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Camping & Hiking

Meeting the Accessory Challenge: Sea to Summit knocks it out of the park with merchandising strategy

SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright talks to Sea to Summit on how selling accessories goes well beyond offering a kick-ass product. When a manufacturer has a strong grip on merchandising, the partnership between vendor and retailer can be powerful.

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Selling accessories successfully goes beyond offering up a kick-ass product. When a manufacturer has a strong grip on merchandising — as Sea to Summit does — the partnership between vendor and retailer can be powerful.

Merchandising standards for accessories are similar to those for apparel, but putting the principles into play is tougher with the former. For starters, accessories lack product conformity, have incoherent color stories and widely varied end-uses. Outdoor retail accessories include everything from cooking utensils to survivor kits, or, as Sea to Summit Sales Manager Josh Simpson told SNEWS, “items that don’t talk to one another.”

Sea to Summit has an ahead-of-the-curve approach to product placement, looking holistically at packaging, merchandising retail support and inventory management. According to Simpson, the brand offers a complete solution to its dealers, from quality product to user-friendly packaging to providing more than 30 point of purchase options (POP) complete with placement guidance at certain order levels. In-store clinics and training, collateral and buyer support round out the picture.

To top it off, Sea to Summit created a merchandising guide for retailers (full disclosure: Merchandising Matters contributed) and its Outdoor Retailer booth includes a concept shop so buyers can see how products can be displayed on a sales floor.

With a focus on accelerating turns, the profitability metric of the business, Sea to Summit knows that a strategic shift in brand presentation leads directly to an increase in sales.

Kevin Leffler, hardgoods buyer for Appalachian Outfitters ( in Ohio, attests to the strength of Sea to Summit’s strategy. Appalachian Outfitters has shifted its product mix to favor Sea to Summit over another brand in large part because the competitor was not eye-catching on the floor. According to Leffler, once his store invested in two of brand’s POP displays (the silo and money tree), there was an immediate increase in sales. Leffler appreciates that the displays are not over-branded and are clean, simple and well laid out, making them easy to merchandise. In addition, product colors are sharp and Leffler said he has noticed customers pulled to the fixtures like bees to honey.

The support Sea to Summit provides dealers by acting as a warehouse for retailers with replenishment within a matter of days is of enormous value to Appalachian Outfitters as well. Because the brand keeps product on hand, fixtures remain stocked and as any retailer knows, stocked fixtures look better and drive sales.

Leffler considers Sea to Summit packaging a win-win with each product being easily distinguishable from the next. “Every product has that fit and finish feel to it,” Leffler said. “Function aside, it just looks good.” And that translates to sales.

Just ask Bobby Johnson, buyer for Massey’s Outfitters in Louisiana. Massey’s Outfitters has been a Sea to Summit dealer for about five years, just last year embracing the brand’s POP, and has seen an 88 percent year-to-date increase in sales.

Investing in revamped inventory has made it easier for the customer to shop. Massey had been scratching his head, wondering how other retailers were selling Sea to Summit product like hot cakes. After chatting with colleagues and hearing, “It’s a good brand, you have to display it right and put it in the right spot,” he decided to make the leap with help from Simpson.

According to Massey, product colors are a huge visual draw, inviting the consumer to look, touch and see what a product does. “The packaging is the No. 1 thing and allows the customer to feel it, touch it and put it back.” Massey has worked with other brands at the accessory level and finds Sea to Summit far easier to merchandise. And sell.

Sea to Summit continues to have conversations to find ways to add value and in-store support to retailers. Right now, the company’s exploring a web-based program for reps to upload photos by store and share with buyers to eliminate any in-store merchandising disconnect.

SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright

is the founder of Merchandising Matters,

which provides merchandising support to brands, retailers and their agencies.

Reach her via email at

with questions, ideas and suggestions.