Attendees in front of the OR sign

Outdoor Retailer Summer’s Redesigned Show Floor Encourages Community and Connection

“Are you bringing your dog?” was one of the questions asked during registration for Outdoor Retailer Summer (OR), which brought together outdoor brands, retailers and designers to the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, June 19-21. In addition to encouraging furry friends to attend (there’s even a #dogsofOR recap on Instagram), the show featured more than 700 exhibitors, including 200 new ones, in a vibrant, welcoming space for testing out equipment, building partnerships and tapping into the sense of community that fuels the outdoor industry as it navigates the rapids of change.

Amid COVID-19-related restrictions, many consumers flocked to outdoor recreational activities and bought all the gear they needed for their new hobbies. The demand has since softened in some sectors, leading to excess inventories, and the OR organizers saw this as an opportunity to evolve several aspects of the show and open up new avenues to deliver value.

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The floor plan was redesigned with activity-focused zones, such as Camp & Hike, Run & Cycle, Lifestyle, Overland & Travel, Stewardship and Venture Out, among others, to make them easier to shop. Gathering spaces and stages with regular programming connected the neighborhoods and nurtured the sense of community, the show’s core value. A large communal workspace at the Hub stayed busy throughout the event, allowing attendees to take care of work but still stay in the middle of the action.

Brands could now also engage directly with consumers at the new Outdoor Adventure X (OAX) festival that was held the weekend before the show at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, UT, a popular destination for winter and summer outdoor activities. While some exhibitors chose to participate in both events, OAX also brought in the brands absent at OR, creating a growth opportunity for the show and also delivering value to the community.

On the show floor at the Salt Palace, the Basecamp networking event held at The Ranger Station was not only a celebration of inclusion but also a prime example of the power of online communities injecting vibrancy into in-person events. Close to a hundred enthusiastic attendees, identifying as women or nonbinary, gathered to meet one another in person and network, facilitating one of OR’s most well-attended events. Initially started as a Facebook group, Basecamp focuses on connecting job seekers and brands in the outdoor industry and is now a thriving community with over 52,000 members.

Unlike many order-writing trade shows, OR felt like a festival of all things outdoors, where exhibitors created ad-hoc collaborations, booth walls were lined with photos documenting employees’ adventures and dogs were welcomed attendees. Here are some of the activations and booths that caught our attention.


Volkswagen cars at Outdoor Retailer 2023

At Snowbasin Resort, Volkswagen displayed the Atlas, Tiguan and electric ID.4.


As part of Outdoor Adventure X, Volkswagen welcomed outdoor enthusiasts at Snowbasin Resort with an activation featuring its more outdoor-minded models—such as Atlas, Tiguan and the electric ID.4—but the real draw was the scent of live cooking demos by outdoor bloggers Ali and Lincoln of @ribbitandco. The collab was as successful as it was delicious. The morning crowd got to sample campfire doughnuts with blueberry glaze, and in the afternoon, ramen with pork stole the show. Attendees scored custom dog tags, hats and solar lanterns by filling out a brand survey.


Ford Bronco

Also at OAX, outdoor-ready Bronco tapped into its rich heritage with an activation anchored by photo galleries and swatch samples tracing the brand’s 50 years of history. Attendees could explore the latest vehicle models outfitted for adventure and draw inspiration from corresponding gear displays, as well as purchase brand swag as a first step toward the bigger purchase. With the goal of getting more people excited about adventuring, the brand invited a neighboring exhibitor, Oru Kayak, to demo its foldable, lightweight kayaks, which captured attendees’ interest and ultimately earned kudos for both brands.

Ford Bronco on display at Outdoor Retailer

Attendees could explore the Ford Bronco and learn about the SUV’s 50-year history.



Solar generator manufacturer Jackery showcased the many uses of its products to power the off-grid lifestyle through multiple themed demo areas around its exhibit. Set against a green backdrop, tents and other elements in bright orange, the brand’s signature color, drew attention to a campout area. There, attendees could take a seat in camp chairs and watch a demo video while snacking on popcorn or drinking a cup of coffee, all powered by Jackery’s portable solar generators. From the large-scale impact, like solar panels flanking an Airstream trailer, to thoughtful details, like a portable NBA Jam game, Jackery’s exhibit offered an immersive and engaging way to present various use scenarios to the outdoor crowd.

Jackery's orange exhibit at Outdoor Retailer 2023

Drawing attendees with its bright orange signature color, Jackery’s exhibit featured greenery, tents, camp chairs and an Airstream trailer.



Attendee interacts with a vending machine at Flexfit's exhibit outdoor retailer 2023

Attendees could enter Flexfit’s exhibit space by interacting with a custom-made vending machine that dispensed a hat.

To get inside of Flexfit’s exhibit, attendees were invited to interact with a “secret servant,” a custom-made vending machine that dispensed a hat based on a participant’s answers selected on a touchpad. The activation also helped the hat manufacturer gather valuable intelligence about attendees’ product and technology preferences, which will inform the product showcase choices at the next OR. Once the interaction was completed, the vending machine would then slide off to the side, revealing a passage inside that led to a bright, modern space featuring the brand’s customization capabilities and two activation stations presenting the hats’ water-resistant properties. Although attendees could enter freely on other sides of the footprint as well, the wall with the vending machine generated the most traffic. Sustainability also played a key part in this exhibit: Inside, a sustainability wall focused on the brand’s efforts going forward, and the exhibit itself was built out of a reusable frame with stretch fabric interchanged based on the event.



It is only fitting that thermal insulation brand Thermore would deliver its brand message in a semi-private, inflatable igloo, which brought an element of elegant and unexpected creativity to the show floor. Inside, the warm glow made the space feel surprisingly cozy and inviting, unlike traditional walled-off exhibits, and provided a natural setting for trying on outerwear featuring the Italian brand’s products.

Thermore's igloo exhibit at Outdoor Retailer 2023

Thermore’s inflatable igloo enticed attendees’ curiosity on the show floor, contrasting the surrounding more traditional-looking exhibits.


Off-Piste Provisions

A 10-by-10 exhibit by Off-Piste Provisions, a New Zealand-based producer of plant-based meat snacks that just launched in the U.S., had the look and feel of a mountain cabin with stunning views and a promise of outdoor adventures. The corrugated metal countertop displayed samples of the brand’s products, and a driftwood backdrop made attendees smile with a note about hobbits. Together, the unassuming but well-thought-out elements made the small space feel chill and authentic, proving that it doesn’t take a massive footprint to bring all the right—in this case, Kiwi—vibes.

Off-Piste Provisions' booth at Outdoor Retailer 2023

Off-Piste Provisions brought elements from New Zealand to Salt Lake City along with samples of its plant-based meat snacks.

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