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Paddlesports trade shows in 2017 - which one(s)?

Paddlesports trade shows in 2017 - which one(s)?
Which trade shows?
There have been some interesting developments in trade show land. Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake moved from August to July, planning to move their paddle sports business to Surf Expo (same organiser) in Orlando. To make things even more complex, a new show is currently being prepared: Paddlesports Retailer in Madison.

Since there is hardly any time between a couple of these shows, many brands will not be able to exhibit on all of them. I decided to gather some thoughts on this from our friends in the industry.

I'll start of with my own thoughts, which double as a more detailed intro on the situation.

Jeroen Houttuin
Playak/SUPzero Publisher
Playak Cafeteria at PADDLEexpo 2013

Pretty unclear..

As media, I am pretty flexible concerning the trade shows to attend, as long as I get to see most of the new products every year. Also, I don't have a huge booth to ship around, or manpower to plan, so I can take last minute decisions, which comes in handy this year, as the trade show situation in the US is quite unclear...

I've attended OR in Salt Lake City for some 12 years now, and used to love the show. Since roughly five years though, I keep noticing more and more large paddle sports brands not coming to OR anymore. The big box brands kept pushing for earlier show dates, but for boat and board manufacturers, it just doesn't make sense to exhibit earlier, as their retailers are in the midst of their business season then, so they don't have time to come to the show.

This year, OR will be even earlier than last year, namely from July 26 to 29, and since OR is owned by the same company (Emerald Expositions) as Surf Expo, Emerald decided to move paddlesports away from OR to Surf Expo (September 7 to 9). This is ironic, since OR went through great efforts to attract the SUP industry, which is closer to surfing than to kayaking culture-wise. And now they can move back to Surf Expo.

At the same time and for the same reason, some key people in the US kayaking world noticed that their culture might not fit in too well with Surf Expo, and so they decided to create a Paddle Sports specific show. It's a good idea that seems inspired by PADDLEexpo in Germany, so this Paddlesports Retailer show (September 12 to 14 in Madison) may work very well. There is one difference with Europe though, namely that the US has Surf Expo (with only 2 days between the two shows), so especially SUP brands will probably have to pick only one of them. Surf Expo felt more like SUP Expo in recent years, so I expect that most SUP brands will still choose for Surf Expo, at least for the time being.

For global brands, the situation is even trickier, as there are only four days between Paddlesports Retailer in Madison and PADDLEexpo in Nuremberg.

For brands with a stronger focus on Europe, the situation is simple: PADDLEexpo is the place to be.

From a personal perspective, PADDLEexpo is my favourite show anyway, plus we always sponsor the Cafeteria there, so this one is a must, and I'm glad so :)

As for the US, I'll look at the exhibiting brands lists shortly before the shows, and base my participation on those. I hope the situation will become a bit clearer in 2018.

Corran Adisson
Owner, Soul Waterman

Open, but sceptical about the future of trade shows in general

Probably we will go to OR even though it has moved because of the big box, and we will be at Paddle Epxo. Surf Expo we will see.

As for Paddlesports Retailer, I'm not sure how much of a success it can become - time will tell.

I think shows in general have diminishing returns on cost, and their usefulness is coming to an end.

Marty Cronin
VP of Sales at Jackson Kayak
Keeping his cool :)
JK Cuda HD @ ICAST 2016

Attending most of them, but also doing invitational Dealer Summits

We will be only attending a few select shows this year. We put an early deposit down on OR before any discussion on other shows surfaced, so that mixed with an interest to give it a last year, leaves it with us attending OR this next and last year.

We will also be attending Paddlesports Retailer and will consider this new show, along with iCast to be our primary shows next year and until further notice.

I noticed that you didn't list iCast but with our brand emphasis on Kayak Fishing, this is an excellent venue for growing the retailer base for that side of the business. Still lots of fishing specific shops that are wanting to get into kayaks! iCast is the best fishing specific show in the US. It's basically the OR of fishing and allows us to grow distribution to retailers that are new to paddlesports but have large client bases of fishermen. Bottom line, the biggest chunk of the fishing market hasn't even been tapped yet and we hope to dig deeper into that core specialty market.
Paddlesports Retailer is fantastic for a couple reasons. Cheaper, better time of the year for manufactured to finish and to present product, also an infinitely better time of year for paddlesports dealer owners and buyers to attend. No brainer. But I am cautioned by the fact that a nice component of OR was exposure to outdoor dealers that might not currently be selling kayaks but in the stage of "thinking about it". But not too concerned about loosing that aspect.

We feel Paddlesports Retailer has a likelihood of instant success. Paddlesports is a niche and we have special needs (demo area, Autumn is the best time of year from a retailer and manufactures perspective, as well as little need for overly fancy/expensive accommodations for this crowd... :)

The only show we do though our international distributors is PADDELexpo in Nuremberg. Additionally, I plan to look into some EU fishing shows such as FTEX but no decisions made quite yet.

