Outdoor Industry Summer Market
Took time this week to attend the Outdoor Industry Summer Market in Denver, Colorado. Couldn’t spend a lot of time, but did go for a day and was impressed (again) with the bits of innovation and evolution on display.
At Synthesis the Outdoor Industries and especially the Bicycle Industry are important. Not only are we participants as end customers, we also enjoy design and engineering in this focus area. Though not much was present with respect to bicycles and cycling, there was a lot of great thinking on display.
This image from the Show Daily Summary Video sums it all up! We are absolutely thankful to work in areas where play is the focus.
Outdoor Retailer is a part of Emerald Expositions, LLC which have made bringing industries together their business. As in other posts we’ve done, Synthesis has participated in many expos — some in association with customers and customer products (like this) — and some doing (among other things) a little research on things like bicycle helmet safety.
Personally, I love looking for gems of innovation (and evolution) ideas in the seas of glitz and hype. Yes, unfortunately, there is a lot of pretty empty facade in these amazingly large expositions.
2019 Outdoor Industry Summer Market
What did we find this year? There are a few small stand-outs I’ll mention, but first impression was the vast number of competitors in the clothing and shoe markets. Honestly, it’s surprising at how many companies are trying to distinguish themselves in a flood of rain coats, cargo pants, and outdoor-centric footwear. Also amazing, when asking, how few could answer — “Why is your product better?”
OK, so this in marketing 99 — have a reason for doing what you’re doing, and make your product differentiate from the competition. There should be something, and every one of your sales / marketing folks should succinctly articulate it. Then, screaming from the mountain tops can be effective. Enough of that.
Popular Outdoor Trends
You can always see trends at these big expos. A few years back there were a bunch of slack lines and such — even shoes for it. This year a big representation for suspended living (hammocks, tri-ties) and portable boats (inflatables, sectionables, fold-ups). In both of these categories there were some cool evolutions.
Of course, hammocks are not new. However, there were a lot of evolutionary and cool ideas. One I liked a lot is a variation of “tent in a tree” shown in this image. He just looked like he was having a great time.
Then there is the one where entry is through the bottom. It sounds weird, but it seemed to work quite well. (Another customer was trying it out.)
Tri-tie tents and platforms were also pretty popular. Some set up like slacklines with ratchet straps to give tension seem pretty cool on the expo floor (supported by metal frames), but I wondered how well they would work camping. I tend to camp frequently at high altitude or in the desert where large trees are scarce. Anchoring to rocks with climbing gear is possible, but big rocks and cliff faces don’t tend to orient themselves in neat triangles. I think the concepts are really cool, and the evolution and combining of ideas interesting. It will certainly work well for some areas.
Plastic!! or should I say the disparagement of it is a big focus this year. There were in-your-face displays like the shark made from plastic cleaned from the ocean, as well as simple nods to earth friendly ideas like cork instead of foam. I think awareness is good for all of us.
Gems In The Summer Market Mix
Limited time at the show means limited time to really find the cool little gems. That said, there were a few interesting bits.
The coolest ugly thing there has to be the RIVIAN. It attracts so much attention — probably because it’s unique — but it sure is ugly. I guess that’s the point. Well that’s my styling opinion. An all electric, do anything truck. I really love the ideas and what the vehicle represents.
There were many booths with a focus on power for the outdoors. Battery packs, charging stations, solar cells, and water generators. I suppose they all have their place.
One little stream hydro-power unit caught my attention. This guy had a little unit that uses a stream flow to turn a propeller. Of course, this is not a new idea, but I really liked the design. The propeller was super smooth and easy to spin. It pivoted at the center, and carried magnets in a ring at the blade tips. The coils are in the stationary shroud around the propeller. While weight and size, then availability for water at the camp site are issues, the engineering and design of the device are pleasing.
One booth had little solar panel pieces to see. I don’t think the pieces themselves are that interesting, but they were out to see and touch, and they had several products built with panes configured for various purposes. I like their customizing approach to supporting the industry.
Boat Portability (And Storage)
OK, I’m not that in touch with the personal boat markets any more, but this little thing gave me delight. Take it apart for easy transport or storage, then put it together in various configurations for use.
Another one (photo didn’t turn out) was made of what looked and felt like Coroplast. It folds out and connects for a boat, but also folds up to fit on your back. I’m not sure how safety inspiring it is on the water, but the idea is interesting.
A lot of inflatables. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the time see all of those, but definitely an outdoor industry presence.
I love seeing innovation for climbers. There were several small evolutions I saw with materials or other variations, but not much real innovation. This adaption of a carabiner with interlocking multiple gates — did catch my attention, however. There were several variations of gates and sub gates — some for safety and some for convenience. I like the ideas.
Other combination ideas of gear for multi-purpose function also show some clever thinking. Keep that up!
The worlds of Rock Climbing along with the Bicycle Industry are places where Synthesis innovates.
The Trailer Incident
One funny incident (at least for me) happened near this adventure trailer. I was looking over the trailer and getting ready to take a photo when the sales guy — great natured, full of energy, happy guy — came over and began touting the virtues. I smiled and kept setting up the photo. In a bit, presumably because I didn’t respond, he increased his pitch going into more detail about the awesome engineering and how perfect this trailer is for me.
I love his enthusiasm. The company is luck to have him on the sales team.
After the shot, he finally told me there’s nothing better. He then asked what I do. I didn’t want to tell him I was taking a photo of a potential engineering oversight — probably a weakness. It’s not a big deal, but something I noticed and wanted to blog about. (Read the engineering details on Mechanical Elements soon.) Instead, I just said I do custom trailer engineering. He went quiet. I should probably apologize for not explaining.
Outdoor Industry Summer Market — Until Next Time
Though there was so much more at the Outdoor Industry Summer Market, these bits are a few worth mentioning. If you were there and want to add your thoughts, please do so in the comments below. I look forward to many more — and maybe seeing you there too!