 other guys who all buy clothes from the same handful of vendors. Not may suits in the aisles, but if you were from another planet, it is entirely possible that you would believe plaids had some magical powers like the undies so prevalent in Utah.
What else? The aisles were packed with over 70 brands of SUP’s (that’s a “stand up paddle board” for those of you who have been under a rock for a year or two). Sups that look like old school surfboards and cost more than my first 2 cars combined. Sups that are long fast and racy made of Carbon fiber and look like a cross between a Missile and the lines on a super fast kayak. Boards that inflated to 2”, 4 “ and 6”. Boards made of foam and covered in at least 6 different composite materials, or just a thin vinyl cover. Oh yeah boards that looked like Kayaks, Kayaks that looked like boards, Kayaks that the seat folded down and made a board, even signature models from several “famous” guys. Oh yeah and a board that had a way to attach a Lawn Chair so you could sit…..
So 70 brands each with a dozen or more models to wade through. How did we narrow it down?
We looked hard at a handful of things; user, intended use, performance, price, durability, storage. Then we asked a lot of questions, found some folks could not answer, like the simplest of things, construction, we passed. Shipping to Montana $200 or more, pass. Prices approaching a year of college, cool but we passed on stocking a dozen of those.
Look for an assortment of boards from us next year that are a matrix of all of these things, and try out boards that are as varied as the folks who are on them. While we won’t have them all, over 1000 models is my guess, we will have a great assortment of quality boards at a great price that might even fit in a tiny little car if it needs to.
While boards were the dominating feature of the show, we also found some great new shoes, updated backpacks, some new climbing gear, and lots of cool new boating accessories. When spring rolls around we hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor. Now, just enough time to review all those ski orders we placed 8 months ago…..