Outdoor Retailer to Leave Salt Lake City Over Utah Gov's Stance on Public Land

Trade Shows

As of Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Outdoor Retailer show is saying goodbye to Salt Lake City after exhibiting there for more than 20 years. The major trade show is shopping around for new venues in other cities.

The deal breaker was politics—specifically, the public-lands policy and laws keeping public lands wild.

Debate about the management of federally owned lands has been roiling in the American West for years, but it has spiked in Utah over the state’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert’s recent petition to the Trump administration to rescind the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in Southeastern Utah, according to media reports. Herbert has also sought changes to the Antiquities Act, a Theodore Roosevelt–era law that gives the president the authority to create by proclamation national monuments from federal lands.

Management of Outdoor Retailer—owned by Emerald Expositions; its partner, the Outdoor Industry Association; as well as brands Patagonia, The North Face and REI—met with Herbert during a Feb. 16 teleconference. Dissatisfied with the result of the meeting, Outdoor Retailer said that it would take its business elsewhere, said Marisa Nicholson, Outdoor Retailer’s show director.

“Though we may wish it different, this is far from a snap-of-the-fingers thing to make happen,” Nicholson said in a prepared statement. “Convention centers and hotels are not sitting idle. In every instance at every potential venue there are hurdles that have to be cleared and that simply cannot be done overnight.”

While it is rare for apparel-industry trade shows to take political stances, Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, made a call for her trade group’s members to join her group’s efforts.

“Outdoor Retailer is a place for us to come together and recommit to our values,” she wrote in a Feb. 8 statement. She also noted, “Our industry won’t support a trade show in a state whose leaders seek to harm public lands.”

In a Feb. 10 op-ed piece in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Herbert wrote that he had hoped there could be a balance between concerns of the Outdoor Retailer group and those who would like to develop public lands.

“But as governor, I cannot ignore the challenges Utah sometimes faces due to federal practices that too often ignore meaningful local input,” he wrote.

The trade show’s move from Salt Lake City was applauded by Robert Jungmann, founder of the apparel brand Jungmaven and an Outdoor Retailer vendor since 1996.

“This is huge. An entire industry saying enough is enough. I hope more industries, states and organizations vote with their money,” Jungmann said.

Environmental group Conservation Colorado has been making pitches to move Outdoor Retailer to Colorado. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, it has placed ads in Utah newspapers to get the show to move to Colorado.

“We have honored and fought for our public lands by defeating land-seizure bills and embracing new national monuments. ... Colorado knows protecting public lands is just good business,” the ad reportedly said.

Outdoor Retailer claims to be the largest event for the outdoors recreation industry. 29,000 attendees visited the Outdoor Retailer Summer market at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center in August. Due to a contractual agreement, Outdoor Retailer is scheduled to exhibit in Salt Lake City through its 2018 Summer market.