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What's In A Name? Booth MacGyver's Outdoor Retailer Recap

Hello Everyone!

It’s your favorite trade show critic, Booth MacGyver, and boy, do I have a treat for you this week. Actually, I have a few plates of booth treats because I just got back from Outdoor Retailer.

Now, I’m not here to rehash the reams of opinions (Change the name!) and criticisms (It’s not the same!). No, I’m here to call it as I see it—gutters and strikes.

And I see it like this: To those stuck on what was, the OG OR is gone and it ain’t coming back.

Get over it. Blame COVID. Blame the Internet. Blame soulless CFOs or profit-sucking Private Equity (my choice). But the new OR is a new thing servicing a new need. It’s a place for new brands, adjacent brands, and “WTF is that, but I’m intrigued” kind of products. It’s not what we call core outdoor, but it’s actually more inclusive of the new outside, and receptive to changing habits and preferences.

Actually, maybe a new name is in order? How about something less rigid like InsideOutdoor Retailer? Or Fill-In Retailer? There’s always LeftOver Retailer.

Either way, the show I attended was definitely distinct, energetic, and truly interesting. Do I miss seeing the all-female AC/DC cover band Hells Belles at DV8? Yes, I do.

Am I still missing my passport and dignity after 12 rounds of expense account-fueled Fireball shots at the Port O’ Call? I can’t recall.

Enough already. On to the show.

I’m gonna start with Product Display 101. GCI Outdoor sticks to basics, letting the better mousetrap lead the way. And look, it works! The fresh color and well-placed hood drew a delighted Justin right in. We’ll see if he can escape.

Looks like Sun Bum clearly subscribes to my thrice-daily trade show glow-up newsletter called the Booth Report. Because folks, this is how it’s done: clear messaging, bright colors, food trucks, and a whack-a-mole. And a daily happy hour. I may never leave.

A big part of the trade show experience is sampling the delectable treats that exhibitors put out to greet weary visitors. OR is no exception. I’m always down for a good Tootsie Roll Pop, bag of caramel corn, or mosquito-repelling peach gummy. (Not sure about this one, but I’m going with it.)

I saw not one kangaroo, no one throwing marsupials, and I still don’t really know what they’re selling. Normally, Lost Boy Entertainment would have lost a customer (despite the threat of their vampiric ownership), but their bold color choice and product promise have me coming back for more.

Neon sign, check. Oversized sunglasses, check. Big-ass pink flamingo doing interviews. Check, check. Goodr does it better.

For the most part, the show was pretty light on apparel and footwear exhibitors. But that didn’t stop a strong showing by the local Mannequin Guild.

A show of strength from the athletic types. Crossover brand Florence even gets the torsos going full body vibes. Also, good to see an appearance from a headwear/eyewear specialist.

Caninnequins were the real story of the show. Their ability to give context, show scale, and demo product all while looking so darn cute is a real talent.

There was a day when nearly an entire hall was filled with demo pools, prototype hulls, and quivers of boards. I for one am happy to see OR find a home for the new Paddling section.

Booth Food Part 2. Sometimes finding the right treats feels more like juggling plates. I probably counted at least 15 identical ‘centerpieces’ in the empty parking lot that was the supplier section. Shout out to the X-17 series stapler next to the Hi-Chews. Vintage!

Well folks, that’s a wrap for Summer OR. I’m truly excited to see what’s next for this venerable Show. I’m off to my next adventure converting this used container into my #vanlife dream. Stay tuned!

See you soon!

Booth MacGyver is Rock Fight’s trade show correspondent and critic. He’s an expert in brand communication, a renowned mannequin rights advocate, and promo candy connoisseur. He periodically files reports from a hotel near the airport.


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