DENVER – The Outdoor Retailer trade show will move the event back to Salt Lake City from Denver next year despite threats from an environmental group and big-name recreation companies to boycott the biannual event over the move.
Critics of holding the event in Utah say the state’s politicians oppose efforts to protect national monuments and public lands.
But Emerald X, the publicly traded company that owns the show held twice a year, told stakeholders in a letter announcing the move Thursday that it can better promote the outdoor recreation industry and fight for environmental protections from its longstanding base in Utah – where the show was held for decades before moving to Denver in 2018.
“Salt Lake City is our hometown, and we’re going back with a commitment to effecting meaningful change,” the company said. “In reality, leaving after 2017 has not brought the change we had hoped for, so we will push back, not pull back. We firmly believe that staying engaged and collectively contributing to the ongoing discussion, no matter how difficult, is far more constructive.”
This year’s June event will still be held in Denver ahead of the show’s winter 2023 event in Salt Lake City.
Show organizers came under pressure in February when The Conservation Alliance and two dozen outdoor recreation companies – including Patagonia, REI and The North Face – threatened to boycott the event if it was moved back to Salt Lake City despite what they described as widespread industry objections.
Jeff Davis, group vice president for Emerald X, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the company hopes to convince skeptical participants to stick with the show and mount exhibits.
Emerald X consulted with hundreds of firms and exhibitors and considered multiple locations, including staying in Denver. An “overriding majority” of outdoor retailers wanted the event moved back to Utah, he said.
“We’ve talked to all the brands, and while we cannot speak for all the brands our tent is open,” Davis said. “We want as many participants as possible to contribute to what we believe is a positive change.”