Visitors were down slightly at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market exposition in Salt Lake City that took place more than a week ago, but there were more exhibitors and the organizers are considering it a good show. About 16,500 attendees went to the show, down about 5 percent from last year’s. Slightly less floor space, 30,660 square meters, was sold as well. However, there were more than 110 new exhibitors, and the show featured several new events showcasing the best the outdoor industry has to offer.

The mood at this year’s OR Winter Market show was definitely a funny one. The American industry suffered quite a bad fall season when sales in local outdoor stores were down by 11 percent in November. At that time, the nerves of American consumers may have been even bleaker than in other recent months, but it seems as if the climate of consumption improved right before the OR show when Barack Obama was inaugurated as U.S. president. The mood reminded one a little bit of what happened in Germany during the football World Cup in 2006: a great feeling without any rational indication of why things should turn from bad to good.

In fact, some exhibitors complained about the attendance to the show, stating that on Day 2, the traffic at the show looked pretty much like a usual Day 4. Obviously, the retailers cut costs for the visit to America’s No. 1 show for outdoor activities. Many did not show up; others reduced the number of staff members going to see the show, including REI, the huge outdoor retail network. Reportedly, but unconfirmed, REI flew into Salt Lake with a reduced staff of buyers.

The OIA, the national outdoor industry association, led by Frank Hugelmeyer, was not unhappy about the way business worked at the show. According to OIA’s president and CEO, the attendance to the show decreased in terms of quantity, but kept the level of the previous years as far as the quality of visitors was concerned. All the quality retailers were there, and the number of exhibitors was even up.

To evaluate the impact of the global crisis, there is one difference worth mentioning between America and Europe. One European exhibitor who does not want to be quoted said that in America, the retailers are quite reasonable, but the consumers freak out once that they see a crisis ahead. In return, things are different in the Old World, where consumers behave regularly, while retailers cut prices when it is really not necessary. THE COMPASS asked the source which way was better. The source did not find any answer to such a question.

At the Snowbasin Ski Resort, about 50 kilometers from Salt Lake City, exhibitors set up hands-on displays and product testing stations so visitors could check out new Nordic skis, snowshoes and other backcountry products. There was a new, more realistic testing track for Nordic skiing as well as a simulated avalanche for a safety demonstration.

Woolrich sponsored a fashion show with the latest in apparel, whether technical, casual, or endurance. Outdoor Retailer held its second “Project OR” competition, where students had 48 hours to make a prototype based on a certain concept. The winning product was a woman’s mid-layer jacket with a fully integrated sound system. The next Outdoor Retailer Winter Market will start at Snowbasin on Jan. 20, 2010, for the demo day, and move on to Salt Lake City’s convention center for Jan. 21-24.