The Show Itself: Upbeat yet Uncertainty Remains

This was the second go ‘round of the industry-combined Outdoor Retailer Snow Show, and while not as bustling as its 2018 debut, this year’s trade gathering was generally upbeat. Reports of strong outerwear sales, along with other categories trending up gave execs reason to cheer. Fleece “sweatshirts” grew almost seven percent to $123 million in the past year, and flannel shirts, a wardrobe staple of today’s active lifestyle crowd, continues a top seller. Cold weather is good for the outdoor business and with the Midwest in the grip of a polar vortex the week of OR, show goers were optimistic about the year ahead.

Textile Innovation in the apparel segment centered on softgoods and sustainability. From established brands to start ups, advancing eco action was a common conversational thread. “A robust supply chain is a sustainable supply chain,” said Kevin Myette of bluesign who spoke to an attentive audience during SIA’s Industry + Intelligence seminar series. Patagonia promoted performance + Fair Trade practices as a new way of making clothes, and at the “Small Batch Sustainability” discussion held in Venture Out a standing room crowd of young maker entrepreneurs were keen to learn how a minute-size dollar investment in responsible business methods can pay off big down the road. Unifi announced its second annual Champions of Sustainability awards; 68 brand, textile, and retail partners have helped the company recycle more than 14 billion bottles that get made into the company’s Repreve performance fiber.

Despite positive headwinds, uncertainty remains within the textile community when it comes to OR. Most supplier budgets can’t support a Denver show expense in triplicate and execs continue to grapple with what’s the best bet going forward with the three-show schedule in 2019. Word is that OIA is not helping textile firms sort this out; for instance, suppliers remain concerned that if they “miss” a show, their coveted booth space will be up for grabs. Some have downsized – Gore-Tex held court in a meeting room, for example. Conflict with ISPO dates also played a role in more textile execs walking this show; in fact there was a noticeable uptick in business conducted in aisles, a trend some say will become the norm. The 4pm Denver flight to Munich was the OR to ISPO express.

Next up: Outdoor Retailer Summer Market June 17-20, 2019.