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Association News

OIA Annual Conference & AGM 2017

Published: 24/03/2017

OIA AGM & Conference Overview - editorial courtesy of Outdoor i

The past year has been a significant one for the outdoor industries and the approach by speakers reflected the political context of influences on trading. With many achievements to report and dynamic initiatives unfolding, it was a confident conference, offering in sight and challenges in a fraternal atmosphere that recognised the need to work together. As well as brands and media, retail representation included Alpinetrek, Amazon, Blacks, Countryside Ski & Climb, George Fisher, GO Outdoors, JD Sports, Outdoor and Cycle Concepts and Tiso. Also attending were delegates from the Forestry Commission, British Canoeing, the British Mountaineering Council, the European Outdoor Group (EOG), HF Holidays, Keswick Mountain Festival, Outdoor Think Tank, Ordnance Survey, Sport England, Walking with the Wounded and the YHA.

CEO Andrew Denton’s review of the year and announcement of initiatives was packed with developments. No longer is it possible to run through such activities in a few minutes. He had previously announced his new additional role as Secretary General of the recently formed It’s Great Out There Coalition – www.itsgreatoutthere.com - which aims to generate more active involvement by Europeans in the outdoors. A great move for the industry, his OIA role will be supported by a new appointment. Distinguished writer and outdoor filmmaker Claire Carter has joined in the newly-created role of OIA Engagement Officer to improve resources for members and help to boost the overall visibility and marketing activities of the Association. She will be developing and exploiting networking opportunities with other membership organisations, NGBs and NGOs as well as representing the interests of the OIA at outdoor industry events.

Denton observed, “In a year of macro impacts, this has been a year of successes and the team has achieved a turnaround. We have moved beyond brands to promoting outdoor recreation - changing people’s lives! We are now firmly on Government’s agenda and at its heart as a catalyst for change.” His observations on the OIA’s role and effectiveness were supported by initiatives that will benefit OIA members and the industries as a whole. Through the work with key partners such as Mend Our Mountains, the new Getting Active Outdoors magazine, the OIA Awards and extended commercial services to the part-ownership of the Outdoor Trade Show, the OIA has shifted perceptions of its value.

Perhaps the single most exciting development for 2017 is one launched in partnership with ISPO ACADEMY. The Outdoors Future Camp represents a sea-change in appreciation of the Association’s role and the assets of the industries. This new conference and networking camping event is designed ‘to inform, inspire, challenge and bring together the future leaders of the outdoor recreation industries’ and will take place on the 5th and 6th September in Ecclesall, Sheffield. Unlike other outdoor industry events, the Camp is aimed at younger outdoor professionals still developing their careers rather than senior managers. The target audience includes store managers and deputies, regional retail managers, brand marketing, sales and product managers, representatives, agents and distributor staff plus activity centre and hostel staff and instructors and anyone wanting to develop a career in the outdoor industries.

OS Leisure’s MD Nick Giles shared the thinking behind the outstanding initiative it took in launching #GetOutside which is aimed clearly at expanding the outdoor market. Brands and retailers would benefit by embracing the initiative and he was clear that, “Only collectively can we make a difference.” Keynote speakers Mark Ackroyd & Martyn Hindley from Global Reach Partners offered insight into protecting a business’ currency risk. Inevitably, this was a complex presentation, described by at least one delegate as, “Worthy but a bit dry.”

In sharp contrast, communication and brand consultant Kate Bosomworth’s impassioned exploration of how to be a game changer in participation lifted energy levels and reflected the overall inspirational tone of the Conference. As a Sport England Board member and driver of the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, she encouraged delegates to “Think differently and do things differently”, noting that the outdoor industry is at a point of transformation as trends outside the outdoors sector are creating a marketplace begging to be met with innovation and collaboration. She echoed Donohue in her plea to be disruptive in thinking and action, recognising that times of change offer many more opportunities.

Following lunch, the Conference Round Up preceded the afternoon sessions on a variety of themes including Brexit and building business with the military. The ‘Best of Kendal Mountain Film Festival’ film drop-in session was a reminder about what the industry is about at its heart. Unfortunately, Simon Baseley, who was to run a presentation on presenting, became unwell on his North and was taken to hospital. We wish him a speedy recovery to good health – just like that!

Thanks to Outdoor i for permission to use this editorial copy.

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