The month of March was marked by the annual industry event that is the Outdoor Industry Association Conference and AGM; an important date in our calendars for retailers, distributors, manufacturers and activity providers.
Spring’s Stephanie spent two days at Shrigley Hall Hotel near Cheshire to listen to the talks, take part in the debates and meet industry folk from far and wide.
“The idea of spending two days out of the office when you’re so busy is daunting. In fact, I put off booking to go on the Conference for that very reason. However, the wealth of information I gained over the two days definitely made it worth it.”
The Conference is a chance to share industry knowledge and ideas but it kicks off with a choice of outdoor activities to get everyone in the groove. You could go mountain biking with Pertex, play golf or go running with Chris Lines of Right Lines PR who represent the OIA. But Stephanie chose a walk, sponsored by Ordnance Survey, and joined by the adventurer, Alan Hinkes (the first Briton to climb the world’s 14 highest mountains), giving her a chance to properly talk to those she hadn’t seen in a while.
“It’s so good to meet up with everyone. Trade Shows are always so hurried and stressful. Marketing teams usually end up working at the events where we see people, so our conversations are brief. The Conference gives us a great chance to catch up.”
Stephanie caught up with Darren Burrell from Snugpak: “He turns 50 this year too, like me! He gave me advice on my daughter’s journey to university and was very helpful, especially on the financial aspect. So it’s not all work, work, work!”
Tom Entwistle from Osprey: “I have huge respect for Tom. He’s so good at what he does and it was great to catch up about his family, his promotion, the brand.”
Neil Bradley from Mammut: “He’s my conference buddy. We hook up on the way in and chat about what we learned on the way back.”
And Mike Vassar from Nikwax: “He’s such a friendly face.”
The Target Publishing team: “They are so upbeat and happy, what a great team. And they are really getting some great traction on Snow Enthusiast.”
Andrew Denton from the OIA: “I sat and thought that the OIA is so lucky to have him at the helm. His enthusiasm and energy are great. I can’t think of a better person for CEO of the OIA.”
Andy Barnett from YHA Head of Network Development: “How interesting is his job! I could have spoken to him for hours. The YHA have some buildings in the most amazing spots and they have so much to tell that hasn’t been told. He’s in his early days with the organisation and has some great plans. Can’t wait to watch the YHA flourish. I really feel that now is the time.”
“I feel like I’ve grown up in the outdoor industry and this is my family. We are in this business because we love the outdoors, what a great industry to find yourself in. I thank my lucky stars that I was bold enough to leave a job I didn’t feel fulfilled in to find something that inspired me”.
The talks and debates were intercut with breakout sessions. Stephanie attended one delivered by Andy Aktins of Resonant entitled ‘Outdoor Retailers or Brands: Who benefits most from the digital revolution of the next five years and why’.
Followed by an amazing talk by Dan Raven-Ellison on the National Park City Movement, a great talk from Ben Saunders on his trek to the south pole (which sounded hideous) and a tear-jerker of a talk by the Youth Adventure Trust. Stephanie noted the Youth Adventure Trust did “…such great work on behalf of the UK’s vulnerable children.”
Dinner was spent sat next to Peter Luscombe from Outdoor i alongside Bob from Grough, Tom from Osprey and Chantelle, Michael and Rachel from Target Publishing. This was followed by drinks in the bar afterwards. Stephanie mentioned, “I left around 12 am but some people I was with went on until 3 am!”
The next day, after a morning’s yoga session from Shelley Aspden, it was time for the OIA Annual Update and the election of a new Chairman. Unanimous voting resulted in Robert Brigham, Managing Director of Ellis Brigham, stepping up to replace Robert Louden MBE.
This was followed by an incredibly interesting debate on single-use plastics, “The debate on plastic made you think ‘this is our problem and we can do something about it’. It’s not about waiting for the Government or suppliers to do something; we can make a change. Us.”
After a buffet lunch, it was time to hit the road back down south to make some changes in our very own Spring office.