top of page

Outdoor Retailer Strikes Back with Sean Smith

Last November the show director of Outdoor Retailer, Sean Smith, joined THE ROCK FIGHT to tell Colin why the stalwart outdoor industry trade show was going to make a comeback starting in June of 2024.

And if you listened to Colin's instant reaction of the June 2024 edition of Outdoor Retailer you know that Sean and his team delivered.

Sun Bum: Winner of the coveted Booth MacGyver "I Approve" award at ORSM24

Today on THE ROCK FIGHT (an outdoor podcast that aims for the head) Sean returns to talk about how things went in Salt Lake City, how they intend to ride the momentum into the winter show, and offer his reaction to Switchback joining the June 2025 trade show slate.

Head to and sign up for News From the Front, Rock Fight's weekly newsletter!

Please follow and subscribe to THE ROCK FIGHT and give us a 5 star rating and written review wherever you get your podcasts.

Have a question or comment for a future mailbag episode? Send it to or send a message on Instagram or Threads.

Thanks for listening! THE ROCK FIGHT is a production of Rock Fight, LLC.

Choose Your Player

Apple Podcasts



Episode Transcript

Colin (00:00):

Welcome to the Rock Fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head. I'm Colin Tru, and today the director of the famed Outdoor Industry trade Show Outdoor Retailer Sean Smith returns to the rock Fight. The follow up the conversation that we had last November. We talk about how the show went compared to what he said would happen the last time he was on the podcast, what to expect for the Winter Show and his reaction to the addition of Switchback to next June's trade show Slate. We talk about how the show went compared to what he said, what happened the last time he was on the podcast, what to expect for the Winter show and his reaction to the addition of Switchback to next June's trade show slate. But before we get to that, we need your help. Listener engagement is the best method for your favorite podcast to grow. So if you like the rock bite, help us out with a five star rating and if you're listening on Apple Podcasts, please leave a written review. Anyone who sends proof of their rating or review on any podcast platform, you send it to my rock You're going to get a sticker. That's right. We're expanding the promo, so please support the rock fight and then we'll start the show. Welcome,

Chris DeMakes (01:12):

Fight, fight.

Colin (01:15):

So lots of trade show talk around here the past few months, which actually tracks because even when Outdoor Retailer was at its apex, all we talked about was its value and what it should really focus on. Much like a group planning and adventure together, it seems that how we plan our gatherings in the outdoor industry, we'll likely continue to be somewhat divisive unless of course those gatherings can give you a good answer to the question, why do you exist and what value do you serve? As I spoke about in my instant reaction to Outdoor Retailer a few weeks back, which if you haven't listened to yet, you're missing out on my full on Covid voice. Seriously, guys, that covid voice really a thing to behold the show that happened this past June, it had a vibrancy and a purpose that I don't recall ever finding at or and since Sean Smith, the director of Outdoor retailer, was good enough to come on the show last November after I suggested that we were in the end days of this classic event, it seemed only right to bring him back to talk about why this iteration of the show worked so well and how he and his team plan to use this momentum going forward.


And of course we also talk about the low to June trade show slate and his reaction to the announcement of switchback. So welcome back to the Rock Fight where today we're talking about the resurgent outdoor retailer with Sean Smith. Okay, so on November 9th, 2023, Sean Smith, the show director of Outdoor Retailer bravely joined the Rock Flight to return fire at my take. That outdoor retailer was over and since then we've had the summer market of Outdoor Retailer. I was there, Sean was there, and now Sean is back on the Rock fight to talk about how things went down in Salt Lake City last month. Welcome back to the show Sean, show. Sean, that's stuff to say back to back. Sean, welcome back to the show.

Sean (02:58):

Awesome, Colin, so much I appreciate you having me back and it was good seeing you out in Salt Lake a couple of weeks ago.

Colin (03:05):

Yeah, I got to see you twice. I saw you briefly at GOA and then the following week at your show, which I thought it was impressive that you were at another trade show the week before your own. I don't know how much sleep you got, those couple of weeks probably not much.

Sean (03:15):

No, not much at all, but GOA was a great show. It was good to be there and got to catch up with Gabe and his team and they do a phenomenal job at that show. It was good.

Colin (03:25):

So all right, outdoor Retailer, summer Market. Last time you were here we went over the ways you wanted to see or sort of return to form so to speak, and what you were doing to make that happen. So I figured I listened to, I re-listened to our episode and I wanted to check in on some of those items and to see how you're feeling and get your impressions now that the summer show is in the books. I guess just to start off, overall walking away from Summer Market, what were your impressions? How do you feel like it went?

Sean (03:51):

We think it went great. Again, maybe a little biased because we worked so hard on it, but you have

Colin (03:58):

To say if you came on and you're like, oh man, it sucked.

