By Devin Felix, Utah Business – It’s a sign of the seasons in Salt Lake City. Just as blooming flowers mean spring and the changing leaves mean autumn, the arrival of flocks of men and women wearing puffy coats and lanyards downtown can only mean one thing: The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market has returned.
The annual outdoor trade show took place last week, from Thursday through Saturday, at the Salt Palace Convention Center, bringing tens of thousands of outdoor industry representatives and other visitors to Utah.
For the first time this year, the exhibition included the New Products Zone, where retailers of all types were able to display their new products in one location. This made it easier for buyers and industry journalists to focus on new items, said Kate Lowery, director of communications and public relations for Outdoor Retailer.
Lowery said this year’s winter show is about the same size as last year’s event. This year the event includes about 1,100 exhibitors, an increase over the 2013 winter show. Though exact numbers on attendance aren’t immediately available, organizers estimate more than 22,000 people attended the 2014 show.
The winter show is generally smaller than the summer market. The 2013 summer market included about 1,400 exhibitors and 28,000 attendees. Lowery said organizers are pleased with the turnout at recent shows, especially because they have become more selective in who is admitted to the show to ensure that serious buyers and industry representatives aren’t crowded out.
A big part of the reason the Outdoor Retailer markets continue to return to Salt Lake City is that attendees want the show to be there, Lowery said. Market organizers recently surveyed exhibitors and other frequent attendees and the result was clear. “The community was overwhelming in their support of staying in Utah,” she said. “It’s the core of the industry. Everyone loves to come here.”
That’s due in large part to the accessibility of skiing and other outdoor activities—members of the outdoor industry are among the most devoted users of outdoor recreation.
The Winter Market is a big part of the calendar for many Utah-based outdoor products companies. Voile Manufacturing, which is based in West Valley City, is one such company. The company has been in Utah since its founding in 1980. Mark Christopherson, production manager, said Voile has attended the Outdoor Retailer show consistently for at least 21 years because it is one of the best ways to connect with its main clients—shops that cater to devoted backcountry sportsmen and women. Voile designs and manufactures lightweight backcountry ski and snowboard equipment. The company is perhaps best known for its split boards, which can function as either a snowboard or skis to allow users to access backcountry areas.           
Outdoor Retailer is currently signed to continue at the Salt Palace through 2016.