From your perspective, how is the outdoor business faring so far in 2014?
We visited the European show, OutDoor in Friedrichshafen, Germany, in July (the same venue as Eurobike) and you can normally get an indication how the trade is doing – that show was vibrant, suppliers seemed pleased with current business and attendance was slightly up on the previous year. Of course that is a European perspective – here in the UK everyone looks for an excuse for poor trading and blames the weather especially! Good weather doesn’t suit everyone but it’s great to get people outdoors and enjoying camping trips and outdoor pursuits. The waterproof and protective outerwear suppliers would of course prefer it was wet but you can’t have it all and so far this summer we have experienced some balanced weather conditions. In general, exhibitors that we have talking to seem fairly confident about the state of their businesses but of course the outdoor retail market is largely dominated by the large chains and they seem to be getting larger with even more consolidation and sadly we are continuing to lose the smaller independents as they simply cannot compete.
Exhibition space has sold quicker this year for OTS (the 100 exhibitor milestone was hit in May) – can you put your finger on why that is, exactly?
Perhaps that suggests a bit of confidence in the market to make an earlier commitment, but we did have an early bird incentive to book and get a reduced space rate. Perhaps more exhibitors decided to take advantage of that offer this year. Bookings tend to slow down after that cut-off date, although we did extend an offer to members of the Outdoor Industries Association and maintained the special rate if booked by a certain date.
I think also that exhibitors are very often keen to secure the same stand location within the halls year-on-year and by making an early commitment to exhibit, they have first option to keep the same stand space.
You’ve been set at Stoneleigh for a number of years now – what are the benefits of the location?
We launched the show in 2006 at Stoneleigh after researching other venues. As we had been running a show for tent suppliers for a number of years at Stoneleigh we were familiar with the venue, the facilities and the staff and it just seemed to offer the best of both worlds with good quality exhibition hall space and outside grass areas for the display of tents and caravan awnings. We also wanted a location in the centre of the country, hence the Midlands was ideal. Stoneleigh has other benefits as well – it is cost effective (and that was important for our exhibitors), with very easy access for build-up and breakdown. The towns of Leamington Spa, Kenilworth and Warwick are on the doorstep so there is plenty of accommodation nearby and the motorway and rail networks make it relatively straight forward to get there. It just ticked all the boxes and the show is now entering its ninth year!
Is the cycle element of the show getting bigger?
I think the show presents an ideal opportunity for savvy retailers to come and have a look and see what products might fit wither existing product offering. I’m a cyclist myself and every year you can just see the selection of available products that would sit nicely within a cycling store. Perhaps not too much available for the traditional road cycling market but if you think of the recreational, touring, hybrid, mountain and commuting markets there’s lots on offer. There is such a cross over between outdoor / camping and cycling and at the show you can find anything from hydration systems, GPS, socks, insoles, base layers and protective outerwear to bike lights, stoves and lightweight tents and a plethora of everyday gadgets such as torches and knives. I would encourage retailers to come and have a look and for suppliers to visit and see if they feel that there is an opportunity to tap into that wider market.
How can retailers get the best out of OTS 2014?
I would suggest that they do their homework in and advance and plan their time effectively – have a look at the website at www.outdoortradeshow.com and identify the exhibitors that they want to go and visit (there are web links to each exhibitor). Make sure they visit the brands that they want to see but also allow time to wander around and identify that ‘must have’ new product – to gain that competitive advantage. Also many exhibitors will have ordering incentives at the show – this could be a great opportunity to obtain a discount on forward orders.
Any final thoughts on OTS?
It will be ten years of OTS next year and whilst we recognise that the trade has different requirements and the retail landscape is changing, we are in a position to remain flexible with things like timing but need to appeal to the majority and match the needs of retailers and suppliers. We also still have space to grow and would be interested to hear from suppliers that might for example want to develop a cycle trade section within the show. There seems to be such a cross over with elements of the outdoor trade it would be good to capitalise on this.
The Outdoor Trade Show runs September 9th to 11th at Stoneleigh Park Exhibition Centre, CV8 2LG www.outdoortradeshow.com