Sean (04:01):

It was terrible. Yeah, our own shows sucked. We're really disappointed. I think I may hang my hat up. No, I'm basing that off of feedback. We love the energy right out of the gate you kind of hold your breath as a show because people register From a buyer point of view, we knew who was going to be there on the brand side, we were excited about our show floor, how it was laid out. We were excited because we knew Sun Bum, sand Cloud, gooder ha Ukuleles m and w Design. They were going to bring some energy to the center of the show floor and that proved to be the case, but every show organizer will tell you when the doors open at 9:00 AM or whatever time your show opens, there's a little bit of that holding your breath, who's actually showing up on the buyer, the attendee side.


And so when that happened at nine and you can see the bodies come out and we're hearing who's checking in, who's picking up their badge, we were like, oh, this is going to be great. And we felt that energy right away and we took a risk. We talked about this a little bit last time and we did by our only hours for the first two hours of day one and day two and it's something I believe we needed to do. It was a risk we knew it could be. Buyers arrived late that day and it could have been a bit of a ghost town from nine to 11 and we would've had some exhibitors starting to really worry for the first two hours of the show. That wasn't the case at all, that the attendance was great out of the gate and we had a lot of brands say that they wrote orders on site during those first two hours because the buyers have nothing, no impediment at all to get to a booth and sit and have a good conversation and not be interrupted. It was pretty

Colin (05:43):

Awesome. Yeah, I want to talk about the writing orders in a minute, but yeah, the one thing we talked about was your hosted buyer format because like we said, if buyers show up, let's get things back to the basics here. This is a trade show we have people exhibiting, we have people coming in to buy things that are being exhibited. And you mentioned in November that a big change was really leaning into that hosted buyer format, I guess, where you provided airfare and hotel rooms for the buyers. So clearly it sounds like that worked out. I mean, did that exceed your expectations? Did at get to where you wanted to? I mean if you were having orders being written, I imagine it went well, but how did that all shake out? At the end of the day,

Sean (06:20):

It went way better than we expected. It is a significant investment, but we talked about that last time too. Why? So first off, you have to look at the why do hosted buyer. It's not just throwing something out there to make it sound good, but the idea is look or had stopped getting the right buyers in my opinion. This is no offense to the old team, they were a phenomenal team, but times had changed and at the end of the day, you can't just be thinking about putting bodies on the show floor regardless if you're a buyer. It has to be strategic. If you've got footwear companies, you have to have footwear buyers coming. It's a large product mix, it's apparel, it's accessories, it's footwear, it's hard goods. So you have to think strategically of who's coming. When you go to hosted buyer, it allows you to say, who do we need to call and who do we need to be here?


We ask our exhibitors, who do you need? And then we start to push our dollars in that area. The reason it really worked is especially retail, all of retail has had a tough time. A number of the retail segment in or the different channels we're dealing with a slowdown after the pandemic inventory issues. Inflation sucked the air out of everything by removing a barrier for coming to the show, which is cost. And look, at the end of the day, Wes Allen even said, oh, it was great to be here, but I, I'm away from my store. I got a lot to catch up on. This is going to hurt being gone for GOA and then or so we have to be aware of that, but at least removing the cost barrier was very helpful. A lot of buyers said, okay, this makes it easier for make the decision to come and again, then we got to deliver though to make it worth their while. Otherwise it's a one and done hosted buyer. You paid for me once, but there's not enough money in the world. Why am

Colin (08:13):

I coming back

Sean (08:13):

If I have no reason to be here? So the hosted buyer worked better than we thought. There were a lot of buyers that were thrilled because we not only got them there without them breaking the bank, we delivered and they saw great products, a lot of new stuff, a lot of innovative stuff. And the biggest compliment we got from several retailers was how intentional the brands were. And they used that word intentional, meaning they were engaged, they approached, they sold their product, they didn't just stand there. And so there's this intentional of, hey, you've got to check out what we've got here. And I think that was a huge compliment to the success of the show.

Colin (08:53):

Yeah, I think I said in my instant reaction or I said something close to it, and I think this is a credit to bringing it back to highlighting what this is, what's important to the show in terms of the buyer exhibitor relationships because the show my takeaway, and I'm not pandering to you, I swear it had a real identity. It really, we all walked away. I mean I went there with Justin, our co-host and our producer Dave, and we were kind of basically, I believed everything you told me when you're here in November that that's what you were really going to try and do, but now we're here and now we're walking into the Salt Palace and is it going to be, what's it going to like? And there was an era of like, hey, this may really be the last time that we come back to this thing.


That's right. And from the moment we stepped on the floor, there was a vibrancy and a difference and most of that, I think your team deserves the credit for executing that, but you're absolutely right. Within minutes I was being pulled into someone's booth, people were like, Hey, what's going on? And we had media badges on, they knew we weren't buyers, but they wanted to tell us what their products were and who they were and it really worked. We had most of that first day just kind of milling about and getting sucked into different sales pitches and learning about different products and for me that was the key takeaway of just think this show has a real reason for why it's here and why we should be optimistic for it going forward.

