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2007 Annual SNEWS® Specialty Outdoor Retail Survey

Welcome to the 2007 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey, where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good, and desperately needs improvement in the industry. As we do each year, we presented a summary of this survey in the 2008 GearTrends® Winter Outdoor magazine. To view the full survey, complete with expanded and detailed analysis of each category result, you'll need to be a SNEWS® subscriber -- As always, there's a lot of information packed into the full survey results on SNEWS®, offering the industry plenty to digest, discuss, ponder and take pride in.

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Welcome to the 2007 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey, where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good, and desperately needs improvement in the industry. As we do each year, we presented a summary of this survey in the 2008 GearTrends® Winter Outdoor magazine. To view the full survey, complete with expanded and detailed analysis of each category result, you’ll need to be a SNEWS® subscriber — As always, there’s a lot of information packed into the full survey results on SNEWS®, offering the industry plenty to digest, discuss, ponder and take pride in.

Keep in mind that although SNEWS® sends the survey to hundreds of outdoor specialty retailers all over the country, this survey is by no means scientific in its approach. We do believe the results are quite representative of the outdoor specialty retail market as a whole and those surveyed are consistent from year-to-year, so comparing answers from past surveys presents a useful picture of trends, market conditions and retailer moods.

The survey was available for retailers to fill out online from Oct. 8 through Nov. 30. Those completing the surveys represent approximately $3 billion in outdoor specialty sales. At no time do we include sporting goods chains, discounters, department stores or big boxes in our surveys. The majority of those responding to our survey represent businesses with three or fewer storefronts. Results are representative of the U.S. market in 2007.

Finally, while we regularly receive some truly amazing financial offers, which we appreciate, we never disclose who responded to the surveys, since that is the promise we make our retailers for their honesty. One final point of importance, SNEWS® only poses the questions and does not predispose retailer answers by providing a list of choices.

For a look at the cheers and jeers from retailers this year, simply read on:

Who do you rate as the “best” supplier to do business with?

Patagonia – 13.4%

NRS – 12%

Cascade Designs – 10%

Werner – 9%

The North Face – 6%

Columbia – 6%

Mountain Hardwear – 4.5%

Johnson Outdoors – 4.5%

Aquabound – 4.5%

Kokatat – 4.5%

(*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking.)

Also receiving multiple votes were: Black Diamond, Carhartt, Darn Tough, Deuter, Hobie, Marmot, Osprey Packs, Outdoor Research, Sea To Summit and Vasque.

With a record number of retailers responding to the survey this year, we again saw no dominant player and a wider spread of best company nominations with no fewer than 38 companies getting at least one vote. Patagonia continues to own the top spot as a best supplier to do business with, but it only hangs on by a thread with its percentage dipping slightly over last year. Cascade Designs keeps gunning for the No. 1 spot, but got pushed back to third place this year by none other than NRS, which leapt from the sixth position last year into No. 2 in 2007.

Hats off to Werner, which appears on our top 10 list for the first time — a tribute to company management for ensuring high-quality customer service and production. Johnson Outdoors climbed into the top 10 this year as well and is worthy of a nod and a salute for effort — although the company also garnered a top 10 position for most difficult to deal with, leading us to believe the company may need to ponder which parts of its business units (camping or paddlesports) are in need of dramatic improvement. We also should applaud The North Face, which garnered more “best company” votes than ever and increased its share of percentage points from 5 percent last year to 6 percent in 2007. Columbia, too, vaulted up the list from an also-ran in 2006 to the No. 6 position in 2007.

We find it interesting that this year the top 10 includes no less than four companies that predominantly serve the paddlesports market. That could be in part to an increase in the number of specialty retailers responding to our survey who told us they also sell paddlesports. Or, it could be representative of a general trend where specialty paddlesports dealers are outperforming their non-paddlesports specialty brethren. We find it hard to draw firm conclusions from this survey, but will be watching the trend into next year.

In all cases, as in years past, retailers across the board cite the following reasons for voting a company into the top spot: open and honest communication, consistent on-time and complete delivery, good margins and good quality product. It’s not that hard, really, and yet so many companies seem to struggle with these concepts each year.

Who do you rate as the “most difficult” supplier to work with in the business?

Confluence – 20.5%

Johnson Outdoors – 12%

Too damn many! – 7.5%

Crocs – 7.5%

NRS – 6 percent

The North Face – 4.5%

We stop doing business with any – 4.5%

Arc’Teryx – 3%

Under Armour – 3%

Cloudveil – 3%

(*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking.)

Also receiving multiple votes were: Icebreaker, Macpac, Marmot, Merrell, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia and Timbuk2.

While Confluence’s top position (by a landslide) may not be a surprise to some, especially to those who have been closely following the company’s many challenges over the last several years, SNEWS® believes there is finally a reason for optimism. Tom Nathanson from American Capital Strategies (Confluence’s investment owners) took control of the company in June 2007, and Sue Rechner was named president and CEO in early December. It appears that the right things are being said AND also now being done.

