The combined 2023 Big Gear Show and (e)revolution in Denver will include a two-day consumer component. Here’s why that’s good news for outdoor retailers.
By Eugene Buchanan
When the Big Gear Show comes to Denver’s Colorado Convention Center June 8-11, it will include a first-of-its-kind outdoor gear festival on the final two days, allowing brands to engage directly with their customers mano-a-mano. The addition breaks from the typical B2B trade show tradition, wherein manufacturers strictly showcase their new wares to dealers only—leaving end-consumers out. Traditionally, this meant retailers would then have to then turn around and introduce new product to their customers. They still do—but this new format will give consumers a hiking boot in the door as to what’s new for the upcoming season, taking some of the pressure off dealers.
Co-locating with its sister e-bike show (e)revolution and consisting of two industry days and two consumer days complete with product demos, this new show model represents a cutting-edge era of what its organizers call B2B2C, or “business to business to consumer.” Instead of ostracizing the end-consumer, it embraces them with open, Gore-Tex-clad arms. The goal: Attract new and more diverse participants, making it easy for them to learn about the gear the show’s exhibitors are making. Educating consumers directly helps eliminate the retailer as a middleperson, leaving more time for more important things—like selling.
“When I was at OR, it would constantly come up: ‘You should add a consumer day at the end’ or ‘Why not let consumers/‘prosumers’/public in for a day?” says Big Gear Show director Kenji Haroutunian. “Over the years it became a chorus, as categorical lines blurred on who qualified as manufacturer/retailer/media/industry player, as well as the clear role consumers were increasingly playing as influencers, gear reviewers, ambassadors and even product designers.
“Big Gear is making it official—consumers have an important role to play and we welcome them to participate in our annual shows,” he adds. “With an organized and industry-connected approach, we’re including two days of discrete business-to-business work then adding two days of consumer interactivity to drive maximum value for both brands and specialty retailers.”
“Big Gear is making it official—consumers have an important role to play and we welcome them to participate in our annual shows.” —Kenji Haroutunian
The format, he adds, benefits retailers directly by design: It lets them discover relevant new brands to bring into their shops; brands are encouraged to sell gear through retailers who are both on and off the show floor; and attendees learn about shops in their region who bring the local expertise and curated selection that gets people going outdoors.
Of course, this format only works if you have access to consumers, which the Big Gear Show has in spades by relocating to Denver. “Our ethos has always been to embrace both retailers and consumers and we feel like now is the time to bring our industry to where the people are,” says Haroutunian, touting Denver as the perfect accessible center city location for such a situation.
In fact, the show’s move to Denver gives exhibitors access to over 3 million people and one of the most active outdoor populations in the country. What’s more, 80 percent of Colorado’s population lives within 100 miles of the Mile High City, opening the show’s doors to an even bigger audience well attuned to recreating responsibly outdoors.
80 percent of Colorado’s population lives within 100 miles of the Mile High City, opening the show’s doors to an even bigger audience well attuned to recreating responsibly outdoors.
For their part, retailers are behind the new format. “I think any event, from shows and demos to races and local events where the brands that thrive in specialty retail get more exposure to the general public, is a net positive for retailers who carry those brands,” says Mike Massey, CEO and founder of New Orleans’ Massey’s Outfitters and Locally, a specialty retailer and manufacturer online-to-offline shopping network. “It’s much more important for both retailers and specialty brands to focus on a 20-year consumer lifecycle than to fret over a single purchase. In general, positive purchasing experiences lead to affinity and even more purchases.”
And the separation of the dealer and consumer components is also paramount. “I’m all for it if it’s on different days than the retailer portion,” says Tom Connell of Santa Ana, Calif., retailer Gear Coop. “Retailers and suppliers need to meet without interruptions from consumers so they can build a great assortment and get the best deal for the consumer. The biggest winner, of course, is the local retailer. Those from afar won’t benefit as much unless the supplier hands out a find-a-retailer-type list or something.
Local specialty dealers in the Denver market are also behind the new format, especially since it’s in their backyard. “I know that any buzz around new product is helpful, especially if the consumer is able to actually use the product, as we see with our on-snow demo events with skis and snowboards,” says Steve Osborn of multi-store and online retailer Evo Gear, which has one of its brick-and-mortar stores in Denver.
“It’s much more important for both retailers and specialty brands to focus on a 20-year consumer lifecycle than to fret over a single purchase.” —Mike Massey, Massey’s Outfitters and Locally
Since its inception, the Big Gear Show has strived to redefine what outdoor industry events should look like, from its beginnings in Park City to its current move to Denver. In an era of inclusivity, along the way it’s now expanded to a more inclusive platform that welcomes consumers into the mix. And this plays out especially well for its partnership with the (e)revolution e-bike show.
“Consumers prefer to purchase eBikes through retailers due to their technical features, need for proper sizing and other scary complexities,” says (e)revolution show director Lance Camisasca “While eBike retailers are equipped to meet these concerns, when consumers attend a show like this and get educated on the various eBike choices, attend seminars and generally get excited about owning one, how can that be anything but great for retailers in their hometowns?”
The same theory—a consumer component benefitting outdoor specialty retailers—holds true for all the other outdoor categories the show is embracing as well. In addition to showcasing outdoor, cycling, climbing, paddlesports and camping gear, it’s also branched out to include overland, trail running/footwear and apparel exhibitors—all of which consumers can engage with via product demos and meeting directly with the manufacturers at established gear-testing zones throughout the show. Want to try out climbing boots? Hit the wall. Hiking boots? Walk around a turfed course on the floor. Camp furniture? By all means, take a seat. “The June show will be by far the most inclusive representation our industries have ever experienced, by design,” says Haroutunian.
So, while the show remains retailer-centric—with first-look opportunities at next year’s gear, retailer travel subsidy programs and retail education programming—it’s also recognizing and embracing the role consumers play in the outdoor world. Which is important because, as former U.S. President Harry S. Truman would say, that’s where the buck stops.
“It’s a forward-looking concept of an inclusive industry gathering of consumers and retailers,” says Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office Director Conor Hall, who’s happy to have the show call the Centennial State home. “Events like this are important in our push to ensure we remain a national leader in outdoor recreation and the gathering place where brands, retailers, and now consumers come together to learn, network, and celebrate the great outdoors.”
Purchase consumer tickets here.