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Outdoor Brands Divided on Attending Retailer Show in Utah

Image Credit: Outdoor Industry Association

In response to Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s resolution urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument, Patagonia announced that it would be opting out of this year’s Outdoor Retailer trade show. Outdoor Retailer (OR) is held every year in Salt Lake City, Utah, and brings in an estimated $50 million to the state according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Patagonia said in a statement that the governor’s actions make it clear that he and other Utah elected officials do not support public lands conservation nor do they value the economic benefits — $12 billion in consumer spending and 122,000 jobs — that the outdoor recreation industry brings to their state.

“Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah, and we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation,” said Rose Marcario, president and CEO of Patagonia.

The Outdoor Industry Association, which organizes OR, has also announced that it will not automatically renew its contract with Salt Lake City, which it’s done for nearly two decades. It will instead begin to solicit proposals from cities that better align with the non-profit’s values, saying, that it “look[s] forward to being in a location that, from a business, cultural and values standpoint, best serves our industry.”

And they’re not the only ones taking action. At least six other companies have now pulled out of the tradeshow, including Peak Designs, Polartec, Arc’teryx, Metolius Climbing, Kokopelli Packraft, and Bedrock Sandles.

Peak Design CEO Peter Dering said in a letter on the company’s website that he hopes hundreds of small companies will be inspired to join the boycott.

“If we all band together, it’s actually going to sting,” Dering said. “Plenty of states who do the right thing are ready and willing to take Utah’s place.”

Last month at the winter OR show, Black Diamond Equipment founder Peter Metcalf said that keeping the event in Utah makes the industry complicit in supporting rhetoric and strategies that don’t align with its values.

Others, such and industry giants The North Face and REI have said they will continue to participate. The companies see the Outdoor Retailer event as an opportunity for the industry to band together and rally for more recreation-friendly land-use policies in Utah. Scott Baxter, group president of The North Face, said the company will use the summer OR show to discuss the issue and to support small companies and nonprofits.

“It would be a mistake for us not to gather as an industry this July,” REI CEO Jerry Stritzke said in a letter on the REI website. “Now more than ever, we need to act together to advocate and find a common voice to protect our most important asset — our public lands.”

Ibex Clothing, based in Vermont, says it will also still attend OR, but will do so with a reduced team and budget, channeling funds instead to the Conservation Alliance Public Lands Defense Fund and leaving its booth early to protest.

“Outdoor Retailer cannot stay in Utah,” stated Ted Manning, Ibex’s CEO. “And until it moves out of the state, we as a company are taking decisive action to stand up for our public lands and conservation.”

This isn’t the first time the Outdoor Industry Association has considered moving OR. And despite the backlash, Utah officials say they are confident that they can do enough to keep the show. Governor Herbert is calling the boycott a “political ploy” and said that claims that Utah is trying to take away public lands are false and represent a perpetuation of misinformation.

Herbert is scheduled to meet with Outdoor Industry Association representatives next week to discuss the matter.

Libby MacCarthy was previously an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Toulouse, France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]

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