Sean (10:21):

Yeah, it's amazing. If you remember back in the day when trade shows first started, especially outdoor, saw the same in surf and in bike, big open booths, people coming by and then when those businesses grew and the economy was strong, we're talking, I'm dating myself here pre 2010 when the economy crapped out in 2008, but we didn't feel it until 2010, but before that the booth started to become very closed and the idea is podium, you're not getting in, you're not seeing anything unless you have an appointment. That really, I think that stunted the whole trade show mystique too, which is this whole closed off thing. And I get it, when you're a really big brand, you're not opening new doors more than likely you've got zip code protection and all the other things that you've got to deal with. So I get it, I'm not criticizing it, but when you have a lot of new brands on the show floor, it is this, Hey, we've put everything into this product.


We've put everything into this brand. Somebody walks by media buyer, I'm going to try and draw their attention. And that's what trade shows are supposed to be about is connections. And I told you that the last time I was on, we don't sell slabs of concrete to rent to set up a booth. We sell connections and it sounds a little contrived and it sounds like a little bit of just some little sales pitch, but it's the truth. You can do it through sponsorship or a booth, but at the end of the day you're there to connect with people, whether it's a buyer or the media and as a buyer or the media, you want to connect with brands and products and the people behind them. So we have to have brands on the show floor that are there to connect and otherwise you're your time

Colin (12:01):

And everybody has more opportunities than ever before to find new stuff even on their own. I mean I'm sure all these brands have websites and Facebook pages and everything else they can be found. So just having that identity and having that sort of drive and people who are there who want to be there. The retailers to your point about West Allen saying, Hey, I'm out of my store. It's like, well listen, we're going to entice you by paying your airfare. We want you to come see this and make sure you have a positive experience. It all makes a ton of sense why I feel like the vibrancy was there and why it was a successful show. The only other thing I've heard coming back, which will probably continue to be a challenge for some time, were the people who didn't come who used to go. And I noticed a few people on LinkedIn posts, I was just promoting my episode to talk about it. Listen, I I'm not on your payroll. I don't have to tell you that If I didn't like it, I would tell you, I hope everybody realizes. I would say, Hey, this was not great. It

Sean (12:54):


Colin (12:55):

And I'm really bullish on how it went. And then there were still people like, ah, I haven't been to or it's not what it used to be. And I saying, Hey, you didn't go, you got to go see this. Really the only sort of, I guess some people were saying we should change the name of the show and I mentioned that in my instant reaction as well and I get that. I see because it's not really, if you think of what outdoor retailer used to be, this isn't it. But at the same time I think that's just we need to age out of that and realize that this is what it is now and why would you need to change your name? We need to accept what it is now I think is more importantly.

Sean (13:32):

Yeah, the name change, look, I've heard that ad nauseum move it here. I'm sure if you don't leave Utah it'll never recover. There's a million different things as long as business and connections are being done and you have the energy which we had and there are quite a few brands that added to that and helped drive that. It really, the name isn't going to matter that much at the end of the day. Number two is I was never very big on outdoor retailer. I didn't really, but after this show it became evident after a retailer is the perfect name for this to be, it

Colin (14:10):

Is now. Right? This is what I said in my I instant reaction. We used to make fun of it 10, 15 years ago because it was a marketing show.

Sean (14:20):

Now you've got buyers coming in and business was being written, I mean by big brands Teton Gather with Orca Climate and GCI, big brands, small brands, sun Bum, not a small brand, bigger brand. They were writing orders in their booth, sand Cloud. The first thing,

Colin (14:39):

I'm sure I told you this when you're here before, so when I was national sales manager for Pro Bar, I put together the most kick ass sales program, add Outdoor retailer to my team saying I want paper at the show. I want it to five the odds and you can only get this incredible discount in terms deal if I get a piece of paper at the show. And I got six orders and we had an astounding sales team and they were like, guys, no one wants to write an order. They were flat out refusing to write an order and to your point, everything you just said about what you experienced talking to these folks, I had the same experience. I walked into a booth to meet with somebody. They were writing an order, they were entering an order with their customer service rep, wherever that person was when I walked into the booth. I have never seen that at Outdoor Retailer before. Never have I seen anyone entering an order at Outdoor Retailer.

Sean (15:25):

And it wasn't just the smaller brands because it'd be easy for me to say, well yes and that's great. A lot of smaller brands, of course they do because everyone thinks trade shows have stopped become order writing shows, but it's not really the case. The bigger brands don't. Of course they don't. They're doing their business elsewhere, we get that. But we had bigger brands actually writing orders at the show. Look, I think a lot of it has to do with, we used to in my old job run a big fundraiser for the environment and the joke was you start the live auction after the cocktail reception and everything else, you got to lubricate the wallet and that was up. Get the booze inside and with trade shows, everything turns on. When you walk in do you get a good feeling and when there's a buzz and sun bumps got the DJ going and then gooders run around with a seven foot flamingo guy dressed up in a flamingo costume, Kala's got a trio of ukulele, musicians singing in Harmony, all of a sudden people like, ah, this is good.


