Outdoor: Did you hear?…

Time to sign up for the OIA Rendezvous in Colorado, Chaco wants your old shoes for worthy cause, Black Diamond to host Utah Avalanche Center fund-raiser, Essential Gear morphs into eGear, plus much more...

>> If you haven’t made your reservation yet for the Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous, Sept. 30 through Oct. 3 at the Park Hyatt in the Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, do it NOW! It is, in our opinion, one of the single most important gatherings for outdoor industry members of the year, especially in light of all the challenges facing our businesses. The GearTrends®/SNEWS® team will be there in force, and we’re proud to be joining REI, Spenco, Dick’s, Timberland, Outdoor Retailer, Cascade Designs, The North Face, CGPR, Dunham, Hooked on the Outdoors and The Forest Group as one of the sponsors of the event simply because we know how important this event is to the industry. In fact, 165 other industry members have already reserved their space to join in. Yes, we’ve heard that there is another event sponsored by SGB-owned Outdoor Business dubbed “OB Outlook,” scheduled from Oct. 13-14 at the Torrey Pines Hilton in La Jolla, Calif. While we can’t comment on why a media company that claims to support the OIA would continue to try to stack a competing for-profit event virtually on top of such an important OIA event (in the spring, it tried to promote the same event virtually on top of the Capital Summit, an event which disappeared quietly thankfully), we will say for the record we don’t oppose SGB/OB trying to hold an event. We do, however, firmly believe that if any industry member believes they will have to choose to attend one or the other, the choice is clear — attend the OIA event only as it is the one that supports the outdoor industry and our association. We can say most assuredly that no event will do more for your bottom line and the industry as a whole than the OIA Rendezvous, and you can take that to the bank. This year’s Rendezvous program features three keynote speakers, 12 breakout sessions, networking opportunities galore, a service project and more. Scheduled speakers include: Walter Robb, COO of Whole Foods — on the parallels between the natural foods and outdoor industries; Carl Steidtmann, chief economist, Deloitte Research — on economic, consumer and technological trends; Andy Smith, Springboard Solutions — the former Harley-Davidson executive will share lessons learned for corporate success; and Ken Rudin, NPR — on the 2004 election and the outdoor industry. Additional seminar topics include: sustainability, e-commerce, fashion trends, how to put on successful retail events, creativity in the workplace, leadership, ethics and opportunities in China. Your registration fees include all session materials, service project participation and all meals from Thursday night’s dinner through Sunday’s breakfast. For more information, email or call 303-444-3353, ext. 206. We’ll see you there!

>> Sept.1-12, Chaco dealers will accept a trade of an old (but clean) pair of sport, slip-on sandals or hiking boots from any manufacturer for a 20-percent discount on a new pair of like types of footwear from Chaco, including flips, sandals or boots. Why? So that old shoes can end up somewhere they are needed, not in the landfill. To take care of all those shoes being traded in, Chaco has partnered with The dZi Foundation which promotes the education, health, culture and welfare of indigenous mountain communities in Nepal. Once collected, Chaco will disinfect the old shoes and ship them to The dZi Foundation for distribution to the monasteries, schools and safe houses the organization supports. This is nothing new for Chaco. As part of the company’s effort to remain true to the philosophy of keeping it simple, and giving back when it can, Chaco also donates 3 percent of all after-tax profits to non-profit environmental groups, including The Conservation Alliance, the Sierra Club, Leave No Trace and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. In addition, to support environmental efforts on an internal basis, Chaco switched from a solvent-based glue to a hot melt system which emits no toxic fumes, built a new facility that uses geo-thermal heating and has put into practice the principles of Lean Manufacturing to reduce waste and increase efficiency. In addition, the company provides financial rewards such as paying employees to ride bikes or walk to work.

>> Horny Toad recently recognized some hardworking individuals who have helped bring the brand to life. Northeastern Sales Rep Annie DeWaters of Burlington, Vt., was honored as the company’s rep of the year, and Trailblazer Outdoor Store of New Haven, Conn., won the company’s spring merchandising contest. SNEWS® View: Recognizing retailers for creative merchandising savvy is just plain smart. This spring, Horny Toad challenged its retail outlets nationwide to an artistic and creative display contest. We’re told nearly one-third of those queried about participating, 24 stores in all, embraced the contest idea. The assigned task was to utilize display space of all sizes to convey the Horny Toad message and showcase Horny Toad product. Three other stores garnered nods, though not the first-place Toad Tap-Dance Salute and include: Doug’s Sports in Hood River, Ore., Champlain Surplus in Champlain, Ill., and the Ski Rack in Burlington, Vt. We hear a fall merchandising contest is already underway and that’s all good for retailers and the Toad alike. Love it!