Several retailers responding to our survey wrote in comments that reflect what was expressed by one retailer: “Of all the boat manufacturers that I deal with, Confluence is still the most difficult, although they are showing signs of improvement in all areas: quality, timely shipping, customer service. Confluence recently accepted all responsibility for the problems they have been having for the past two years and described the steps (to us) that they are taking to make improvements. I am hopeful that they will follow through.”

In addition, several key East Coast retailers contacted us by phone and email after our SNEWS® story ran on Rechner in December to say they were excited and more optimistic than ever following personal visits from Rechner. We’ll go out on a limb here and say we will be very surprised to see Confluence anywhere near the top of the “most difficult supplier to work with” list next year.

We are continually disturbed that retailers responding to our survey still write in “too damn many” or something similar as their top vote in the category, increasing again in percentage over 2006, which was also up from 2005. New this year — and perhaps a sign of things to come, as well as a warning to those who do make this list — is our paraphrase of a write-in comment retailers noted for the first time this year: “We stop doing business with any” who are most difficult. Now that is voting with your dollars. There are simply too many brands and choices these days to be sloppy or difficult to deal with. Seems retailers are starting to decide enough is enough.

Overall, what we said in last year’s survey — and the survey before that and the one before that — apparently bears repeating: If your manufacturing company was listed among those as a “most difficult to deal with,” you are failing your specialty retailers if you break promises, refuse to take responsibility for your actions or inaction, make life difficult for dealers, fail to deliver, come through with poor-quality product, do not communicate, lie about what you have or have not done, and fail to show respect. And more often than not in 2007, retailers told us abhorrent customer service alone put many companies into the top 10 of this list.

If you’re on the list of most difficult to deal with for 2007, read the paragraph above carefully and then look in a mirror. You’re on this list, retailers told us, because more than one of the reasons above applies to you.

What are the top-selling hardgoods categories this year?

Rec Kayaks – 19.4%

Backpacks – 10.4%

Travel – 6%

Daypacks (includes hydration) – 4.5%

Sleeping Bags – 4.5%

Backcountry Skiing – 4.5%

Sport Racks – 3%

Stoves – 3%

Climbing – 3%

Sit-on-Tops – 2%

What are the top-selling soft wear categories this year?

Women’s Sportswear – 15%

Technical Outerwear – 12%

Footwear – 6%

Men’s Sportswear – 6%

Underwear – 4.5%

Fleece – 4.5%

PFDs – 4.5%

Merino Anything – 4.5%

Paddling – 4 %

Travel – 3%

What were the fastest-growing product categories this year?

Footwear – 12%

Rec Kayaks – 10%

Kid’s Outerwear – 7.5%

Women’s Sportswear – 7.5%

Underwear – 6%

Travel – 4.5%

Merino Anything – 4.5%

Climbing – 3%

Men’s Sportswear – 3%

Backcountry Skiing – 3%

What is your total sales volume year to date?

Less than $499,999 – 17.6%

$500,000 to $1 million – 19%

$1 million to $2 million — 22%

$2 million to $3 million — 8%

$3 million to $4 million — 7%

$4 million to $5 million – 4.5%

$5 million to $6 million – 6.5%

$7 million to $8 million – 1%

$8 million to $9 million – 0%

$9 million to $10 million — 2%

$10 million to $20 million — 2%

Over $50 million — 5%

How are your sales this year compared to last YTD?

Up between 1% and 10% — 45%

Up between 11% and 20% — 23%

Up between 21% and 30% — 3%

Way Up! (over 50% up) — 5%

Down between 1% and 10% — 9%

Down between 11% and 20% — 3%

Even — 10%

What are the top-selling accessory brands this year?

Sea to Summit – 15.5%

Cascade Designs – 7%

NRS – 7%

SmartWool – 7%

Adventure 16 – 3%

CamelBak (bottles) – 3%

The North Face – 3%

Nalgene – 1.5%

Peregrine – 1.5%

Eagle Creek – 1.5%

What are the top-selling pack brands this year?

Osprey – 28%

The North Face – 11%

Gregory – 4%

Granite Gear – 4%

CamelBak – 3%

Mountainsmith – 3%

Deuter – 3%

Vaude – 3%

Kelty – 1.5%

Osprey continues to reign as the top pack brand with basically the same percentage of votes as last year. While Gregory hangs onto the same number of percentage points as last year, the former unquestioned specialty category leader in the pack category slid down the ranking as The North Face leapt from third to second with a 6 percent increase over last year. All else remains pretty much status quo with a few percentage point shifts here and there.

What are the top-selling tent brands this year?

MSR – 19.5%

The North Face – 14%

Eureka – 8.5%

Sierra Designs – 7%

Mountain Hardwear – 5.5%

Kelty – 4%

Marmot – 3%

Hilleberg – 1.5%

MSR continues its rule as top of the heap in the tent category increasing its grip on the top spot by 2.5 percentage points over last year. Diversification in the category continues, with numerous brands being listed as top sellers. The North Face moves up to the No. 2 spot, nearly doubling the number of percentage points it received last year. Eureka, too, has garnered consumer and retail favor, moving past Sierra Designs into the No. 3 position.