And there's this feeling of positive energy just towards the outdoor industry in general. Hey, maybe things aren't bleak and now I'm feeling good about things. I do think that that plays into it. Now again, that's not going to affect open to buy. I'm not a moron in thinking that that's all you need to get retailers to write orders at a show, but it certainly doesn't hurt when the general consensus is this feels good right now. And certainly the only credit we can take is that we went after some of the right brands to help boost that energy level and they delivered.

Colin (17:09):

So another thing we talked about when you're here last time was the addition of, well, the redefinition of the sourcing arm of the show to be outdoor design and innovation or ODI, again, listening to the last time you were on it was supposed to have more of its own show vibe, it was kind of a separate thing and while it was in that one different arm of the Salt Palace, you could easily flow between the two if you needed to. Did something change there or did that kind of go off as you had envisioned it when you were here in November?

Sean (17:38):

I think we ended up having to pivot just a little bit. It still is its own show. It has its own show director. Trish Kincannon used to be with Sourcing at Magic. She's amazing, A brilliant, brilliant leader. She knows the market really well. What we underestimated was the need of the exhibitors over in the sourcing side in ODI to not put up a Wall Gate that community to make it feel like it's that weird section because that was kind of our goal was we were going to gate that and we were told from some of the international agencies, that is a recipe for disaster. Number two was we also underestimated, I'm just being perfectly transparent with you. You know me, I just like tele. That's great. We underestimated the power of the OR name and thinking that just calling it ODI. Whereas on the sourcing side, we deal with a lot of international agencies and government entities that come in and buy booth space and they then sell it, sublease it if you will to their exhibitors they serve,

Colin (18:55):

These are all the fabric makers, the material makers and a lot of 'em are based in Asia.

Sean (18:59):

They get a lot of 'em do government subsidies and when the government sees ODI and they say, we don't know ODI, we're not giving you money, you do. And they're like, well it is or no, it says ODI on the paper and we underestimated the need for that to be there. So part of that, suddenly if you go back and look at some of our marketing materials, ODI became sourcing at or as a tagline underneath it because it became a big issue. We had a lot of brands trying to exhibit on the OR side just because they were like, I can't get my government to pay for it, so I'm going to go over here. And we're like, no, you belong on the ODI I side. So that will just take some time to get that ODI name to be ingrained in everybody's mind. But I think that show will develop its own identity as we go along. It's just going to have to be a bit more organic than we thought and it's about as transparent as I can.

Colin (20:01):

Yeah. Well I mean we talked a bit about especially with the growth of functional fabric and things like that, I mean do you still feel like there's a future for odi I compared to those or you start seeing maybe those entities pull away more and kind of become the focus for folks who want to attend to something like that? No, I

Sean (20:15):

Have a functional fabric fair is a great show and I don't think, I'm not saying they're not a competitor that would be foolish, but they are a different animal in a good way. They're very curated, it's very niche. I mean it's not for everybody. We are trying to be a bit more of the, for everybody as long as it's outdoor driven. That's why sourcing at magic not really that much of a competitor because it's definitely fashion oriented. As I said, and this, I know this is one of the questions you want to get to is we see our future as being not just textiles and trim and all fabric, but getting into hard goods. We're going to need to earn that and that did not come as quickly as we thought. Look, at the end of the day, let's just call it what it is last winter hurt us. I, and I know that's another question you want to ask because

Colin (21:07):

Yeah, well that's kind of what I was going next is how are we looking for this winter, but

Sean (21:12):

I'll just call it as it is, last winter hurt us and we didn't have a choice and we did it and we kept a stiff upper lip as best we could, but there were a lot of brands that said we're going to have to wait and see how summer goes before we jump back into the water. And again, fortunately we had a really good summer show and so I do believe we will grow that ODI business back and that's where we had a couple of bike companies that came out. DCE was there, Sava was there. We are starting to see some of that when we get that that will lead the polycarbonates, the carbon fiber, that kind of hard goods materials to go, well, I should be there because those brands are there so it'll take a little longer to build. And I think then I had anticipated maybe not the rest of the team is probably smarter than I was, but I was hoping it'd be a little quicker.

