Welcome to episode 286 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast with Outdoor Retailer Senior Vice President and Show Director Marisa Nicholson, brought to you this month by Thrive Market.
Marisa tells us about her experience as Show Director and how they’ve navigated the pandemic and are excited for the Outdoor Community to get back together in Denver.
How Marisa got introduced to the outdoors
When I was five I was first introduced to skiing and grew up my whole life snow skiing, and moved to Northern California at a very early age of seven and spent many summers up in Tahoe, camping, fishing obviously skiing throughout Utah.
We also grew up in Folsom and near the American River and we’d go rafting, boating on Folsom lake. So pretty much as many outdoor activities that we could possibly do, we would do throughout the year.
You’ve seen some pretty significant growth in the industry. How has that shaped the Show?
I started in 2003 and the show was in salt lake city at the time and it was actually really male-dominated and lacking a lot of diversity. I remember there were sayings like shrink it and pink it and everything seemed very traditional. Over the years we continue to grow and ultimately we outgrew the salt palace as more brands and retailers were emerging. There’s been a lot of blurring the lines between what was considered traditional outdoor. We introduced Venture Out, which really helped to bring in that modern, outdoor element. And I think, for me, what’s exciting is that next year we’re going to be celebrating our 40th anniversary and this is going to help, bring everybody back together, celebrating why we enjoy the outdoors so much and really helping to embrace the value of the human interactions again.
What is it about the show that makes it so special and valuable for the outdoor committee?
First, I love that you started the question by mentioning how many years you’ve been coming to the show because I recall every show that I go to, somebody will be like, this is my fifth show. This is my third or fourth show. So people love to say how many shows that they’ve gone to. It’s like a badge of honor, and it’s so fun.
When somebody says it’s our first show. Oh, wow. Like you want to live vicariously through them. But I think, for me, there’s just a certain magic that happens. Each year when the industry comes together it’s really hard to quantify.
So how’s the Summer Show shaping up? People are obviously ready to get back together in person? Are they going to be so excited to see each other that they’re going to, maybe lose focus on business, or what do you think that’s going to be like?
There’s a real dichotomy where we have incredible support from retailers that are ready to get back to meeting face to face. And, if you think about it, they’ve been on the front lines during this past year meeting their customers face to face.
So they’re ready for this. On the other hand, there’s still a lot of travel restrictions affecting both domestic and international brands, which are making it difficult for them to meet this year. That goes back to what I was saying before about this summer looking different. But for our team, we’ve been just super focused on how do we create an event that meets the needs of those brands and those retailers that can meet now. And how can we provide value to their businesses while still creating a safe environment for everyone to gather?
I was reading about the new Base Camp and Fresh areas of the show this year. What was the inspiration for those two zones?
Base Camp is it’s the outdoor lot that’s been used for several events across the street from the convention center. And so we wanted to be able to provide an outdoor space for people to meet up, grab a bite to eat, and have an area to host some of our evening events outdoors.
Fresh is an idea we’ve actually had for a while. It’s a dedicated space that will be on the show floor and it’s really highlighting first-time exhibitors. And we have over 125 new exhibitors for this show. But we had a jury selection to select highlighting brands that would fit into this area to provide an opportunity for retailers and journalists to truly discover new, which is such an important part of the show.
Venture out, debuted with a lot of enthusiasm a few years where you think a few years ago, do you think the same thing will happen for these two?
Yeah, definitely. Venture out has continued to thrive. It’s obviously a destination for everyone at the show and it’s a great space to see the latest in modern and outdoor trends in the outdoor. For this summer we have over 30 exhibitors featured in venture out. So there’ll be a great area again to convene. And our hope is for the Fresh zone to continue to have that same opportunity to give new brands, a bigger platform to stand out.
How are others using this show instead of actually writing orders?
Retailers are looking for at once products to fill their shelves. And we’ve seen the demand for outdoor gear, obviously, we were just talking about that. Also combined with the supply chain issues. I think that this August show provides an opportunity for retailers to connect with brands and again, to have those discovery moments to find, the products that they need. Also August does hit at the end of a traditional buying season.
What is your favorite outdoor gear purchase for under a hundred dollars?
I’m going to have to say my camp chair from travel chair. I really take it everywhere. It goes to the beach camping and to the baseball game.
Is there anything else you want to ask or say of our listeners?
Yeah. I would say we recognize the world has changed this past year and going forward there may be a need or a want to make changes in the way people show up at the show. Our team is here to support our community as we transition through this year. I think that the outdoor retailer team is a bunch of outdoor lovers. We’re biking, surfing, camping, skiing, paddling, backpacking, wakeboarding, you name it. We’re out there doing all of those activities and we’re so excited to see all the latest gear at the show, just like everyone else. I would say last, we’re here to support this industry and we want to help tell brands and stories, and we have different outlets, whether it’s our outdoor retailer magazine or the daily at the shows, just reach out to us and let us know how we can help you, get your story out to the community.