Should retailers boycott the Outdoor Retailer show’s return to Utah?
REI, Patagonia and The North Face plan to boycott the Outdoor Retailer show once it returns to Salt Lake City in 2023 in a spat over the Utah legislature’s stance on public land protection. The boycott’s organizers argue the relocation of the show only undermined those environmental goals.
The bi-annual show moved to Denver in 2018 after Utah lawmakers asked President Donald Trump to repeal the newly-designated Bears Ears National Monument. The show packs an annual economic impact of about $45 million. Denver’s contract expires in 2022.
In announcing last week the return to Utah in 2023, Emerald Expositions, the show’s owner, said the dispute over public lands can be better fought from Salt Lake City, the event’s home for 22 years.
In a statement, Emerald said, “In reality, leaving after 2017 has not brought the change we had hoped for, so we will push back, not pull back.”
Steps Emerald says it is taking to drive “meaningful change” include:
- Committing revenue from the events to fund programs to support outdoor recreation and protect public lands;
- Forming a Business with Purpose initiative in partnership with Visit Salt Lake to host meetings between legislators and outdoor recreation leaders to discuss land protection and outdoor access.
Other contributors to the decision include easier access to on-water and on-snow demo sites to test products from the show floor, significant cost savings and a survey showing outdoor retailers overwhelmingly wanting to return to Utah.
President Joe Biden restored both Bears Ears as well as southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante to their former sizes.
The Conservation Alliance, made up of 270 outdoor firms, have argued that Utah’s political leaders are still pursuing legal action to roll back protections. In February, the alliance sent a letter signed by 24 major industry players to Emerald threatening to boycott the show’s return. A few reiterated their plans when the return was announced.
Ben Steele, EVP, chief customer officer, REI, said in a media statement, “As we made clear in February, REI will not participate in any OR trade show in the state so long as Utah’s leaders persist in attacking our public lands and the laws that protect them.”
- We’re Moving Back to Salt Lake City – Outdoor Retailer
- Outdoor Industry Leaders to Emerald Expositions: We Won’t Participate in a Utah Trade Show – The Conservation Alliance
- Salt Lake gets Outdoor Retailer back but not everyone is happy – Salt Lake Tribune
- Outdoor Retailer trade show is leaving Denver for Salt Lake City – The Denver Post
- Patagonia, REI Co-Op and Timberland Won’t Attend Outdoor Retailer in Utah – Footwear News
- Back to Utah: Outdoor Retailer Makes Contentious Decision to Move Show – Gear Junkie
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you support moves by major outdoor retailers and vendors to boycott the Outdoor Retailer show’s return to Salt Lake City over Utah’s environmental policies? Is depriving the state of a show’s economic benefit or staying and working with local officials the better path to driving change?