Regional trade shows have seen immense growth in the past two years thanks to shifts in retail since the pandemic. Many buyers want to check out the next season’s gear and styles without having to travel more than a day’s drive or pay the high price of traveling and attending the national trade shows that aren’t near their hometown. This month we interview Stacey Gellert, the Executive Director of 360 Adventure Collective, a nonprofit organization that is run for sales reps by sales reps with multiple regional trade shows and experiential events from New England to the Southeast.
For those who aren’t familiar with 360 Adventure Collective (360 AC), can you tell us a bit more about your organization and how your trade shows fit into the outdoor industry’s buying schedule?
We are a non-profit member association started by a handful of outdoor sales reps who kept running into each other while on the road. The group has been around for 43 years with a rebranding in 2018 to our current name 360 Adventure Collective. We focus on the smaller mom-and-pop type retail stores and provide a trade show that’s within a day’s drive.
We noticed that you’ve been with 360 AC for twenty years, what can you tell us about the organization today and how it’s evolved since you first started?
The timing of deadlines and sample delivery has changed tremendously. From when I started to today, those timelines have shifted a full two to three months, depending on the category. I remember hosting trade shows over Valentine’s Day and now that event is the week before Thanksgiving.
The industry has embraced the digital world in terms of workbooks, order forms, reports, and even presentations. I think because of our community’s love of more outdoors and less screen time, it wasn’t embraced as quickly as it should have but COVID made that a priority.
I’ve also seen the type of stores evolve. The true outfitters are attending, but we’re now including clothing boutiques, shoe stores, gift, yoga studios, and running. As a society, we’ve embraced outdoor style for everyday wear.
360 AC’s shows and events have a strong regional presence. Are you seeing a trend in the industry moving from big national events to more regional shows? Why do you think that is?
360 AC is seeing more exhibitors and brands, who would normally put all their efforts into the national shows, wanting exposure on the regional level. I think there are several factors at play; cost of travel (gas/flights), labor shortage in the store, COVID travel fear, and major brands that have pulled out of supporting the national shows.
The trade show landscape is really confusing these days, any suggestions for new shop owners and buyers on how to navigate the options?
I would get very specific on what type of customer you want. You can’t just say “outdoor” anymore, you have to specifically look at what categories and type of person the customer is — what’s their age, region, activity, etc. Get as specific as possible because it could be several different customers in one. That will help you determine your brands and categories which in turn will narrow down the trade shows that will offer the best use of your time. There is a trade show for everything, so it’s easy to over-extend.
What does the 360 AC Experience offer that’s different from other industry opportunities?
The convention centers we work with often remark on how “quiet” our shows are. That’s because everyone is working! We have put years into crafting the right environment and vetting the correct exhibitors and retailers to attend so you are not wasting any of your precious time, whether that’s away from the store or off the road.
We understand in the past year that 360 AC is seeing record-setting growth at its events, what do you attribute this accelerated growth to?
I think it’s twofold, but both relate to COVID. The pandemic put a monkey wrench in deliveries and the supply chain in general. The response to that is earlier deadlines so we are seeing new exhibitors whose order deadlines are more inline with our events. The second is when COVID hit, many were hesitant to attend a trade show or just get it done via Zoom. After 2 years, many were hungry to touch and feel the product in their hands.
If you had an unlimited budget, what would you add to the 360 AC attendee experience?
An employee dedicated to the retailers. Our staff works hard to take care of the needs of our membership (sales reps), but the other key component for everything to work is our retailers. We’ve just not had the bandwidth to cover that segment.
When not heading up all things 360 AC or handling your obligations as the Vice Chair of the Outdoor Gear Builders board, what do you like to do to recreate in the Asheville area?
We (husband, dog, and myself) are on the Shut-in Trail at least twice a month if not more. It’s a short drive from our house and such a pretty hike. We have also been urban biking more. Asheville is trying to embrace more bike lanes and we can get from West Asheville to Downtown easily without hitting major traffic. I also enjoy paddling, but don’t make time for it until we’re on vacation.
What’s your favorite piece of gear in your closet?
Oh boy, I guess I’d say my Camelbak belt… it’s like a fanny pack, but holds my big Camelbak water bottle, phone, keys, and snack. We have backpacks for longer treks, but this one is what I use more often.
We’ve heard you can throw a fun dance party, what’s your go-to song for getting people on the dance floor?
Ha! I mean if it’s a dance party then I have to go old school with “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan
What book is currently on your nightstand?
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, it’s fiction and I highly recommend it.
Are you into podcasts? If so, which one are you currently fascinated with that we should check out?
Hidden Brain by Shankar Vendantam. “It’s the voice in our ear when we make the most important decisions in our lives”. He explores the unconscious patterns and interviews professionals in those fields, but somehow it’s not overly scientific or too nerdy. Maybe just a little.
Favorite WNC restaurant that you’re willing to share with our readers?
Rendezvous in East Asheville – you can make reservations for the outside seating which has a view of the ball court so eating and entertainment!
Learn more about 360 Adventure Collective at 360adventurecollective.org and find them on the following social channels.
Linked In: 360 Adventure Collective
Facebook: 360 Adventure Collective