For 6 years now we have been doing our own event in Rock Island TN in October. This is called the Dealer Summit and it's an invite-only event where we bring in both selected JK Retailer Partners (120 total that we can provide accommodations for at one time and this sells out fast) as well as our strategic partners (RAM, Yakattack, Cascade Designs, Bending Branches, and others). This is very intimate and more of a business conference then a "show"... meaning big focus on providing relevant speakers, discuss next years marketing strategies, deep sales training on our and our partners products, considerable "on-water" time and also face time with how the whole inner workings of JK operate. I have interest in doing one of these in Europe and might pull it together in 2017 but I'm not sure on that yet. I'm still looking for good locations.

Joe Steiner
Owner, Airboard
Airboard at PADDLEexpo 2014

PADDLEexpo it is

In regards to shows we are not going to the US - and the only show we might attend is the Nuremberg PADDLEexpo. We are not interested to grow into Trump's land but fully concentrate on European markets.

Paul Robertson
Palm Equipment
The Palm booth at PaddleExpo 2016

PADDLEexpo is the most important show

For the paddlesports retail market Palm will only attend PADDLEexpo. We do not sell into North America so the USA shows are not part of our promotion plan. PADDLEexpo does exactly what it set out to achieve over 10 years ago - a focused event, at the right time reaching the right clients without excessive costs.

We haven’t exhibited at OR for over five years and last year no longer attended to walk the floor as we could achieve more at other outdoor trade events.

The guys behind Paddlesports Retailer are smart, they know the needs of both retail and trade and have proven experience with both groups who attend shows; plus It follows the model proven by PADDLEexpo - so it should work well.

We leave some shows to our distributors: some regional show cases in Europe focused on small retail buying groups or non- core categories like rescue or Marine.

From a European perspective it has always been admirable how the US paddlesports trade is very visible within the outdoor market and not just a fringe element. Nowhere is this more apparent than a visit to OR.

However business is business and if it doesn’t work for the customers and costs continue to rise, then something has to give. It’s exactly what happened over ten years ago in Europe and why PADDLEexpo began.

Jimmy Blakeney

Wait and see...

We are attending most of them this year and will see how it shakes out for 2018.

John Chenciner
Body Glove SUP & Footwear

We love OR and ISPO

We cater mostly to big box stores, so Surf Expo is already too late for us, and so is the new Paddlesports Retailer in Wisconsin. With Outdoor Retailer going to June next year, this is the perfect show for us. For the independent sores, it will be an interesting fight between Surf Expo, which is already establishing itself as a paddle show, and the new Paddlesports Retailer.

We do exhibit at both Surf Expos, simply because we want to be part of the whole Body Glove booth, and we do find some new customers there from time to time, but it’s not a major business driver for us.

We’re not going to Paddlesports Retailer this year, also because we are already at Surf Expo, but we’ll see how the new show develops, and then decide again for next year.

PADDLEexpo was disappointing for us, as it is a small show for our standards, and our distributor Blue and White will be present there anyway.

We will attend Outdoor Friedrichshafen again, as that show has been very successful for us in the past two years.

We attended ISPO (February 2017) in Munich for the first time this year, and it’s been a huge success for us, so we will definitely be back there in 2018!

Tyler Kelly
Keeper Sports

Is Paddlesports Retailer even for SUP?

Currently we do both Surf Expo’s (Jan./Sept.) and the Outdoor Retailer show. However, we have distributors in Europe that show our brands at ISPO as well. Beyond that, it’s shows like NBS (Nations Best Sports); PIAS (Play it Again Sports); World Wide Show.

We go to shows that cater to our industry, ones that make the most sense and give the best return for the investment.

We intend to show at OR at the moment, because we have not been informed that the SUP category will not be present there. If it turns out that there will be no SUP’s present (or more importantly buyers in that category), then we’ll likely not go.

As for Paddlesports Retailer, it's way too early to say. This is the first time we’re even hearing of the show. From limited research, The Paddlesports Retailer appears to be more of a canoeing show, which may also mean kayaks? Little is known about this show and we’ve never been contacted by the show coordinators.

Our distributors generally take care only of the regional shows, and we try to do the national shows.

PADDLEexpo appears to be pretty big and will get consideration from us in 2017.


It seems the industry is more confused about the trade show situation than I thought. PADDLEexpo in Nuremberg is still a favourite, as it attracts both SUP and kayak brands from all continents. I originally thought Paddlesports Retailer would be a similar show for North America, but most European brands have no interest to attend, and surprisingly, it is not even clear if the show will try to attract SUP brands...

Some of the largest brands have been disappearing from OR in recent years. Most of them prefer to have direct contacts with their retailers, either through brand specific dealer meetings, or by visiting them throughout the year. Apart from that, there is still a trend towards direct sales in the paddling industry, so it could indeed be the case that retailer trade shows are losing relevance altogether. This year will hopefully shed some light on it all...

For Playak and SUPzero in February 2017,

PS Here is a list of this year's big trade shows:
Jan 26-28 - Surf Expo
July 26-29 - Outdoor Retailer
Sept 07-09 - Surf Expo
Sept 12-14 - Paddlesports Retailer. After publishing this article, we learned that this show was moved to Aug 29-Sept 01.
Sept 19-21 - PADDLEexpo



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