Summertime at Outdoor Retailer: A First-Timer's Report

Ready. Set. Go....

By: Katherine Brooker

Outdoor Retailer. Ever heard of it? Neither had I until Tamar & Asa, the co-founders and CEOs of Khala & Company asked me to help out at their booth at this year’s Summer Outdoor Retailer in Denver, Colorado. If you, like me, have never heard of Outdoor Retailer (“OR” for short) here’s a quick synopsis: Essentially, OR is a three day convention for anyone and anything related to the outdoor industry.

I attended the 2019 Summer Market which focuses on summer outdoor activities, but if cold weather is when you want to get outside there is also a winter market for all of your winter activity needs. Both markets are held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. Most companies buy booth space in order to showcase their products, but some are wholesalers looking for new products to sell in their stores. Everyone there has the same goal: to make new connections and grow their business in the outdoor industry.

Anyone can attend Outdoor Retailer as long as they have a badge to get inside. You can choose to attend solo and pay for your own pass, or snag a badge via a company you either work for or partner with. This makes for an attendance of individuals, artists, filmmakers, photographers, and major corporations alike wandering around the convention center in OR “go mode.” Then there are the companies they come to see and network with: Patagonia, Teva, Cotopaxi, The North Face, Chums – and of course, Khala & Company - are just a few of the hundreds of companies that exhibit at OR. It gives these companies a chance to chat with prospective wholesale buyers and to find new opportunities. 

When I walked into the convention center on the second day of OR, I was shocked. There were SO MANY people! Company booths lined the walls of every hallway and filled the larger rooms. There were people and products everywhere. I was overwhelmed to say the least, and wished I had had a guide to help me navigate the maze that is OR. So, if you’re planning on attending an OR market in the future, here is some advice and suggestions of how to break OR down into a manageable and fun experience. 

Know Before You Go

There are so many vendors featured at OR. If you don’t take the time to research brands you know you want to see before you get there, you’ll be walking around in circles. Check out a map or an app and get familiar with where the brands you want to see are located. Many of the vendors are on the second floor, in the largest room at the convention center, but there are so many other interesting, smaller companies scattered about. Which leads perfectly into my next suggestion...

Wander

Put time into your schedule to just walk around and wander. There are so many crazy vendors to see at OR, it’s worth it to take the time and peruse. Explore the smaller, lesser-known companies that you’ve never heard of. You might just find exactly what you never knew you needed.

Don’t Pay for Food

I was starving when it came time to leave the booth for lunch, but I’m glad I held out. While searching for food, I stumbled upon the Keen Karnival located just outside the convention center. There were burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and fresh fruit, all free with your OR badge. Companies with food products, such as Clif Bar, handed out free samples if you asked. With endless samples and multiple brands sporting venues with free food, there is no need to spend hard earned money on food.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

What I loved most about attending OR was the interest and intrigue from buyers and sellers alike. Every room, hallway, and cafeteria was buzzing with conversation about the products being showcased. Information was being thrown around like candy. Everyone was stoked to be around so much creativity and innovation. While talking to a Teva rep, I learned that even though everyone pronounces it "TEEEEVA", it is actually "TEH-VA." If I hadn’t struck up a conversation with a sales rep, I never would have known!

Overall, I would say that OR is a great way for new companies and growing companies to get their name out to wholesale buyers and extend their brand – like it did with Khala & Company!

Asa and Tamar McKee, founders of Khala & Company, at their booth at OR