As It Happens

Trade show leaves Utah after retailers like B.C.'s Arc'teryx join boycott

The Canadian outfitter Arc'teryx says the fight has only begun after it leads a big outdoor trade show to leave Utah for a state that's keener to protect its nature preserves. Guest host Helen Mann speaks with VP Adam Ketcheson.
Adam Ketchenson, the Vice-President of Marketing and Business to Consumer at Arc'teryx. (Arc'teryx)

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Utah's mountainous regions, vast canyons and rivers may make it the perfect place to host the world's largest trade exhibition for outdoor equipment. But after some Utah politicians supported plans to cut federal protection on public lands, the bi-annual exhibition has decided to leave Salt Lake City. 

For months, companies who show their products at the show have been threatening to pull out over the funding cuts. 

One of those companies is Arc'teryx. Earlier this month, the British Columbia-based outdoor retailer announced it was pulling out of the Outdoor Retailer show. 

Adam Ketcheson, the Vice-President of Marketing and Business to Consumer at Arc'teryx spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about their decision from North Vancouver: 

Helen Mann: Mr. Ketcheson, how did you react when you heard the show's plan to move out of Utah? 

Adam Ketcheson: Really proud of the outdoor industry and the fact that it is living up to the values of conservation, our employees and our consumers. But on the other side, we're disappointed because it's a sign that we were not able to impact the public policy we wanted to impact in Utah, which is such an amazing state full of great, wild spaces and good people. So, it was a bit of mixed emotions. 

HM: How important is this event to you and your company? 

AK: It's a very important event. It's where we have a chance to meet with the retailers in one place. It's also a place for the outdoor industry to come together as a community and talk about the things that we value whether it's business, trade or talking about conservation. We're lucky to be part of an industry where there's a lot of friendly competition. But ultimately, it's a bit of a peer group. We really try to act and behave as a community. Outdoor Retailer is a place where we gather twice a year. 

People attend the Outdoor Retailer show at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. (The Associated Press)

HM: You had already decided as a company to pull out of the event earlier this month. Tell me how you came to that decision. 

AK: It was a really hard decision for us. But, we were influenced by looking at one of our peer brands, Patagonia, and the stand they took in pulling out and boycotting the show. We felt it was important to represent the values of the people who work in our company, the values of the brand and the values of our consumers. We knew we could support that effort by also boycotting the show. It takes big companies like ours to send a clear message to our industry, our consumers and elected officials. We had already jumped out of it, but I was still hopeful that we'd find some resolution with the local government. 

HM: What have your customers said to you? Have you got any response? 

AK: The vast majority have been very supportive. I think people really recognize in the United States that the public land system is such an amazing thing for all Americans, so people really appreciate when corporations and companies put their neck out a little bit to support those values. We've also had some people who are quite upset at us who feel like we're infringing on local state rights. 

Attendees walk into the outdoor retailer event at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (The Associated Press)

HM: What is it that Utah lawmakers plan to do to cut federal protection to public levels? 

AK: At a national level, the Utah representatives have always been aggressive about trying to take control of federal lands to a state level. Some of the local things they're doing is asking President Trump to rescind President Obama's executive order declaring Bears Ears a national monument. They're trying to shrink the size of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

At a national level, they're trying to starve funding from federal land management agencies. They're pushing legislation to shift law enforcement from the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to local Sheriff departments, so essentially allowing the state to stop enforcement of people infringing on wilderness areas. It has a lot of implications on a national level from a public policy standpoint and a lot of implications for the state of Utah. But, the leadership in state of Utah has really been the largest advocates on this process. 

People attend the Outdoor Retailer show, in Salt Lake City. (The Associated Press)

HM: This show itself is said to contribute $45 million a year to Salt Lake City, attracting 50,000 people. Do you think about the people who live in Salt Lake and count on this? 

AK: I've been going the show for 17 years, and I've never met a person I didn't like. It's a really great community and really great people. And, they're caught in the middle. But the flip side is, at the end of the day, we can't in conscience as an industry continue to economically support a state that is so actively trying to erode the value of the public land system which is so important to our business and our consumers. It's not an easy decision. It was a very tough decision. It was very emotional for us internally, but we feel very proud and happy that we made the right choice. 

The Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. (The Associated Press)

HM: You're a Canadian company with employees here in Canada. Do you think, maybe, you should be doing something at home instead of meddling in the affairs of another company? 

AK: The U.S. is our biggest market. We have more consumers in the U.S. than we have anywhere else in the world. We are active in conservation efforts in Canada as well. We never had to be as public from a public policy standpoint. This is a very interesting time in the U.S. with a Republican-controlled Senate, Congress and a new president. There's a lot at stake when it comes to protecting the U.S. public lands systems. So, it's a very unique moment in time. We feel very comfortable and very aligned with the industry. It's very important for us to support the industry. It's very important for us to support our consumers in the U.S. even though if we are a Canadian-based company. We're very global in everything that we do. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. For more, you can listen to our full interview with Adam Ketcheson​ above. 

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