Colin (22:04):

Well, and I think the inclusion of a few bike brands, Jack Rabbit was another EBI

Sean (22:08):

That was there. Jack was,

Colin (22:08):

They were awesome. Yeah, we got to test those out and they were right down here in San Diego, so I'm like, I might have to cruise over there at some point this summer and pick one of those up. Those things were so

Sean (22:16):

Fun. They were a fun group,

Colin (22:18):

But there was a, I think it positions you up for the future. I mean just last week news came out about the Conservation Alliance is adding seven fishing brands to their ranks and I spoke with Connor M, which I saw on LinkedIn today that he's moving on from the Conservation Alliance, but I spoke to him at GOA and he was talking about how he had always historically the Conservation Alliance has been the human powered outdoor activities. It's been the North Face Keens and Patagonian Patagonia of the world and he and I definitely agreed. It's like, well, why shouldn't it be anything that's outdoors? Everybody has an interest in conserving the outdoors. I think that is as you sort of start to, I don't want to say rebuild but kind of build or maybe a little bit closer, maybe what it once was in terms of attendance and size, other categories, why wouldn't you want to include those? It doesn't make sense not to. I think that was one thing that looking at the brands who were represented on the show floor, I talk a lot about how anything for the younger generation, anything that's outside is outdoor. Outdoor means something completely different to me and it does to my kids. That sort of hardcore outdoor mountain climber persona is gone for younger generations and what I saw at your show was more representative of how I feel like younger folks go outside. You know what I mean?

Sean (23:31):

That's such a great point Colin. I mean a really great point because look, again, not to continue to harp back to the surf industry, but when I first started the surf industry, you were a short order or a long order. The two did not mix. You were an old man on a longboard or a kid that couldn't surf very well. So you were a long boarder or you were short boarder and you were a little bit of a troublemaker and you were the one hassling people in the water and the two did not cross and over time and now it's the best tool for the job. So now you get pigs, you get soft boards, you get whatever's fun today and literally surfing changed when people just went, I just want to be, whatever's going to be fun today. My kids want to go out on a foamy, I'm going out in a foamy and we're going to have a lot of fun.


We're going longboarding, the waves are small, let's go longboard. And I think the outdoor industry is going through a little bit of that as well where I'm a pure through hiker, I'm a climber and I don't do other things. Outdoors is outdoors and I think the pandemic really reminded us, I don't care what I do, I just need to be outdoors. I've been fishing a lot, I haven't fished, I caught some great small mouth bass the other day, pictures that I'm so proud of and I've been fishing forever and I'm like, that was part of my introduction to the outdoors when my parents used to take me to Maine is that's where I started fishing and it's like, do I consider myself a core fisherman? No, I hardly changed the lore out. I got an old school bobber and a lore two feet from it measured almost exactly.


I just know that works for me. I'm not the core fisherman, but I'll also go hiking, go to Sedona to go hiking a big mountain biker, whatever's going to get me outside. And even backyard games. We had some great backyard game companies there and there's people that will criticize that. The big inflatables, oh, that's not outdoors. Well tell that to Shields and Academy. They sell a whole lot of that shit. Thank you. Big sections of it. And you may not like it as a core climber, but at the end of the day, we're not here for core climbers. We're here for retailers to find products that are going to bring customers into their stores and if it's a big inflatable to drive behind a boat, we should have it there for them because it's an outdoor activity. And we do want the core stuff. We do want core climbers and in winter I want really core goggle companies and beanies and technical gloves that really help keep your hands and your fingers warm while you're out skiing or riding. But backyard games, oh hell yeah, bring it. We should be embracing that because that's what do outdoors people do when they come home, they barbecue and go stand out in the back and drink beer in. The

Colin (26:24):

Perception of things is really funny. I was just reading today in SGB, they're talking about how the parent company for Osprey and hydro flies had kind of a down quarter and if you read why, it's because of the home goods part of things, which I guarantee you for hydro flak, people in listening to this podcast would think, oh, hydro Flask is an outdoor brand and to a certain degree they are and they've made their bones appealing to the outdoor audience, but where do you think they sell most of those bottles? That's right. It's at Home Goods or Bed Bath and Beyond or wherever. And that's where I sometimes get frustrated even on the sustainability issue or not to kind of go down this road again, sorry listeners, but of the Patagonia is like fashion is none of our business. It's like yeah, it is. Because guess what, when you make stuff, we're all making it the same way and we're selling it in different places. And just because you have a brand identity doesn't mean that you're also not other things. That's right. And I think those are interesting things to kind dig into and what the outdoors actually is.

Sean (27:20):

That's right. And you're not in charge at the end of the day. You can guide your brand, you can put up guard rails, but look, at the end of the day, who determines what your brand is is the consumer.

Colin (27:33):

You bet.

Sean (27:33):

And so at the end of the

Colin (27:34):

Day, capitalism still is where we're at here folks.

Sean (27:37):

Absolutely. So you could be look at something like Bad Boy Club back in the day that started out as something as surf or whatever and then everybody in the Midwest had a bad boy sticker on the car. You can't control what are you going to do to stop selling it to Middle America? Not what the one of the most brilliant campaigns ever was, the early days of Gotcha. If you don't surf, don't start. The idea was we're going to keep our brand. Of course they ended up selling out and becoming the biggest mainstream sell out brand there is, but at the end of the day you don't get to necessarily fully control. Yes, you can guide it, you can shape it, you build your value system, your DA, you drive your distribution, but you don't stop non-core outdoors people. I'm using the cheesy quotation figures from driving the identity of your brand who buys it and who wears it. They want to put a sticker of Yeti on the back of your car because you love to drink beer out of it on the weekend. So be it. You have to accept what it's,

Colin (28:43):

Hey everyone, I want to tell you about our new teammates over at Darby Communications. Look, if you run an outdoor, an endurance or active lifestyle brand, there is no better PR and digital marketing belay partner or drinking buddy than your pals at Darby. They can help your business reach new heights and it might just keep you from falling on your ass. Since starting to work with Darby, more and more people have reached out to us here at Rock Fight because of that messaging. Look guys, they can help us, they can help anyone. Hit them up Do it today.


