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OIA Rendezvous energizes industry amid aspens

Billed as a "professional development conference," the eighth annual Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous held in Vail, Colo., from Oct. 2-5 against a backdrop of golden aspens, brought together 202 industry leaders, a 10 percent increase over last year's attendance of 183.

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Billed as a “professional development conference,” the eighth annual Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous held in Vail, Colo., from Oct. 2-5 against a backdrop of golden aspens, brought together 202 industry leaders, a 10 percent increase over last year’s attendance of 183.

Though retail attendance was up slightly, with 23 retailers, the majority of Rendezvous attendees came from the manufacturer/distributor/supplier arena which accounted for 40 percent of the total number. The rest of the breakdown included sales reps at 3 percent, PR and marketing folks at 11 percent, media at 11 percent, and nonprofits/research firms/consultants at 22 percent.

The event was strongly supported by a long list of sponsors including: REI, Merrell, Galyan’s, Outdoor Retailer, Nike ACG, Timberland, Reno-Tahoe, The Whiting Group, The Forest Group, Eagle Creek, Camelbak, Cascade Designs, Hooked on the Outdoors, GearTrends/SNEWS, Outdoor Industry Women’s Council (OIWC), Chris Goddard Public Relations, Deuter USA, Cocoon, Horny Toad, ispo 04, Sierra magazine, W.L. Gore and others.

Inspiring more retail attendance in the future is perhaps the biggest challenge for the Rendezvous, and our industry, in SNEWS’ opinion. And retailer Joe Hyer, owner of The Alpine Experience in Olympia, Wash., agrees.

Hyer, who brought four staff from his store, including himself, told SNEWS, “The biggest benefit to us is we spend all our time looking at the little picture inside our store and the Rendezvous gives me and my staff the chance to look at the big picture which includes the state of the industry and the economy which is essential information for the long-term future of both our store and the industry.”

As for recommending retailers attend next year’s Rendezvous, Hyer has this to say. “Attending a Rendezvous is essential if retailers plan on being in business in ten years. Looking that far forward is essential to maintaining what we have. If we are not successful now, we need to learn how to be become successful, and if we are already successful, we need to continue to improve, and the Rendezvous gives us the tools to do that.”

What has Hyer learned from this and past Rendezvous events?

“I have completely changed the way I run our staff meetings so they all begin with brainstorming. I have been involving the entire sales and management team in the bigger issues of our store and that goes a long way toward maintaining loyalty and the development of good ideas.

“Following this year’s Rendezvous, I have shifted our buying patterns based on the trends we have learned about. I have also shifted some of the budgeting based on the economic forecasting we received,” added Hyer. “Something is being used at the store from almost every session.”

SNEWS feels so strongly about the importance of the Rendezvous to our business, our readers’ businesses, and to our industry that we sent three editors to ensure we covered every valuable breakout session and every moment of the Rendezvous as completely as possible for you.

Part 1 of our Rendezvous coverage brings you our notes from six key breakout sessions. Reading this is the next best thing to being there, but know this — being there is so much better for you and our industry.

Surviving Today’s Economy: Stuck in the Cold, Having Burnt All Our Matches

Craig Thomas, director of regional markets,

In a refreshing irreverent style, Craig Thomas managed to present an outlook that was more hopeful than we’ve perhaps seen: The economy is firming; consumer confidence is rebounding; margins are back to where they were pre-crash; profits are like they were in about 2000 and getting better. The economy, he said, will come back but not roar back as some might like. “There are reasons for cautious optimism,” he said. Thomas said we’ve been very flexible but very thin-skinned — if something goes wrong, we pull right back again. Meanwhile, consumers seem to be buying “stuff” and investing in “stuff,” he said, and retailers are keeping inventories low — even at the cost of sales — to make sure they aren’t stuck with anything. The trend of taking manufacturing to Asia, and specifically China, will not only continue but will also be a “structural problem” that industries will have to address because of job losses.

