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Outdoor show attendees say they feel turnaround

Arn Menconi
Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily/Arn MenconiOptic Nerve President Bill Cotton shows a customer some of the goggle company's newest product at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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Arn Menconi, executive director of Avon-based youth nonprofit SOS Outreach, is on the road attending various ski and snowboard industry tradeshows and conferences. He’ll be sending periodical dispatches from the events, telling readers what’s new and interesting in the world of snow sports. This dispatch comes from the Outdoor Retailer winter tradeshow in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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SALT LAKE CITY- It’s been a tough couple years for the outdoor industry, but it’s evident at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City that companies are adapting and even seeing some positive signs.

At this tradeshow, North America’s largest winter lifestyle and sports industry gathering in the world, with more than 16,000 attendees and hundreds of companies represented, I found a number of people in the industry that seemed hopeful and excited about the coming year. Bill Cotton, president of Colorado-based Optic Nerve, told me, “After 28 years Optic Nerve has really grown. With a 50 percent expansion in our goggle line and a 30 percent expansion in our sunglasses, we’re definitely feeling a sign in the turn around of the economy.”

Salomon Vice President Bill Nicoll echoed similar sentiments, saying that the show has been very positive for him and that there’s a general feeling of energy and excitement among retailers. Salomon has had a good year, rebounding from a tough 2009, said Nicoll, who was at the show helping market the company’s new trail running footwear and apparel line.

“I think were seeing that as tough as 2009 was, 2010 has rebounded and the people who have passions for things they do, such as outdoor enthusiasts, are still willing to spend money on their interests,” he said. “Customers are more confident and reengaged.”

As someone in the nonprofit sector, it was refreshing to see that many companies still are putting corporate social responsibility and charitable giving at the top of their lists.

Among those present at Outdoor Retailer was The North Face, one of SOS Outreach’s biggest donors. At their morning breakfast kick-off, The North Face announced that by 2015 they hope to grow their revenues to $3 billion. Not too shabby. The company is a leader in giving back to youth and advocating for environmental stewardship, so it’s great to see a company with those values doing well. They believe that sustainability and profitability are both achievable – music to my ears.

I also got a chance to meet with REI Vice President Lee Fromson, who discussed their goals for corporate giving. The $1.6 billion retailer plans to change the way they give grants, moving their giving toward youth and the growth of outdoor organizations. They see it as an important issue and a new direction for the company, Fromson said.

Some organizations are resorting to more creative ways of supporting their causes. I was asked today by Sally Grimes of Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition if I would dress in drag for another event – the Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) fashion show next weekend. I agreed on the condition that I could go as a cougar from Edwards, Col.

Needless to say, this is just day one of the show, which runs through Sunday, and it’s only going to get more exciting.


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