>> At an evening party during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Canoe & Kayak Magazine announced the 16th Annual Boat Manufacturer of the Year, Accessory Manufacturer of the Year and Retailer of the Year awards for 2004. The annual awards honor excellence and outstanding achievement in the promotion, sales and service of paddlesports and are voted on by paddlesports industry members themselves. To determine the winners, Canoe & Kayak mailed ballots to more than 700 retail stores, which vote for the two manufacturer awards, while 650 paddlesports/outdoor manufacturers were polled for the retailer award. Retailers were asked to consider the following criteria in making their selection for Manufacturer of the Year: overall promotion of paddlesports (conducting national, regional and local advertising and promotional campaigns, providing co-op advertising opportunities, etc.); innovation in product development and design; providing retailer support and education through clinics, demos, videos, safety instruction, professional rep service and on-time delivery of product; and providing community service and support. And for the Retailer Award, manufacturers used the following criteria: the retailer that best exemplifies excellence through sponsorship and support of paddlesports events at the regional and local level; providing education through classes, safety instruction, demos, etc.; community support; building awareness and sales with advertising and/or promotion at the local, regional and national level; properly fitting equipment to the needs and experience level of customers and providing excellent service after the sale. To the winners then: The 2004 Boat Manufacturer of the Year award was presented to Wilderness Systems Kayaks, a Confluence Watersports brand based in Trinity, N.C. It’s the second time Wilderness Systems has won the award. The 2004 Accessory Manufacturer of the Year award went to Sultan, Wash.-based Werner Paddles. Werner also won the award in 2001. This year’s Retailer of the Year award was presented to Madison, Wis.’s, Rutabaga, now a five-time winner.

>> Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. is once again playing host to the 11th Annual Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) fund-raiser, Sept. 16, at Black Diamond’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. The UAC benefit is a rite of passage for Wasatch powder hounds with festivities including beer donated by Uinta Brewing Company, food from Rico Mexican Market and bluegrass music by Mr. Whoopie. Tickets are $30 per person if purchased by Sept. 11 ($35 at the door). Buying an advance ticket (available at Black Diamond) garners an entry into the raffle for prizes. Additionally, there is a silent auction offering great deals on gear for a terrific cause. All proceeds will be donated to the Utah Avalanche Center. For additional information, contact BD’s Colleen Graham at 801-365-5522.

>> A recent survey conducted by BIGresearch and reported on CNNmoney’s website, backs up what we’ve been saying for a long time: Customer service is king among shoppers. “Obviously price is key to determining where people choose to shop. But after that, it’s customer service,” Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for market research firm BIGresearch, said in the article. With too many retailers chasing too few consumer dollars, Rist said, merchants can get a leg up on the competition, if they learn to court the customer in simple ways. How so? Having a helpful and polite staff and a well-organized and clean store goes a long way toward winning over shoppers. “Shopping is a sensory experience,” said Rist. “People are subconsciously recording things like the layout of the store, the lighting, whether the aisles are overflowing, whether the prices are clearly indicated and how easy or difficult it is to find a product every time you visit a store.” BIGresearch took it to the people and polled 8,701 consumers between June 1-4 and asked which retailers had the most and least courteous employees. Wal-mart and Target took slots one and two, followed by Home Depot and Lowe’s. Least courteous “honors” went to Nordstrom (!), Sam’s Club, Walgreens and Costco. Some factors that annoyed people the most, even prompting them to switch to another store, were rude behavior, salespeople who were unfriendly or weren’t around to help, and staff that wasn’t knowledgeable about the store or the products, BIGresearch noted. SNEWS® View: OK, so we certainly raised our collective editorial eyebrow when we heard Wal-mart and Target garnered top honors for polite staff and well-organized and clean stores. While we can see Target garnering the nod to a point (think of its beloved nickname with the French pronunciation — Tar-jay), we’ve yet to find a Wal-mart that doesn’t leave us feeling as if we need to pick our way through the aisles past piles and send up a flare to get help. Still, the message is clear — the simple power of an engaging smile, common courtesy and a helpful staff scores big with consumers.