In noting which states are still considered in a recession, the northern Midwest as well as the Northeast are still hit hard, while the only states in the west in that boat are Colorado and Oregon, partly because of Colorado’s tele-communication business and Oregon’s semi-conductor business. Nevertheless, consumer spending hasn’t gone down dramatically, he said, since prices have been so good and they don’t want to miss the good deals.

Powderpuff Girls to Powerhouse Consumers: Marketing to Teenage Girls

Alisha Kolski, Vice President, AMP Insights

This year, teenagers will spend $172 billion, comparable to last year’s numbers, on clothes, music, video games and other products, according to Alisha Kolski of AMP Insights, a strategic research agency. Offering insight into today’s tween, teen and young adult female customers, Kolski’s firm performed a survey especially for the Rendezvous seminar, “Marketing to Teenage Girls,” which surveyed 232 girls, ages 13-24.

Among the findings: The top five sport activities (using OIA’s list of 21 sport activities) are: fitness walking, 68 percent; road biking, 34 percent; hiking, 22 percent; camping, 14 percent; and trail running, 12 percent. Among the activities not registering much interest were snowshoeing, fly-fishing, cross-country skiing, rock climbing and kayaking. The No. 1 reason the girls say they want to participate in outdoor activities is to stay fit, followed by spending more time in the fresh air and liking the idea of being active. The main reason they don’t participate more frequently they say is they don’t have time. Kolski said these girls have the perception that it takes too much time and it’s too cumbersome to learn a new activity, and the industry needs to find ways to overcome that perception. Interestingly enough, Kolski asked the audience what they thought girls would say when asked who they wanted to have work in an outdoor store. Audience members blurted out cute clerks, someone the girls’ own age, etc. In truth, surveyed girls said they wanted a staff person who participated in the outdoor activities to help them (80 percent), followed by someone who knows a lot about the product (70 percent). In actuality having someone their age help them was low on the list (30 percent).

Today’s teen girl has learned from strong role models that she can be a girl and be feminine, as well as achieve success in today’s world. Kolski said 2003 teens are fixated on money, and they see it as an enabler to happiness and a way to have different experiences. Girls have a tendency to spend money on small items, whereas boys will save their money for big-ticket purchases. For teens “cool” brand factors are: commitment to quality; be real, be true, be honest; stay fresh, provide options constantly; image; and make it for people like me — show that you care enough to create a product that is relevant to them.

Building Lifetime Customers through Parks and Recreation

Kathy Spangler, Director of Marketing, National Recreation and Park Association

In the Unites States, 75 percent of the population lives within two and a half miles of a public park, and presenter Kathy Spangler tried to connect the dots to outdoor for what has helped partnerships with the National Football League and Professional Golf Association be successful. She suggested designing grassroots plans for exposing the masses to human-powered outdoor recreation. Audience member Joe Hyer, owner of The Alpine Experience in Olympia, Wash., said his local park system contacted him about creating a weeklong climbing course for kids. Hyer provided the instruction and the equipment and the parks system provided the kids and transportation, resulting in a worthwhile partnership for him. Spangler emphasized that the outdoor industry needs to engage other people in the population pool who may not have the mountains in their backyard to foster new customers. Today’s trend toward the type of parks being built is for “risk recreation” like skateboarding, inline skating and BMX biking. The department is working on a database of park information that will list all the sports and facilities they offer. It’s slowly coming together, Spangler said, but will be a wealth of information once completed.

Millenials Explored

Berto de la Roca, Radar Communications

The term “millenials” refers to those who are ages 11-24 and is another term for Gen Y. Presenters, who called themselves “anthro journalists,” explore different groups via questionnaires then personal taping and interviews. Their research showed that the millenials are bonded by self-expression, that friends and family have had the biggest impact on their lives, have a huge work ethic and like to motivate themselves. They are realistic, directed, and true to themselves, they said. They express themselves with their apparel, rooms, food and beverages, and their entertainment. Advice to marketers in reaching this group: they are weary and they worry, so be real, try to understand them, have meaning, and be relevant and positive. Their role models are people who work hard, this study indicated. Also, marketers should respect their sense of style and demonstrate a social conscience, as well as offer perhaps some escapism. SNEWS View: This was an interesting talk, but SNEWS heard several people question the picture painted of this group. Basically, this is like self-reporting in scientific research. When the researchers ask questions and stick a video camera in the millenials faces, we think they will say what they think they should say in some cases and not what’s true. Also, it came out that they don’t really research in the Midwestern states and most of their subjects are from the likes of New York and the suburbs of Los Angeles and they are all in families that report at least $50,000 income. We think this all could skew the results.

