Opinion: Musings from a Trade Show Warrior
We’re just a month into 2018, but Chris Goddard, founder of CGPR and 25-year industry veteran, has already logged more than 12,000 air miles in 2018, walked 46 miles of trade show aisles, and consumed 38 cappuccinos while hop-scotching from Shot Show to Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show to ISPO. (And, yes, untold glasses of Merlot were involved, too)
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As I sit in Munich, waiting for my flight home from ISPO, my brain is spinning with all of insights gleaned from three back-to-back tradeshows. For the last 15 days (just like I have for the last ten years), I’ve been a trade show road warrior, where home was a hotel bed and nutrition for the day was giveaway booth candy and caffeine. My feet are tired from all the miles hiked, and yes, I’m worn out, but as I finally head home to my very patient husband and dogs, I definitely feel more exhilarated than exhausted, and so optimistic about where these industries are headed. It’s a great way to begin my 25 year in business.
Here are a few big picture observations—slow baked over the course of all three shows, which are very different, but also share some commonalities.
Whether it is introducing Safariland’s next generation auto-activated body worn camera for law enforcement, adidas Outdoor’s outerwear made of harvested ocean plastic, or PrimaLoft’s newest insulations, innovation and the ability to be connected and empowered is driving change.
In the world of law enforcement, it’s providing today’s officers with equipment that seamlessly and automatically connects them with other nearby officers and to their command center.
In the outdoor and winter sport world, it’s about having the best gear and technology to enjoy the outdoor world or an elegant coat to brave New York’s Fifth Avenue’s blustery winds in style, skiing in Val d’Isere, or getting first tracks in Telluride.
Consumers, regardless of where they live, are dealing with today’s topsy-turvy world and consumed by national, regional, and local political unrest. As a way to rise above the noise, consumers are looking to the outdoors for solace and to fashion in order to express themselves.
Globally, there has never been so much choice—in fashion, technology, a blending of both—and the evolution of traditional outdoor activities to urban venues. The world is the consumer’s oyster.
In order to engage a more demanding consumer that dwells in a world of distraction and is sensitive to transparency and supply chain issues, industries must unite to be stronger, smarter, and more relevant. This new age consumer is yanking our collective chains. Two sessions at ISPO Academy reinforced what we already know: that brands and retailers don’t make trends, consumers do. And we all better be ready to anticipate and act quickly.
Brands can learn from each other, share best practices, trade successes and failures, and be better together without revealing their trade secrets. We saw this at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, when the outdoor and winter sport industries came together under one roof. It does work.
All three shows—Shot Show, Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show and ISPO—present 2018/2019 products and direction for their respective industries. Each show is a global gathering of the world’s most iconic brands and up-and-coming companies, in addition to buyers, influencers and media.
The differences? Shot Show is focused on showcasing apparel, technology, and gear for the tactical/law enforcement and hunting worlds. Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show and ISPO are more closely aligned, as they focus on apparel, footwear, accessories, and technology for the outdoor and winter sports world, including ski, snowboard, water sports, fitness, and eyewear among others. Interestingly enough, the military attends both Outdoor Retailer and ISPO as they look to the outdoor world for design inspiration and apparel technology that easily transfers to protecting the U.S. military.
Three other commonalities stand out: people wear the passions on their sleeves, technology is king, and every single category is embracing with digital world with Fire and Fury (to borrow from author Michael Wolf).
I saw this unity and passion at all three shows, despite their differences. Here are my three big takeaways:
Have a Clear Mission
Having a sense of how to approach the future and anticipating the needs of customers or users is critical. Product is paramount, of course, but really thinking about how to engage consumers today and tomorrow so they become loyal is equally important.
Sales Can (And Should) Be Creative and Fun
Regardless of the trade show, I saw immense creativity from brands on the floors, whether it was designing my own adidas mini sneaker at ISPO Digitize, petting baby Goats at the Venture Out section at the Fisher + Baker booth, or having fun at the ISPO Munich Night Run followed by The Sport Scheck Trails in Motion Movie Night .
Never Stop Thinking About How Lucky We Are
I pinch myself all the time to think about how damn lucky I am to work in the industries that I do. Our clients do amazing things for their customers through the engineering of best-in-class technology.
I feel so lucky to work in passion-based industries. I feel genuine emotion in the halls of these trade shows. I hear it in the panel sessions, and the line presentations, and in the random conversations with friends and colleagues.
There are abundant challenges and point of views about how to get from point A to point B, but I deeply respect anyone who is really passionate about what they do, whether it’s engineering equipment for law enforcement, designing better gear, protecting public lands, fighting for diversity and gender equality, or getting more kids outside. I love being with passionate pros in love with that they do.
Heading back to Denver for a two-day strategy meeting tomorrow, then heading home finally to watch the Patriots win the Super Bowl. I can’t wait. The next trade show cycle will be here in the blink of an eye.