Alright, so we're recording this on July 9th and I'm sure you're already deep into plans for winter and as you said, winter 23 was a bit of a tough sledding to pardon the pun, but as you look ahead to 24, you're also not only you stacked up against probably the previous winter show, you also still have like we talked about some of the folks who didn't come see the Good Times at the summer show who probably still are maintaining some level of bias against returning to or and it's not like everything that was at the summer show translates over to the winter show. Correct. So how do you address repeat Winter 24? How do you have Winter 24 match the vibes of Summer 24 I guess is what I'm asking?

Sean (30:02):

Yeah, so it's a great question. So a lot of the show floor camp and hike and lifestyle will still be big. Snow takes the place of water and is typically bigger than what water would be in summer. Snow tends to be bigger for our winter show. That was tough but we've got the November timeframe is the right place to be and it's why November, 2023 was so rough. It was a third show for us. Nobody had budgeted for three shows in 2023 and so it was a tough go, there's no question. And there's a couple of brands that stuck with us and I want to call one of 'em out Grand Trunk. Those guys came to November, had a tough show and they still believed in us and came out for summer. We put them on the main aisle like Dude, you guys are great. They had a great summer show. So I'm anticipating brands like that will come back in November. Now because we call it a winter show doesn't mean everything there has to be winter oriented. November is actually a great time to be selling for summer 2025, November of 2024, especially as a smaller brand and if you're an at once or accountant fill type business, November is great.

Colin (31:17):

Sure, right. Come

Sean (31:18):

On. A lot of retailers have more open buy dollars during that time than they would in June anyway because there's a lot less going on. So we believe that's going to translate the success of summer is really how we're going to build back winter, but we do need to be strategic in who we go after. Sun Bums already signed up and I doubt we'll see Sand Cloud in winter because they're really a summer brand, but it's brands like that for that excitement that being on the show floor, a brand like Gooder be great to have them back. They do goggles, they'd be perfect

Colin (31:53):

Fit accessories that are kind of fit every season.

Sean (31:55):

Exactly and they're fun and they add something to the show floor. So really it's going to be play off the momentum of summer and in other words, we have the right team, the right strategy. We're going to do hosted buyer again, we are going to have a fun show floor, we're going to have an upbeat environment for doing business. We're going to get the right buyers there. We have the budget to do it and we're going to keep booth cap sizes nothing more than 2000 square feet. We want this feeling of a little bit of equity so that everybody's got a chance to, I'm not going to get overshadowed. I'm not stuck behind a behemoth where no one finds me. I think you walked the floor enough, you probably went, I can actually find everything on here. Nothing seems hidden. So that's how we're going to do it.


We've got to stick with the strategy that we know worked for summer. And it wasn't just because it was June, it was because it was the right strategy. The right buyers and our team Fish, Steven Fisher, we call him Fish. No, I've never called him Steven in my life other than mentioning to other people is brilliant at this. And our marketing director, Amy Defo who came from Surf Expo, it's phenomenal the work that they do to feed our sales team what they need to get it done and to get the buyers there. That's what makes our show is the team, the effort, the commitment and our strategy, which I believe is correct.

Colin (33:22):

So it's also in November, so there won't be 8,000 other events going on. There was this past June. You will though be sharing I believe close timeframe though with TRE and Switchback. Christina Henderson, who's the show director of Switchback and Theory came on the rock fight recently and they're obviously big news in June. They just announced they're moving a standalone event to next June. Yesterday I talked to someone else who in the retail industry who said they're talking about approach them about another event in June. I mean what's going on with June number one? But I guess actually number one, what was your reaction to the switchback news? How do you envision that coexistence happening next June or not happening next June? What do you think? How does this muddy the waters a bit?

Sean (34:04):

Yeah, I mean I want to be, I'm going not want to going be professional and courteous here, just who we are. We've built relationships with a lot of other shows and that is in our DNA the current team. That's what we do and we will always do that. Let's just talk about June 1st and not specifically anyone else. June's a crowded, crowded timeframe. That's very clear. Why is that? Well, interestingly enough, our parent company owns Elastic Suite, which is B2B commerce site that a lot of outdoor brands, most of the major ones, Patagonia, the North Face Jetty, they're all on there. GoPro, there's a lot of big and even smaller to medium sized fuel Ravens on there, cotopaxi on there. So they use it. We know from data not specific to brands at all. I want to make that clear for anybody listening. I'm not saying we have your tape on your orders, but we ask the elastic team, when do you in general, not specific to any brand, just in general see the most orders and a lot of them come through in June and November, other than ski and snowboard hard goods, which we now all know as January, but it was June and November.


