By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – For the first time since before the pandemic, the nation’s largest outdoor recreation trade show is back underway at the Colorado Convention Center. Outdoor Retailer is where businesses vie for the attention of industry peers, rather than the public.

The show comes after more people than usual turned to the outdoors while the pandemic shut down indoor events.

“It’s been an explosion in the outdoor industry,” said Tim Nakari, owner of Broomfield-based Gamiviti.

According to a spokesperson, around 12,000 people registered for the event and nearly 400 brands showed up, making it smaller than past events. Regardless, the people on the showroom floor told CBS4 they were thrilled to be at a convention again.

(credit: CBS)

“There’s definitely a buzz about it,” said Jon Frederick, U.S. country manager for outdoor apparel companies Rab and Lowe Alpine. “It’s exciting to see the outdoor industry injecting some revenue into this economy.”

The chance to exhibit the company’s products in-person is an opportunity Frederick is not taking for granted. His company, like many others, is hoping to continue the unexpected success of a pandemic year.

Frederick said 2020 began with uncertainty and ended with the two best quarters the company has ever reported.

“Like never before in the outdoor industry we saw new users coming in at all levels, like hiking, trail running, backpacking, etc.,” Frederick said.

 Nakari, a retailer, says the boom was industry wide.

“Without being able to get on an airplane or hotel, people have been pushed to now get in their vehicles and explore more or get on their feet and explore more,” Nakari said. “I feel it will probably plateau a little bit, but I don’t foresee a downturn.”

For companies like Rab, the show is a chance to keep that momentum going, and it starts with networking face to face.

(credit: CBS)

“We wanted to be sitting across the table from retailers who felt comfortable being here, because this is about partnerships for us,” Frederick said.

“It’s great to see people’s faces, reconnect with people you haven’t seen in two to three years, and shake hands and give people hugs again,” said Kelley Smith, president of Kokopelli, a Denver-based company that sells inflatable packrafts.

This year, those connections may come in smaller groups or through a mask, which many attendees chose to wear, but it’s an improvement on last year, when large events were not possible.

“I think this show really needs to happen and these retailers really need for it to happen,” said Nakari. “They rely on it.

The show is scheduled to be back in Denver Jan. 26 – 28, 2022.

Conor McCue