The Travel Market: Where did it go and where is it traveling to next?

Ricky Schlesinger, Senior VP, Eagle Creek — moderator

Eagle Creek’s Ricky Schlesinger opened the travel market panel discussion with a tongue-in-cheek statement to answer the oft-asked question about when the market is coming back: “If you’re a competitive manufacturer, never. If you’re a retailer, tomorrow.” Despite the hits the travel industry has taken from terrorism, SARS and the war with Iraq, it’s still a $545 billion market. Will Seccombe, CEO of the Praco ad agency in Colorado and a gatherer of stats for the seminar, said Americans admit to spending more money on their vacations than they would traditionally do at home. Forty-one percent said the primary reason for a vacation is to see family and friends. No. 4 on the list of reasons was going outdoors at 13 percent, a number that is on the rise, according to Seccombe.

Sean Greene of said Americans have been resilient in the last two years; according to a survey his company did, 46 percent said they intend to travel more in 2003, 35 percent said they’ll travel the same and only 20 percent said they would travel less. Stephanie Kruse of KPS3 said vehicular tourism is up and RVs are the fastest growing sales segment as people look to travel for “escapism, safe thrills and water cooler talk.”

Other stats presented in the seminar:

  • Baby boomers are leading the travel bandwagon making up 39 percent; Gen-Xers, 25 percent; matures, 25 percent; echoes, 11 percent, according to the Travel Industry Association.
  • OIA has reported that 48 million people car camp, opposed to 17 million who hike-in.
  • 13 percent of all leisure travel has outdoor recreation as its primary purpose.
  • 65 million Americans went to a national or state park in 2003.
  • People are taking more frequent but shorter trips.

Identifying Professional Styles: What Kind of Animal are You?

Corey Nielsen, director, Nielsen Training Group

If you were at the Rendezvous and heard anybody refer to a person being a peacock or an owl, it’s Corey Nielsen’s fault. Or if you are in the office and hear references to a panther-like attitude, this is the source. Nielsen had everybody in stitches with his fast, frenzied and entertaining session on personalities; in fact, participants laughed so hard and so loudly that neighboring sessions were wondering what the heck was going on. OK, this wasn’t anything we haven’t necessarily heard before but Nielsen had named and aligned it slightly differently, which made it more fascinating.

Basically there are four types of personal styles you need to get to know to help you know yourself better, but also to help you work with others better:

Peacock — This is the “talker,” the person who likes to be in front of others, strut, socialize, show-off, and have fun. He or she is interested in recognition and in the process of getting things done. This person has a rather disorderly workplace — with photos of him or herself.

Panther — This is the “director,” the person who likes results with his or her recognition. He or she is aggressive, fast, individualistic, driven, a Type-A type, who is direct, ambitious and likes to be in control. He or she is often in management and sales and is very comfortable with debate and conflict.

Dolphin — This is the “mediator” who likes to help out, is group-oriented, is trainable, smart, sensitive, inclusive and works well with others. Look for an interest in security and in the process. A dolphin likes stability and will be involved with banks and finances.

Owl — This is the “technician,” who is watchful, precise, and cautious — a person who is paralyzed by analysis and lacks creativity, but is very detail oriented. The owl wants results and likes security. Your owl personality is an accountant type who speaks concisely and starts sentences with “I think.”

Nobody is of course only one type of animal, but can be many all at once and at different times. So look for your inner Peacock — or your colleagues — and use these traits to help you communicate.

*** Next week, SNEWS will report on the keynotes and remaining breakouts of note, as well as the two industry volunteer projects sponsored by Timberland, the Rendezvous party atmosphere, and a very moving slide show and talk by kayaker Brad Ludden. ***