June seems to be the sweet spot that's really for brands. I agree with Gabe Meyer over at GOA. June's tough for retailers to be perfectly honest with you. You ask most of they do not want to buy in the month of June. We're in the heart of things and let me get through this summer before I start buying for next year. Yeah,

Colin (35:47):

It needs to inform the coming years, right?

Sean (35:49):

Yeah, probably a better timeframe, maybe even early August and I don't disagree with that. The problem we get into is most brands, and this is where the church and state separation come into play, is depending on their size, they need to be as close to their production cycle as possible. Therefore not getting stuck with extra inventory. They've got to manage their inventory as close as they can and so they need the proper lead time. You get Chinese New Year if you're producing overseas, there's so much that goes into it. It's not an easy solution. I understand this feeling like everybody's got to be in June. The bottom line is one, we all need to be talking. I'll just leave it at that. Number two is when it comes to June and everybody trying to be where it seems to be, that's the only spot we need to be to get business done is it's going to hurt more than anybody are the retailers.


They get drawn into a million different directions. They start losing sight of which show should I go to that there needs to be a clear path of when does the rep show or regional show fit into place? What is your point and purpose of being? I believe we've got a clear point and purpose at or new discovery smaller brands and we believe we're going to get those mid-tier influential brands back as well. I have no doubt about that. That's our sweet spot. GOA is all about the bigger brands and medium-sized brands with a strong rep force. That's what they do and they do it really well. Ours is national show, strong educational content, very strong media attention and media turnout and it's discovery and it's new and it's seeing what's going on in a bigger, broader process. And all channels of retail distribution, specialty, big box military accounts, all of it can come here.


And again, GOA knows what it wants to focus on and does a great job adding anything more into a month where it's already crowded. Again, it hurts the retailer because now they're expected to spend money to go on yet another trip and it's not cheap. And so bigger than that is their time because time away from a store means getting further and further behind in your business. So all I will say is I think we need to keep the buyers in mind of what's needed and what's going to be best for them and their path for growing their business, getting the products they need and drawing consumers into their stores.

Colin (38:33):

Last thing when you were here last time, you told us the big internal metric is the NPS score.

Sean (38:39):

I love you. Remember

Colin (38:40):

That? That's how's how the success of the show is measured. So I don't know, you didn't give us any parameters for what an NPS score is, what's good or bad. You could tell me anything. Oh, we got a four. It was great. I have no idea what it means.

Sean (38:52):

You would know.

Colin (38:53):

I have no idea. Yeah, but how are your NPS scores after summer 24? Were they good?

Sean (38:59):

They have improved. The biggest thing we saw is our satisfaction ratings increased and that's a big one. How satisfied were you with the show?

Colin (39:08):

Yeah, I think you said the hook of the measures. Are they coming back next year? It was kind of the key element to some of the NP S scores I believe is what you told me about.

Sean (39:15):

Oh absolutely. Yeah. And again, that's what really drives, did things work, was did the buyer only hours work for you, booth cat, we ask all those questions. So in NPS scores, really just for those out there, whether you care or not, you probably don't finish shit. But

Colin (39:32):

Either way they made it this far into the podcast promot, you may as well learn something about it.

Sean (39:35):

So it's a net promoter score and it comes out of the survey and it's satisfaction. How did the show work for you? Did it work? Did it not? What did it give you what you needed? And our surveys are still open because by the time our show's staged and then closed and we've got to give time for people to get back and you don't want to send it out the day the show ends, there's still people traveling. We hit 4th of July, which this year was in the middle of the week, it was Thursday, so you started the week. Most people just took that week off. So it's still open, but they have definitely improved and we've seen that drastically. I mean old scores for or went from on the positive and dipped into the negatives at times where it was rough. And again, the pandemic didn't help.


It could have been a great show in terms of what effort was put into it, but you get one strain during the pandemic period and all of a sudden your show is looking great and all of a sudden there's the Delta strain and now two weeks before a show, so nobody's fault. It was unfortunate. So anyway, we have seen them bounce back drastically and the part we're most excited about is the attendee one is the one that improved the most so far. And the exhibitor one could eclipse that. But how many retailers are like, what a great show, great agenda. You put together that score improved by a hundred percent difference, saw this major jump and again hosted buyer. Sure, that'll help you help pay somebody's way. They're going to be feeling really good. But we talked about this, I don't care. We could have given them extra money and time away from their store with not value and it did not measure up to what it costs 'em by being out of their store is going to hurt their Yeah,

Colin (41:26):

Course. If you'd said, thanks for flying me out there for this bullshit show, you are going to get a bad score, right? I mean it doesn't matter. And

Sean (41:32):

I'm booked. I can't leave sooner. I got to be here through day three, I might as well just go to the pool. But those surveys change drastically. And so we're feeling really good going, especially in the winter. We've got a lot of rebook on site that we did at summer. So a lot of the brands that we're at summer we're like signed their contract for next summer on site. Great. Wow, that's great. It's always a good thing. So yeah, the way they're trending right now is they definitely have improved. And the attendee one, the buyer one is the one we really want to see because that means buyers have put their faith back in the show and are going to be coming and expecting to see a good show. And we're feeling good about that.

