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Vermont outdoor companies turn to digital trade show in age of COVID-19

July 20, 2020

BURLINGTON, VT. (July 20, 2020) — Three Vermont outdoor companies are participating in the first ever Outdoor Retailer Online (ORO), a virtual trade show for the outdoor industry. For Mana Threads, Kaden Apparel, and UnTapped, the virtual networking event comes as Vermont outdoor brands reimagine their approach to building new markets and reaching new customers in the age of COVID-19.

The online trade show, which kicks off this week with three days of virtual events, provides outdoor businesses with an opportunity to connect with retail buyers, businesses, and media. The show, a mainstay of the outdoor industry in the United States, Canada, and other countries, traditionally takes place in person in Denver, Colo., and was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Burlington-based Mana Threads makes ethically produced, biodegradable women’s activewear. Kaden Apparel, also headquartered in Burlington, sells high performance, technical mountain bike apparel designed for and by women. UnTapped makes maple-based athletic nutrition, including on-the-go maple syrup packets and waffles designed to fuel long runs and bike rides.

“Attending ORO is a great way to gain exposure as a new brand, to connect with relevant buyers and industry professionals, to network, and to establish new business accounts,” said Chelsea Camarata, founder of Kaden Apparel. “Though it’s impossible to predict the future, virtual trade shows might become a more prevalent thing so I’m excited to hit the ground running with this one and figure out what works and what to improve on for the next show, wherever it may be hosted.”

The move to a virtual show also levels the playing field for small Vermont brands, erasing traditional barriers including expensive travel and providing easy access to the brands via an online portal.

“As a small brand we see this as an opportunity to get more visibility with people using a digital platform that is easy to navigate,” said Amelia Leme, the founder of Mana Threads. “We’re hoping to connect with a larger group of vendors instead of potentially getting lost in the huge [in person] OR show. It’s going to be exciting.”

Other Vermont outdoor companies are participating in the show as brands and retail buyers, including Orvis based in Sunderland, Turtle Fur from Morrisville, Pinnacle Ski & Sports located in Stowe, Basin Sports in Killington, Vermont Country Store in Manchester Center, and Onion River Outdoors and ROAM from downtown Montpelier.

The three brands are attending the show with support from the federal State Trade Expansion Program administered by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The agency’s partnership with the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance links businesses and nonprofits that produce, provide, and sell outdoor recreation products, services, and experiences with the state’s ThinkVermont.com promotion of the state as a desirable place to live, work, and play.

“Vermont has a robust outdoor recreation economy, and we’re glad to be able to support some of our outdoor innovators and retailers as they navigate a business landscape radically altered by COVID-19,” said Kelly Ault, executive director of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance. “Emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses have the ability to be nimble and creative, and participating in an online trade show is just one of the ways businesses like Mana Threads, Kaden Apparel, and UnTapped are adapting to the new normal.”

According to the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economic impact of the outdoor industry on Vermont’s GDP has been growing steadily, with $1.5 billion in 2017 attributed to snowsports, recreation apparel/accessories, hunting, boating/fishing, guided tours/outfitted travel, climbing/hiking/camping, sporting events/festivals and bicycling. This spring and summer, sales of hunting and fishing licenses have been well above previous years and retailers have reported a much higher demand for equipment and services for bicycling, paddlesports, and camping.

“Even now, the outdoors continues to be an economic driver for Vermont,” said Hilary DelRoss, senior economic development specialist with the Vermont Department of Economic Development. “The state’s partnership with the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance is one way we can support the outdoor industry in strengthening business opportunities, as well as the trails and recreation communities, in the months and years to come.”