Denver, State Officials Respond to Loss of Outdoor Retailer Show | Content reserved for subscribers
Officials from Visit Denver and Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry expressed surprise and, of course, disappointment at Emerald X’s decision to move the Outdoor Retailer Show to Salt Lake City starting in 2023.
“We were all pretty surprised,” said Richard Scharf, president and CEO of Visit Denver. “We worked for the last two or three months on a proposal, making sure they had the Convention Center on the dates they wanted, the hotel packages — whatever they needed. We are definitely surprised and sorry to see them go.
Scharf said he submitted the hotel packages to Emerald on Tuesday.
“We put together a competitive and fair bid, and we all felt we were in a really good position,” said Conor Hall, director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry.
This package included up to $400,000 in incentives from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The money was left over from the initial $1.7 million package the state put together in 2017 to get the show into 2018 and beyond. The package was supposed to be for 15 shows, but Emerald only got nine shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic business and travel shutdowns.
“Visit Denver did everything they could, moving shows to accommodate them, which is especially difficult in the summer months. It was herculean,” Hall said. “Traditionally, OEDIT does not grant incentive packages to trade fairs. But that was a rare case, because the outdoor industry is so, so important to this state.
“But our mission is also to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money, so any bid that was too high could have called that into question.”
When the show was at its peak in 2019 and January 2020, it would attract over 26,000 visitors. Last January’s show only attracted 5,300 attendees and 1,400 retailers. The 2021 summer show drew 7,600 visitors and 2,200 retailers, according to Emerald.
“The last full show was in January 2020,” Scharf said. “And they had to move the show from June to August because of the Delta variant of COVID, so I have to commend them for moving the date and giving it a try. …COVID hit and there were a few years without a show. They try to bring it back, but it just hasn’t taken off yet.
Scharf said losing the show doesn’t affect Denver’s reputation as a convention-friendly city.
“We have the third busiest airport in the world. We have the most domestic routes with nonstop flights, and our airfares are lower than Salt Lake City,” Scharf said. “We have 12,000 hotel rooms within two miles of the Convention Center, a multi-million extension of the Convention Center. … This city is full of investment and has an incredible future.
Hall said the hole left by Outdoor Retailer will be filled with something new and distinctly Colorado.
“While it’s disappointing to lose the show, it also presents an exciting opportunity to create something new in this space,” Hall said. “We have such a robust and strong outdoor retail industry in the state, for businesses, for nonprofits, for higher education — all these different spaces. There have been many calls for an event that is much more consumer-oriented, more open to the public, more inclusive and to include discussions on big issues like the environment and diversity in the industry.