If Outdoor Retailer Returns to Utah, Patagonia, REI, and The North Face Threaten to Boycott. Here’s Why

The Sorel exhibit at Outdoor Retailer in Denver, CO.
David Zalubowski/AP/Shutterstock

Some of the largest outdoor companies in the U.S. are making it clear they won’t attend Outdoor Retailer, the industry’s largest trade show, if it moves back to Utah. This was the subject of a letter sent to Utah Governor Spencer Cox by The Conservation Alliance, an organization that includes 270 companies including REI, The North Face, and Patagonia. The alliance said that unless the state changes its policies toward public lands, its members won’t be coming back.

“…We will not support or attend a trade show event in Utah so long as its elected officials continue attacks on national monuments and public lands protections,” according to a statement from The Conservation Alliance.

Outdoor Retailer is the largest trade show in the outdoor industry, hosting both summer and winter shows. For the $689 billion outdoor industry, these are major events and, for the last five years, they’ve been hosted in Denver.

A History in Utah

Prior to Colorado, the Outdoor Retailer show had been based in Salt Lake City for more than 20 years. That changed in 2017 when President Trump reduced the size of Bear Ears National Monument by 85 percent and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by half. The move, with support from Utah officials, was the largest national monument reduction in history. Responding to the loss of these public lands, Outdoor Retailer sought another host city for their events, eventually selecting Denver.

Now, Outdoor Retailer’s contract with Denver is set to expire at the end of 2022. While it may stay in the city, the show’s director, Marisa Nicholson, said there were other possibilities. She mentioned Anaheim, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Salt Lake City as all being in the running this past summer.

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In hopes of a show return, Governor Cox cited airport improvements and a new Salt Lake City hotel. The governor also stated the state was working with the Department of Interior to find ways to manage the national monuments. However, officials have continued to argue against protections for Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante restored by the Biden administration. It’s these continued challenges to public lands that has The Conservation Alliance saying it won’t be returning anytime soon.

When asked about this possible boycott of Utah, Governor Cox seemed to be conflicted on the subject. At a press conference, Cox said, “We did not miss them at all.”

The governor then said he would welcome the return of Outdoor Retailer. “We would love to have you. It would be amazing,” said Cox. “Or don’t. Whatever. It’s fine.”

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