OIA Conference & AGM

180 delegates from across the outdoor industry gathered for two days to network, discuss current challenges and to listen and learn from keynote speakers

Sponsored by The Camping and Caravanning Club, the Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) annual Conference and AGM saw over 180 delegates gather together on 14th and 15th March at Shrigley Hall Hotel in Cheshire for two days of speakers, workshops, outdoor activities and networking opportunities.

After registration, delegates were able to spend the early afternoon taking part in one of the four outdoor activities on offer: mountain biking, running, golfing or walking. After a few hours in the great outdoors, the association’s CEO Andrew Denton opened the annual general meeting and introduced Chairman Robert Louden as he took the stage to reveal the successes of the OIA, with growing membership numbers and new appointments for the board.

Mark Held, General Sectary of the European Outdoor Group (EOG), then discussed the controversial decision to move OutDoor from Friedrichshafen, where it has taken place for the past 25 years, to Munich from 2019. Mark explained the Vision 2020 project and how the decision was made, speaking of the thorough research project and exhaustive process which was undertaken. Interestingly, he also revealed how they plan to spread the expenditure across the industry – highlighting the issue of brands attending the show to do deals without exhibiting. Delegates seemed to be impressed that the organisation is looking into this.

The first day of talks was then closed by the hilarious Nick Bullock who managed to make everyone in attendance laugh out loud, a lot. Fjallraven kindly sponsored the pre-dinner drinks reception which was followed by a delicious three-course dinner sponsored by GP Batteries and Global Reach Partners. Andrew then announced the winners of the prestigious UK Outdoor Industry Awards.

The winners across the ten categories are as follows: Accessories – Katadyn BeFree, Backpacks – Osprey Levity 60, Camping Equipment – JetBoil Flash, Climbing Equipment – Edelrid 3D Lap Coiling, Clothing – Jack Wolfskin Sierra Trail Jacket, Digital Product – Sat Map Active 20, Family – Lifeventure OS Map Towel, Footwear – Garmont Sticky Stone GTX, Sleeping – Rab Mythic and Tents – Backpacker Flying Tent. From these ten winning products, the panel of expert judges selected Katadyn’s BeFree as the overall Product of the Year.

The next morning delegates were invited on a morning run before a packed day of talks and workshops. Andrew kicked off the day with the annual update and review of the year, highlighting the challenges the industry is currently facing.

He certainly set the tone for the rest of the day, passionately discussing the need to encourage the wider public to get outside and be active. He revealed that outdoor recreation is now on the government’s agenda with £250 million pledged to be spent across the next five years and that London is set to become the world’s very first National Park City. He highlighted how the OIA has been supporting this aim, mentioning our collaboration with Getting Active Outdoors magazine.

Andrew then went on to tackle the pressing issue of Brexit, posing the question ‘How do we deal with it?’ He revealed that 63 percent of UK customers have a positive reaction to the ‘Made in Great Britain’ label, which can also boost sales in Asia by 65 percent. Europeans also positively react to the label – apart from Germany, interestingly. This insight will certainly prove useful to the outdoor brands that were in the crowd.

He pointed out that it is key to know your customers and for the outdoor industry to target millennials, who will be responsible for a third of the world’s purchasing by the end of 2020, to continue sales growth. Andrew offered four key points for outdoor brands: to define the customer clearly, to leverage their concerns, to address their values and to use connected visual media platforms to reach them. He then went on to discuss augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, before highlighting the importance of having a mobile-friendly website.

Ryan Gellert, Patagonia’s EMEA General Manager, was a compelling speaker and had the audience gripped throughout. His talk, ‘Good for Business, Good for the Planet’ outlined the ethics behind Patagonia and how the business has grown into the environmental leader it is today. He discussed in detail some of their successful initiatives, including donating 100% of Black Friday profits in 2016 – which they predicted would be a couple of million pounds but resulted in being a £10.5 million commitment. Ryan affectionately spoke of Patagonia’s Founder Yvon Chouinard, who was simply unfazed by the commitment when the team realised how much money it was going to be and stating, “It’s a lot of money but think of how many new customers we will have.”

Ryan spoke with honesty and integrity and reminded everyone why we are part of the outdoor industry in the first place. Yes, we are trying to make our businesses work and to make a profit, but that doesn’t have to be at the expense of our planet. He finished on, “We are not a sustainable company, but a responsible one.”

Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager of Amazon, finished the day’s talks with ‘Digital and Retail – It’s Still Day One’. Then the day finished with three workshops which delegates could choose from, ‘Creating a Story Beyond Twitter’, ‘Developing New Markets (China)’, ‘How can activity providers reach new customers with open data?’ and ‘How to develop great presenting skills in 30 minutes’ presented by Simon Baseley.

As my first OIA Conference, I thought the two days were a real success. All the speakers were engaging and highly insightful, the schedule allowed plenty of networking time and the outdoor activity, dinner and drinks provide a relaxed atmosphere, reminding delegates to enjoy themselves whilst donning their work caps. Certainly a key ‘not to be missed’ event in the UK outdoor trade calendar.




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