Grassroots Connect Breaks Attendance Record

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, the national organization dedicated to the health and growth of independent specialty retail, announced a record number of attendees and pre-booked appointments at its annual fall buying show. Organizers confirmed 982 total attendees – an increase of 13% from 2016 – which included Grassroots member retailers and vendor partners, invited retailers and vendors, independent sales representatives, business services and media.

Pre-booked appointments – which were scheduled by Grassroots Connect staff for all attendees – increased 8% to a total of 6,366. Appointment schedules were delivered to retailer attendees via a free smartphone app, which came individually pre-loaded with all appointments, meeting locations and group events. More than a third of retail buyers were booked without a break for the entire four-day event.

“The growth of Connect is really a vote of confidence for the specialty retail community,” said Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. “When independent outdoor businesses and top tier vendors come together in a single location like this, the health of this industry is in full display.”

The fall Grassroots Connect show began with numerous group sessions on topics of interest such as vendor sales trends, succession and legacy planning for retailers, MAP pricing policies, and the impact of off-price promotions on wholesale sales.

The continued growth of the show was noted during the opening day’s member breakfast by Hill, who cited the fact that show was first held in 2001, attracting representatives from 23 exhibitors and 27 retailers.

“Connect allows us to get a tremendous amount of work done in a short amount of time. We love the simple, focused, condensed and get-it-done working approach to the show,” said Brendan Madigan of Alpenglow Sports (Tahoe City, Calif.). “It’s also fun to sit with other retailers in previews and meet company representatives from other parts of the country. All in all it’s a great way to bang out a lot of buying before the hectic holiday season hits – we’d recommend the show to all retailers.”

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“Connect was more than just efficient and effective. As new members, we were truly welcomed by both vendors and retailers alike,” said Marc Sherman of Outdoor Gear Exchange (Burlington, Vermont). “In four days we had a full schedule of meetings for our buyers and our principals as well as organized opportunities to meet other retailers and share ideas about how to better run our business and maximize the benefit we get from Grassroots.”

Grassroots Connect is the only national show designed specifically to improve retail buying results. Scheduled as early as possible in the buying cycle, it’s open to members and invited guests. Invited retailers also receive a per attendee reimbursement to offset their travel costs.

“Grassroots Connect has steadily grown to become big enough to easily deliver the results that businesses need, as well as a community aspect that we all expect from premier outdoor industry gatherings,” Hill added.

Grassroots Connect was held in the Knoxville Convention Center, a 500,000-square-foot facility which includes a 120,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 30,000-square-foot divisible ballroom and 18 meeting rooms. The hall is the first convention center in Tennessee to be certified LEED Silver for Existing Buildings from the USGBC, and Green Certified through the TN Green Hospitality Certification program.

Grassroots Connect will return to Knoxville for their spring show, and is scheduled for June 14-17, 2018.


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