Our team spent some time at the Outdoor Retailer summer show in Salt Lake City last month. The event attracts more than 25,000 attendees and injects more than $23 Million into the Salt Lake City economy. We attended on special invitation courtesy of Nate Alder, CEO at Klymit, an up-and-coming company that invented a new way to stay warm in the freezing cold. I’ll come back to Klymit later…
What struck me as I made my way into the expo center is the shier number of exhibitors. The fierce competition had companies in the outdoor industry pulling out all of the stops to attract the money in my wallet. Given the fierce competition level, I thought new and exciting companies innovating and developing new and exciting products would wow me. I’ve got to tell you, I wasn’t wowed at all. In fact, we seemed to see a lot of the same old products.
Certainly there were some exceptions. Like Keen Footwear, the company with the most creative footwear, booth and attitude at the event. Or Adventure Trailers, the company that invented a rooftop tent for JK Unlimited Jeep Wranglers and other all-terrain vehicles.
But we learned an interesting little nugget at the event that might explain some of the reason why we just weren’t seeing any innovation… in many cases, industry mega-distributors make decisions on what products to feature in their respective catalog’s two or three years in advance, not months in advance. Seems pretty difficult to create an environment of innovation and change with a two or three year product feature window.
Now, back to Klymit. Talk about innovation; they invented a line of products heated by argon gas. The cool part (no pun intended) is that their product line is significantly lighter and less bulky than traditional winter products. We spent about 30 minutes in their booth trying on the Kinetic Vest and other products. Awesome stuff!
As we left the event, it was clear that for emerging companies to survive, they must differentiate their products and services or they’ll just blend into the crowd. Much like Klymit is doing right now.
Carve out your niche. And build your brand, religiously.