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Friend or Foe — Will Amazon.com help or hurt the outdoor industry?

Three years ago, when Rich Hill was vice president of sales at Patagonia, he wanted nothing to do with Amazon. The online mega-retailer would send bright-eyed representatives to pitch him at the Patagonia booth during the Outdoor Retailer trade shows. These were not your typical outdoor industry sales reps. They were kids who knew more about Silicon Valley than the Yosemite Valley, and as far as an industry vet and brand-savvy player like Hill was concerned, they had no future in the quickly evolving landscape of the outdoors and of online retail. Furthermore, the overriding image of Amazon in the outdoor industry was one that was no better than a virtual flea market. It had no place in the specialty retail sweet-spot where techie outdoor gear garners high margins and loyal customers. How times change....