Grassroots Connect sets new record for fall show attendance as specialty retailers chart a stable path through a bumpy marketplace

November 16, 2023

In a season of divergent retail trends, Grassroots Connect – the twice annual buying show of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance – brought together leading independent retailers and industry leading brands for four days of consistent business and open conversations from Nov. 5-9, 2023.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI / November 16, 2023 /OUTDOOR SPORTSWIRE/ – In a season of divergent retail trends, Grassroots Connect – the twice annual buying show of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance – brought together leading independent retailers and industry leading brands for four days of consistent business and open conversations from Nov. 5-9, 2023.

Grassroots Connect attendance grew over last fall’s record-setting gathering, with 1,151 total attendees (+6%) including retailer buyers from 145 independent specialty stores (+8%). During the show, buyers engaged with a growing number of brands as well, including 123 (+9%) on the main floor and 70 in the Discovery Marketplace – a growing showcase space for rising brands which debuted one year ago.

Yet while Grassroots show-goers were clearly energized, the surrounding conditions of the national marketplace were muddied by seemingly opposing trends, such as the National Retail Federation’s recent forecast for record-setting holiday sales as well as Grassroots group sales data that showed a slight sales decline (-1.5%) year to date versus 2022.

“People are trying to minimize their variables in a somewhat calm spot between the last supply chain challenge and the next one, and are clearly appreciative of the opportunity for face-to-face meetings,” said Gabe Maier, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. “For brands, there’s a lot of stability and comfort to be found in the specialty outdoor marketplace, which has traditionally been a bit more conservative when it comes to taking big swings on inventory. And for retailers, there’s an incredible level of appreciation for the brands who take the time to attend Connect.”

Inventory issues remained a dominant conversation at Connect, as despite the normalization of manufacturing and buying behaviors from the demand-driven surges of the pandemic, caution is in the air as the outdoor sector readies for the inventory impacts of transitioning away from PFAS beginning in 2024.

Surrounded by evolving sales and inventory concerns, Grassroots retailers clearly valued the time spent with key decision makers.

“Connect, as always, is such a great way to align our business relationships with vendors. Over the years, I’ve learned that the business meetings are valuable not only to address concerns on our side, but also to learn about solutions and tools that brands have available to help my business grow,” said Chris Gerston of Backcountry Essentials in Bellingham, Wash.

“When we sit in a Connect buying meeting, we feel prioritized and leave with more clarity around our season buy as well as a deeper understanding about the brands we carry. We also have a chance to identify any challenges with sell-through, brand policies, deviations from brand identity, or any other issues where the brand c-suite decisions may affect our sales. We always leave Connect reenergized, motivated to bring new ideas and knowledge back to our team,” said April Peterson of River Rock Outfitter in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

“The show was great and the business meetings were some of the most important we get to have throughout the year. We value the business meeting concept so much I even brought my marketing director to her first show in order for her to be able to participate in these high level meetings and chart a course for 2024,” said David Polivy of Tahoe Mountain Sports and Tahoe Mountain Life in Truckee, Calif.

The next Grassroots Connect show will be held in Reno, Nev. (June 10-13, 2024). For more information, please visit https://connect.grassrootsoutdoors.com.



Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is a retailer-owned active network of 101 independently owned outdoor retailers and 69 vendor partners, working together for the health and growth of specialty outdoor retail. Through data collection and analysis, direct member support, specialty events and deep vendor partnerships, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is creating both a vision and roadmap for the long-term success of independent specialty retail. Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is recognized as a catalyst for the success of its retailers and vendor partners; an advocate for specialty independent retail; a promoter of education and community within the specialty channel; and a key influencer of the national outdoor industry. For more information on Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, please go to www.grassrootsoutdoors.com.

Connect by Grassroots is our twice annual legacy show experience that spans 4 days offering an efficient and structured format for retailers to conduct their pre-season line showings and business conversations. Connect appointments are scheduled well in advance of the show which supports brands that already have established business with our retail attendees. Connect is focused and efficient and allows retailers and brands to conduct business together at the right time in the buying cycle, while also incorporating opportunities to celebrate the outdoor industry and retail community. The schedule for upcoming Grassroots Connect shows include Reno, Nev. (June 10-13, 2024) and Kansas City, Mo. (Nov. 11-14, 2024). For more information, please visit https://connect.grassrootsoutdoors.com.

Discovery Marketplace by Grassroots is our exploration experience aimed at introducing our attending retailers to new, niche, and exciting brands in a 3-hour unstructured open format offered at the beginning of Grassroots. The Discovery Marketplace is about making introductions and building new relationships between retailers and emerging brands. The next Discovery Marketplace (LINK) will be held June 11, 2023 (Knoxville, Tenn.). For more information, please go to https://connect.grassrootsoutdoors.com/overview-2