>> The Alpine Experience’s founder and co-owner, Joe Hyer, was appointed in a unanimous vote to fill a vacancy on the Olympia, Wash., City Council during a special session on Aug. 14. He will be sworn in on Sept. 13, and serve until Dec. 31, 2005, or longer if he goes for re-election.

>> Jim Ramey, general manager of the Northwest-headquartered Marmot Mountain Works, sent the following to SNEWS®: “Lauryn Elizabeth Ramey was born June 17th 12:42 P.M. to proud parents Karyn and Jim Ramey. She weighed 7 pounds 10 ounces at birth and measured 19.5 inches. As of this note she has already grown to over 11 pounds and more than 23 inches tall. She is a very beautiful little girl with a nice smile and bright eyes. Mother and baby are doing just fine. Karyn took some time off from her buying responsibilities at Marmot Mountain Works but is already back at work part-time writing orders and planning next year’s paddling, clothing, and camping accessory assortments from her office at home. Karyn and Jim wish to express their warm thanks to all of their friends in the industry for their support and well wishes throughout Karyn’s pregnancy. If all goes as planned, Lauryn’s first extended paddling trip should be Spring 06!”

>> High Sierra Sport Company has agreed to continue its relationship with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, to supply travel bags to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. The agreement calls for High Sierra to continue manufacturing customized backpacks, boot bags, ski and snowboard bags and duffels through the 2007 winter season.

>> Merrell has signed on as co-title sponsor of the adventure racing team, Team Merrell/Zanfel. The team consists of four world-class adventure racing athletes who have combined victories in the well-known Eco-Challenge, Raid Gauloises, Southern Traverse, and Patagonia adventure races. They include Robyn Benincasa of the United States and three New Zealand racers, Neil Jones, Chris Morrissey and Jeff Mitchell. The team recently placed third at the Adventure Racing World Championships, Raid the North Extreme, the first week of August 2004, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The team’s next appearance will be at Primal Quest this September in Oregon. The team will wear Merrell Helium Ventilator and Rip multi-sport and trail running shoes. In addition, the group will be racing in the Pursuit Ventilator and WaterPro Ultra-Sport, two new products from the Merrell spring 2005 product line.

>> Essential Gear, Inc., a manufacturer of LED lighting technology and high-performance butane lighters, has re-branded itself. The new brand name is “eGear” and made its debut at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. In addition to the new eGear brand, the company unveiled a newly designed logo and tagline that will be featured on all corporate identity materials and packaging. For more information, contact eGear at 413-772-8984.

>> Fiskars promoted Jason Landmark to president of Gerber Legendary Blades. Landmark joined Gerber in January 2001 as the vice president of sales and marketing having spent the previous 11 years of his career serving in various sales and marketing roles with three different operating divisions of Newell Rubbermaid. According to a release from Fiskars, “Under his leadership, Gerber has achieved unprecedented sales and market share growth, built new distribution channels and strengthened customer relationships.” Landmark replaces Chad Vincent who was promoted to president of Fiskars’ school, office and crafts division.

>> Vasque has hired Jon Fewster as the company’s product manager. Fewster has an extensive footwear background. He comes to Vasque from Montrail where he was director of biomechanical and materials research and previously product manager. Fewster also served in biomechanical research roles at both Nike and Reebok.

>> Boulder-based Teko, makers of high performance socks using environmentally sound materials, has established the company’s U.S. sales rep force. The reps include: Tom Gordon — Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico; Egan & Associates LLC — Pacific Northwest region; Specialty Reps West — California, Arizona and Hawaii; Points North — Northeast region; Peter Burnes & Associates — Mid-Atlantic region; Mike Burns & Associates: West Virginia and Virginia; and Third Rail Marketing — Southeast region. For more information on the company, go to

>> After the departure of longtime marketing coordinator, Karla Meixner-Pitts, Kokatat has named Liz Lasater to the sales and marketing team as the company’s new PR and media-relations gal. Lasater will be responsible for media relations as well as sponsorship and donation requests Kokatat receives. Lasater comes to Kokatat from Internews Network, an international non-profit that supports open media via journalism-training to locals living in over 45 emerging democracy countries.