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Rich Hill now needs a flowchart to explain his work history, which has taken him to a number of well-known brands, from Kokatat to Kelty, Marmot, Patagonia, Ibex and prAna in roles he describes as “sphincter-like”: He has served as a channel through which everything passes. The next prong on the journey will see him put that experience to use as president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance (GOA), a seat Wes Allen announced he would leave earlier this year.
“We’re just psyched: Perfect person for where we are right now,” said Chris Howe, chairman of the board for GOA, a group of more than 100 independent outdoor retailers who allied to share strategies and advocate to vendors. He points first to Hill’s wealth of experience, from customer service to sales manager, director and vice president positions to working on brand-building in a multichannel era. “That, coupled with the wealth of relationships that Rich has in this industry—it’s just the right person at the right time,” Howe said.
It was right after Hill spoke at Connect last June, GOA’s gathering of retailers and select brands, that Allen asked Hill if he’d consider interviewing for the job. “My imagination went wild with what’s possible,” Hill said. But the core that’s driven his career up ‘til now will carry through: “Staying focused on consumer behavior—that’s the thing that grounds me in any storm.”
Other changes on the horizon will likely involve elements of Big Data information collection around customer loyalty and perhaps some diversification in the brands connecting to retailers in GOA. “There’s an opportunity to shine the light on smaller brands and retailers that are relevant and have a story to tell,” he said. “There’s a lot of genius in small brands … [Though] it’s not really about size, it’s about relevance.”
But, he said, he’ll start with taking a friend’s advice: You have two ears, and one mouth, so use them in that proportion.
This story first appeared on p. 12 of the Day 3 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.