Tuesday, March 20

NEC Outdoors Show - Roundup

By now my fellow bloggers should have given you much of the lowdown on the NEC outdoors show. The innovative exhibitors. The new gear. And of course the old gear being offloaded via the bargain bins.

Personally I was looking forward to this show. Its the only outdoor show that I am likely to get to as there's not a lot a call for this sort of affair around the parts near Walkabout Hollow.

So my aspirations for it were not too high. It's meant for the public at large, not necessarily the specialist walking/backpacking community (If that was the case they wouldn't need the NEC, any local sports hall would be more than big enough!)

So a few brief impressions that I recorded as I wandered around.

It took me about an hour to make my first sortie around the whole thing, dropping in on few stands, but generally getting the feel of what was on offer.

It was quickly clear that of the 3 halls only Hall 1 had any real relevance, with some dribs and drabs in Hall 2, from the bigger outdoor companies.


I spotted that the Millets stand was next to (part of?) Blacks, but I resisted the opportunity of running up and shouting Gizajob! And to their credit the staff on these stands were keen to mingle with the public, plus they actually had a reasonable range of gear available to buy. A pity many of the other specialist names didn't have the same approach to the potential sales market walking onto, and then off, their patchs.

Why pay the hall fees and not use the business opportunity?

But a noticeable lack of some of the bigger retailers - no Cotswold Outdoors for example.

The punters came in all shapes and sizes, the common theme being their intent to outdo each other with their designer label clothing. And every other person seemed to be wearing a rucksack!

Now why was that? I've been to a number of shows here over many years, and without a doubt I've never seen such a widespread urge to overload the dress code. Perhaps the emergency rations in the packs came in useful when they saw the price of the NEC catering? A dubious show tradition.

A second sortie allowed me to stock up on cheap kit any of which I could have picked up on the High Street if I had really wanted. And undoubtedly there were some bargains to be had if one was minded not to be too specfic about product name. But far too much on offer was expensive compared to prices available on the internet.

And therein lies part of the problem with the OD Show. As a three day show its showing signs of fatigue. Either there's new stock/new ideas to be previewed, or gear at a sensible price. I can't say that I saw many examples of either and without a makeover this show is becoming over dependant on the general public/designer streetwear appeal, a fickle mistress to please.

Hi-tech gear is already pricing itself out of the pocket of the sunny day walker, especially when retailers like Primark. Tesco & Lidl can and do so easily undercut the price, even if the product is not the same spec to a more expert eye. Does Joe Pubic really worry? Look at the jean trade and Levi's losss of market.
Even Regatta, long an exponent of reasonable price/spec gear is offering so much apparel now with such little appeal for me personally.

Yet I still bought two pairs of old style Regatta zip off walking trousers fo £30, coz thats what I like, and thats what works for me at a price I'm happy to pay. And the source? A little stand at the back of the show that could have been located at any large market. One that understood money must be taken to pay the stand costs, so give the punter what they want to buy, at an acceptable cost.

A pleasant day out but I won't be rushing back unless I need to restock on run of the mill apperal.

Best stands, in no particular order:

Mountain Warehouse ~ ta for my £9.99 mid layer fleece. loads of other bargain gear there. Well stocked and helpful staff.

Hike Lite ~ and a thanks to Paul for showing me the Gregory z55 and explaing about the bigger Gregory pacs based on my specific needs, despite being snowed under with punters. An encouraging sign that there is money to be taken if you have the right products.

Snugpak ~ I finally got a chance to compare their multitude of bags and narrowly avoided a impulse purchase of a bivvy bag.

Disappointments?
Accepting what I've mentioned above why was the Alpkit stall so limp? I know they've got loads of good gear. So where was it? (My fellow bloggers seem to have found some goodies on here, but looks like I may have missed so much)

And huge raspberry to the producer of the 'official show guide'

For £3 I expect to find out what's on, and at least have a floor plan that I can read to find the stalls. Some of the small print on the plan was unreadable. And despite poring over it for 10 minutes at least one exhibitor never got my visit because they were untraceable.

Bearing in mind the show's sponsor was Ordinance Survey, the mapping specialist, I should have enjoyed the irony.


I'm told that outdoor gear manufacturers read some of these blogs. If so please take note of this humble blogger's experiences.

Outdoor Show- 4/10 needs to try harder.

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