Mar 23, 2022 - Business

Colorado says it can do better after Outdoor Retailer snubs the state

The Outdoor Retailer outdoor industry trade show

The Outdoor Retailer outdoor industry trade show is back in town for the first time since the pandemic struck last spring and is expected to draw thousands of people to the Colorado Convention Center on Aug. 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Outdoor Retailer trade shows just left Colorado in the dust.

  • Yes, but: The state says it's got a better way forward.

Driving the news: Emerald X, the show's operator, announced Wednesday it would return to Salt Lake City for its twice-a-year events starting in 2023.

  • The decision came despite Colorado offering more than $400,000 in incentives to keep the events at the Colorado Convention Center, Axios Denver learned.

Context: Denver began hosting the shows in 2017 when the organizer left Utah after 20 years because the state supported the Trump administration's move to cut back public land for national monuments.

  • Patagonia, REI and The North Face have threatened to boycott the show if it moved back to Utah. Patagonia issued a statement saying it would stand by its decision not to attend.

What they're saying: The call came as a surprise to Colorado officials. "We felt pretty confident we made a good offer, especially with all the big brands threatening a boycott," Conor Hall, the new director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry, tells John.

What to watch: Even before the location change, state and outdoor industry leaders saw declining attendance figures and criticism of the show as an opportunity to reinvent the events.

  • Colorado is in the early stages of planning a new event to highlight the outdoor industry's presence in Colorado. The vision is something more interactive and impactful, akin to South by Southwest, the annual music and big idea festival in Austin, Texas.
  • "The reality is, Colorado remains at the forefront of this industry. … This doesn't change any of that. It just gives us a new opportunity to create something that should be pretty cool," Hall said.

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