Media

Outside announces acquisition of subscription-box service Cairn

The Colorado-based creator of active lifestyle content and experiences has added Cairn, an outdoor subscription-box service, to its rapidly growing portfolio of brands.


Outside has sounded a steady drumbeat of acquisition news in the past year, as the Boulder, Co.-based creator of active lifestyle content and experiences continues to snap up companies across the industry, from long-running print magazines like Outside and Trail Runner to apps and services like Gaia GPS and athleteReg. This week, the company’s march continues with its acquisition of Cairn, a Bend, Ore.-based business that sells curated outdoor goods to consumers on a subscription basis.

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The news marks the first foray by Outside (Outside Business Journal’s parent company) into commerce services—a departure from past acquisitions that Outside says will benefit its industry partners as well as consumers directly.

“For industry partners, Cairn’s subscription platform serves as a powerful activation tool, with a demonstrated ability to increase brand engagement and drive incremental sales,” the company said in a release.

CEO Robin Thurston echoed the sentiment in statements published this week, pointing out that although Cairn represents a different kind of brand than those Outside has pursued in the past, the deal is in line with the company’s larger mission of “build[ing] the world’s best consumer experience across a wide range of activities.”

“Our audience is made up of the world’s most active hikers, skiers, cyclists, climbers, and other outdoor athletes who love to discover new gear,” Thurston said. “By adding Cairn’s services to our Active Pass membership, we’ll help our members enjoy their passions with greater comfort, ease, and safety.”

What Cairn brings to Outside

Founded 2014, Cairn has established itself as one of the top subscription-box services in the outdoor industry, with more than 34 million products from 300 brands shipped to 75,000 customers in monthly, quarterly, and one-off installments. It’s the kind of direct channel between product-based brands and consumers that Outside didn’t own outright until this week—a missing link in the company’s drive to serve outdoor participants with everything they need to pursue their passions.

“To us, membership is a holistic experience for the active life participant,” said Outside COO Danielle Quatrochi. “We believe that to help active lifestyle participants do more of what they love, commerce is a piece of that solution.”

The deal also represents a new opportunity for Outside in the form of customer review syndication across the industry. In its seven years of operation, Cairn has collected nearly 250,000 customer reviews from early adopters of products seeded through its subscription boxes—reviews the company then syndicates to retailers like Dick’s and REI.

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“This acquisition represents not only a new member benefit for our Active Pass subscribers, but a completely new touch point for our partners as well,” Quatrochi said. “This is a way for our brand partners to authenticate products through a real-world review process.”

From the perspective of Cairn’s founders, Rob Little and Jared Peterson, their core mission is equally bolstered by the deal.

“We founded the company to inspire everyone to get outside by helping them discover new brands and products,” Peterson said. “We’re thrilled to bring our technology and community into the membership ecosystem that Outside is building. We see incredible opportunities to help even more people discover all the awesome outdoor brands and products our industry has to offer in hope of inspiring more people to get outside.”

All 11 members of the Cairn team have been offered positions with Outside. The brand will remain in Oregon following the acquisition, with Little and Peterson managing day-to-day operations and reporting to Quatrochi.