Colin (42:10):

Listen, again, I'm not pandering frankly. It probably would've benefited the rock fight if it was a disaster. We've gotten at least three more episodes out of it or something like that. I would've

Sean (42:21):

Had a lot of tap dancing seem to do coming at this.

Colin (42:23):

We can't get Sean back on the show. He doesn't, he doesn't want to show up. No, but I think if you've been listening long enough as from a brand perspective of what I learned in my kind of industry career, I hate bullshit. I hate that. People just want, if you can't answer the question why or why does something exist, why is this thing happening easily and succinctly, then you got a real problem. And as my takeaway from the moment we got there was like this makes sense immediately makes, especially since I was at GOA the week before where I got the same vibe there. I understand this now, the format there, the way they organize their schedule, it is like you stay for all four days and you're busy for all four days. The whole thing that they do with the break for

Sean (43:07):

Lunch as a group.

Colin (43:08):

Yep. They feed you. It's its own thing. And then coming to your show, it was like, got it. So if I'm at the other show, I come here and I go, wow, look at all the new toys, look at all the new things that we can do here. It was fun. It wasn't as overwhelming as shows past. And I'm sure you'd love to see that maybe go in the other direction and become a little more overwhelming to get some bigger numbers

Sean (43:30):


Colin (43:30):

But within reason. Exactly. And I think that that's the thing coming out of to your, I wasn't there, but you saying that the winter show, the last November was rough. This has just got to feel good and I'm really stoked for you guys.

Sean (43:43):

Oh thank you. I appreciate it. And you're not so I want to make sure we let you off the hook. This is definitely not pandering, this is not, oh, he went to the show. So they've paid his way to go there. You came on your own dime, we invited you to come check it out. But Adam over at Gear Junkie wrote something very similar but even a little deeper of like, man, they're ghost stories and his line and his article that I love and I sent him a note on this after it posted, not because I didn't see anything before was his line was, if you weren't there, good news, the show is yours now. And I love that line. And that line is, hey, if you're an outdoor brand and you want to sell the outdoor space, the show's yours. Now you've got an opportunity, big, small, come on out and the show's yours now. So we got even from the media is a great feeling. I've had a few industry leaders, I won't name them on here, reached out, one of 'em I'm talking with on Friday and he even said, looks like you pulled a rabbit out of the hat. I was like, what a great line. Almost

Colin (44:47):

Like that's great. Well maybe,

Sean (44:49):

I don't know, maybe I'm complimented. I don't know. It was just pure luck. But at least that's this overall feeling. And I know as a team we felt going in really good. We said we did everything we could. We did all the right things. We believed in our strategy, we hoped everybody else did as well. And when the doors opened on Monday at nine, we all just went, we were right, we were ready

Colin (45:16):


Sean (45:16):

You were right. So I appreciate that.

Colin (45:18):

Well I'm sure we'll have you on again as we get closer to the winter show. Can't wait to see. Let's get the next rabbit ready to come out of the hat. Do it.

Sean (45:27):

Call some bullshit on me for something. Let's go. We got it. So we can,

Colin (45:30):

I had too much of a good time.

Sean (45:33):

Yeah, it was fun seeing you there. And again, it's great seeing you at GOA too. It was a good time.

Colin (45:38):

Yeah man. Alright, appreciate you coming on. We'll have you on again soon.

Sean (45:40):

Sounds good. Thanks Colin.

Colin (45:41):

Thanks Sean.


Alright, that's the show for today. Please send your feedback on this or any episode of the Rock, fight to my rock Hey, did you know that the rock fight is more than just a podcast company? Every week we poke fun at the outdoor industry and outdoor culture on our website. And you can get all of those articles in your inbox every Sunday in our newsletter by heading to rock And clicking join the mailing list. Sign up today. The Rock Fight is a production of Rock Fight LLC. Our producer today was David Kasad. Art Direction provided by Sarah Genser. I'm Colin True. Thanks for listening. And last but not least, the most important cog in the rock fight machine it's Krista Makes and he's here to sing the Rock Fight Fight song. We'll see you next time. Rock fighters. Rock

Chris DeMakes (46:27):

Fight, rock fight. Rock fight, rock fight, rock fight. Rock fight. Here we go into the rock. Fight where we speak our truth, stay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. We talk about human power, outdoor activities and pick bikes are about topics that we find interesting. Black five, culture, music, the latest movie reviews for head. This is where we speak our truth. This is where we speak our truth to. Welcome to the.


bottom of page