Outdoor Retailer: Shaping the Future of the Outdoor Industry

August 2, 2023 Admin Admin

2023 Outdoor Retailer Show

Since 1982, Outdoor Retailer (OR) has been bringing the outdoor community together. The annual conference is the leading outdoor sports business event in North America, attracting thousands of industry experts from all over the world to share ideas on the latest trends. This year, Priority Designs set out for Salt Lake City, eager for the opportunity to connect with new partners and explore how emerging trends will impact the future of soft goods development.

About an 8-minute read.

Laura Lenhart

In my role as a Soft Goods and Industrial Designer, I work to create thoughtful, compelling, and realistic products both in the sewn and traditional hard goods product space. With three years of experience in design, development, and prototyping, I have gained valuable insight into the gaps between conceptual designs and product reality. Understanding current available materials and processes continues to strengthen my abilities to translate ideas into realities. OR is a great place to meet with other people in the industry to get new ideas and continue to grow in the discipline.

Laura Lenhart

Soft Goods Designer / Product Designer

Daniel McKewen

In my role as a Sr. Soft Goods Designer, I focus on designing considered, aesthetic and actionable sewn goods. With nearly 20 years of design, prototyping and production experience, I am keenly aware of what it takes to get an idea to market. Having access and knowledge to new materials and products is a key piece in the innovation pipeline. OR is a great place to see things firsthand, meet new vendors, and share our capabilities with other attendees.

Daniel McKewen

Sr. Soft Goods Designer

Building Lasting Connections

With over 20 years in the industry, Daniel is an OR veteran. Laura, on the other hand, is a novice in the realm of trade shows who quickly learned the significance of connections through face-to-face interactions.

"Going to an event like this solidified the fact that building and maintaining relationships with trusted individuals in our industry is key. By doing this we’re able to cut through some of the vastness of what’s out there and really find the best for the projects we’re working on. It’s also important though to always be pushing to see what’s available and what other people are doing. If you don’t, you can easily get complacent. Seeing what other designers and companies are doing has really turned up the energy on my creative brain."

Laura Lenhart, Soft Goods Designer / Product Designer

There are so many experts in the industry; how do you choose the right partners? We find that meeting directly with an expert of their company’s catalogue and capabilities helps us gain a deeper insight into their offerings and new trends within the industry. Their knowledge of their products is unmatched, and there’s no substitute for being able to touch and feel the products versus merely looking at them on a computer screen.

"This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of attending a trade show like OR. Not only do you get to see the latest materials, trims, and hardware, but you get to see them in action. Often, a brand will use a material or buckle in a way that hadn’t crossed your mind. Seeing such a dense concentration of raw goods next to the “real world” use of them is priceless. It’s fuel for the creative engine."

Daniel McKewen, Sr. Soft Goods Developer

Onshore is the New Offshore

In addition to networking with hundreds of retailers and vendors, attending conference keynotes helps members of the industry understand new trends and opportunities. One trend of note this year was a sharp focus on supply chain resilience and onshore/nearshore manufacturing opportunities.

Post-Covid, many companies have faced various challenges in getting their products to market. When the supply chain was disrupted, companies were forced to look closer to home for manufacturing. As a result, most companies found moving production to their own or neighboring countries was more affordable than in the past and, of course, faster. Keeping production close to shore speeds up execution, allows for improved quality control and faster communication, and lowers transportation costs.

At Priority Designs, we provide our clients with the most effective ways to get products to market faster. Identifying, connecting, and building relationships with onshore/nearshore manufacturing partners is a key area of our expertise and is important for our client’s success.

Exploring New Partnerships

OR serves as a platform to bring together retailers, material vendors, and other like-minded designers, offering valuable avenues to connect with leading brands and explore potential partnerships and business-to-business (B2B) opportunities.

We had the privilege of meeting producers who cater specifically to consumer needs, which opened a world of exciting possibilities.

For example, Nite Ize showcased their innovative “Tru-Zip®” waterproof zipper. We were given a hands-on look at the functionality of the product and explored different innovative ways that we may be able to incorporate this product into our work. Having a wide array of Zippers at our disposal allows us to ensure we are selecting the best product for our clients.

Work Hard, Play Hard!

OR had several after-hours activities planned throughout the show for attendees to enjoy after a long day of networking. Laura and Daniel took “relaxation” to a whole new level as they threw on their climbing gear, hit the gym, and then ended their night with a well-deserved beverage!


This year’s OR confirmed our belief that “face-to-face” is the most effective way to meet new industry partners. Attending OR allowed us to discover and experience new brands and establish connections with top-tier material vendors so we can remain up to date in the ever-evolving industry. We returned with new insights on the impact of onshore/nearshore opportunities and personal connections with new vendors that will ultimately aid in our client’s success!

Want to receive new articles and updates? Join our email list.