Combined with the effect of higher raw material prices, unseasonably warm weather throughout most of the U.S. in the past weeks have negatively impacted the outdoor and winter sports market in the country, as they have done in Europe.

As already published in our sister business newsletter, SGI Europe, the retailers affiliated with Intersport all over the continent experienced flat sales of outdoor products for first time in many years in 2011, along with marked a decline in sales of snow wear and equipment.

Nevertheless, overall, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City went better than expected. The total number of visitors was up by about 10 percent to more than 21,000 as compared to a year ago, similar to the growth at the OR Summer Market last August, which an increase of nearly 30 percent in retailers from the Northeast.

The business climate was described as rather brisk. In the narrowly defined outdoor sector, only weather-dependent categories such as outerwear and insulated boots suffered at the show, with U.S. retailers reducing their orders for the next fall/winter season by an estimated 10 percent, according to the American edition of SGI. Performance fleece, base layers and non-insulated footwear remain strong categories instead.

On the other hand, outerwear suppliers are reacting to the unpredictability of the weather by proposing more and more efficient multi-layer constructions, integrating new technologies to manage warmth and sweat. These more flexible systems are bound to take on more importance in the market also in Europe, provided they are merchandised properly, although the insulated parka will probably remain a major fashion item – with or without technology.

Meanwhile, the big and powerful Outdoor Industry Association in the U.S. has indicated to state and municipal authorities in Salt Lake City that they will have to do something to expand the local facilities to accommodate a growing OR show, which is bursting at the seams. The closing of the Action Sports Retailer show in San Diego has already moved many large and small surf-related companies to the fair, in addition to the paddle sports and fishing tackle segments. It could make some sense to incorporate the ski segment in the winter and the bike segments in the summer, given their potential synergies with the broader outdoor sector.

The contract between OR and the Salt Palace is going to run out in three years' time. The most logical alternative would be Denver, which has bigger airport, hotel and convention facilities than Salt Lake City, and close access to the mountains. Denver has already managed to lure the SIA ski show from Las Vegas, and it has developed into the strongest American hub for the training of winter sports athletes. A possible indication of the future scenario was the presence at OR of Burton Snowboards for the first time.