The organizers of Outdoor Retailer have confirmed that they will be moving the dates of its two fairs forward by about six weeks from 2018 onward - in June for the Summer Market and in November for the Winter Market. It's a major move for the biggest remaining sports trade show in the U.S., and it may be a risky one, according to some observers, particularly because some small retailers may not be willing to commit themselves so early, especially before the Christmas holidays.

OR has been held in recent years around the first week of August and the second week of January. The announcemnt of the new dates comes after the momentous decision made earlier this year by the European Outdoor Group to move the dates of its European OutDoor fair in Friedrichshafen from the middle of July to June 18-21 as of next year. Starting in 2018, the Eurobike trade show in the same town will move from the end of August to the month of July.

OR announced the new timing in concert with the powerful Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) of the U.S., many of whose members are also members of the EOG, and the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance (GOA), a group of about 60 independent retailers that generate annual sales of over $250 million through more than 100 stores. Their latest Grassroots Fall Connect fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Nov. 9-11, and its Spring Connect for 2017 has been scheduled for June 12-13 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

With its order-focused approach, the Grassroots event has apparently been drawing increasing interest. However, in July 2015, the GOA signed a memorandum of understanding with Emerald Expositions, the company that owns and operates OR, and the OIA. It has been working with them to enhance OR's appeal to independent dealers more formally.

The exact dates picked for the new OR calendar in 2018 are June 11-14 for the summer edition and Nov. 12-15 for the winter event. The GOA's own Connect event will be held just before, on June 6-9 and on Nov. 7-10. It will take place at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah, while OR remains in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. The one-day interval is meant to leave time for clinics with specialty retailers, jointly organized by OR and the GOA.

Thus, the combination implies only a small shift in dates for the Grassroots event, while the OR shows are moving forward by about six weeks. The new schedule will mostly benefit apparel and footwear producers, whose production planning schedule is different from that of the equipment companies. It comes at a time when retailers are striving to reduce their inventory risk with later and more at-once orders.

In fact, the organizers of OR are teaming up with Surf Expo to set up a new Summer Expo of outdoor products for suppliers in market segments and product categories such as paddle sports that would not have their products ready in June. Outdoor and water sports equipment suppliers are thus invited to meet with retailers also at this event. OR wants to hold a similar Winter Expo in January 2019 at an unspecified location in the U.S., which again should be most relevant to equipment suppliers. More details on the strategy and on demo events are to be unveiled in the months ahead.

The changes come on the back of extensive research conducted by OR among exhibitors and visitors earlier this year. The organizers invited key specialty retailers, brands and segment leaders to take part in newly established advisory panels, to discuss show cycles and best practices. They also held a gathering of event leaders and other representatives to work on a common strategy. This advisory structure will remain in place to provide guidance in the future.

The proposed winter calendar was met with some concern by Snowsports Industries America (SIA), the U.S. trade association for the winter sports industry. The Winter Expo proposed by the organizers of OR would be held in the same month as the SIA Snow Show in Denver, which has been scheduled for Jan. 26-29 next year. The SIA had previously attempted to move the event to December, but backed down due to unfavorable reactions from the industry and decided to stick with the January dates.

Nick Sargent, president of SIA, reportedly wrote in a letter to the industry that the planned date changes for OR and the extra events are a stretch for the retailers. He particularly points out that four winter events will be held in the year starting from November 2018, three of which will be staged by Emerald Expositions.

In view of a growing overlap between the outdoor and snow sports industries, Sargent describes it as crucial that key stakeholders work together to minimize the number of trade shows, but SIA is apparently not inclined to team up with Emerald Expositions. Sargent argues in his letter that the SIA Snow Show is dedicated to its members, offering relatively low exhibition costs. The Denver location, he adds, highlights the SIA Snow Show's advocacy stance on issues such as climate change and access to the outdoors.

It will be interesting to see how Messe München will react to all these changes. As the world's single biggest sporting goods trade show, Ispo Munich is determined to represent all the sectors of the industry, including suppliers of skis and other types of equipment as well as the softgoods companies – big and small. It wants to appeal to distributors and retailers in all sizes and segments. Its organizers have set up a “timing working group” to collect feedback from the industry and the retail sector.