What are the top-selling sleeping bag brands this year?

The North Face – 15.5%

Mountain Hardwear – 11%

Marmot – 10%

Western Mountaineering – 7%

Lafuma – 7%

Sierra Designs – 5.5%

Big Agnes – 4%

Slumberjack – 3%

Montbell – 3%

Well, it appears order has been restored to the sleeping bag world as The North Face, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot both climbed back up to the top three positions, pushing our 2006 top vote getter, Western Mountaineering, down to a still very respectable fourth position. Good to see Big Agnes back on the list this year, and a hearty welcome to Lafuma, which is clearly garnering some well-deserved attention at the consumer and retail levels.

What are the top-selling men’s technical outerwear brands this year?

The North Face – 32%

Mountain Hardwear – 8.5%

Arc’Teryx – 7%

Patagonia – 5.5%

Marmot – 4%

Cloudveil – 4%

Red Ledge – 2%

What are the top-selling women’s technical outerwear brands this year?

The North Face – 32%

Patagonia – 7%

Mountain Hardwear – 7%

Arc’Teryx – 7%

Marmot – 5.5%

Obermeyer – 3%

Isis – 1.5%

The North Face continues its lock on this category, while retailer comments support our observations that it is difficult to garner consumer enthusiasm and brand leadership in a category with so much sameness and clearly little consumer brand loyalty. Hard to be loyal to any one brand when any given jacket on a rack essentially looks and performs like any other — with a few notable exceptions.

What are the top-selling men’s sportswear brands this year?

Patagonia – 21%

The North Face – 18%

Columbia – 5.5%

Royal Robbins – 5.5%

Prana – 4%

Mountain Khakis – 3%

ExOfficio – 3%

What are the top-selling women’s sportswear brands this year?

The North Face – 15.5%

Patagonia – 12.5%

Prana – 10%

Royal Robbins – 8.5%

ExOfficio – 4%

Columbia – 4%

Horny Toad – 3%

Isis – 3%

Kavu – 3%

Truly, nothing much has changed in this volatile category for men or women. The only new company of note, at least in terms of the survey, is Mountain Khakis, proving that you can simply sell pants to men and become a best-selling brand.

What are the top-selling men’s footwear brands this year?

Merrell – 14%

Keen – 12.5%

Chaco – 11%

Vasque – 11%

Salomon – 5.5%

Teva – 4%

Mion – 3%

Crocs – 3%

Lowa – 1.5%

Asolo – 1.5%

Montrail has disappeared from the list altogether, only garnering one solitary vote, something we would have deemed unthinkable just three years ago. Crocs is also sliding off the list, and might not even make it into the top 10 next year if the trend continues. New to the list is Mion. Merrell and Keen continue to duel for the top spot, with this year Merrell taking top honors, a flip from 2006 survey positioning.

What are the top-selling women’s footwear brands this year?

Keen – 17%

Merrell – 14%

Chaco – 12.5%

Vasque – 8.5%

Salomon – 4%

Mion – 3%

Teva – 3%

Crocs – 3%

Kayland – 1.5%

Ahnu – 1.5%

Keen continues to command respect, attention and sell-through. As we feared, Montrail has disappeared from the minds and hearts of consumers and retailers, a sad statement for a brand that once led in this category, and proof that Columbia really had no idea what to do with the brand following its acquisition. All else remains pretty much status quo in an increasingly competitive category marked by new brands appearing each year.

What are the top-selling sock brands this year?

SmartWool – 51%

Fox River – 10%

Wigwam – 8.5%

Teko – 4%

Darn Tough – 4%

Bridgedale – 1.5%

Dahlgren – 1.5%

SmartWool owns this category and the trend of gradually increasing market share each year doesn’t seem to be slacking off, with the company grabbing 10 percent more best-selling brand nods in 2007 compared to 2006. Fox River, which didn’t make the top list last year, leapt into the No. 2 position in 2007 pushing Wigwam into the No. 3 slot.

What are the top-selling underwear brands this year?

Patagonia – 36.5%

Icebreaker – 12.5%

Terramar – 8.5%

Duofold – 6%

Ibex – 4%

SmartWool – 1.5%

No surprises here. The category remains diversified and Patagonia continues to hold onto a commanding market-share position as top dog in the best-selling brand wars.

The Climbing Department

Forty-six percent of the stores responding to the survey told us they carried climbing equipment, down 5 percent from last year, likely attributable to an increase in paddlesports stores responding to this year’s survey. In the climbing shoe category, with Montrail out of the picture, we wondered which company would be the one to step in and pick up the gap. As it turns out, that brand was Five Ten, which continued its climb moving past La Sportiva into the No. 1 position in our survey this year. La Sportiva’s overall percentage slipped slightly. Mad Rock — which banks on the price-point game for attention in a category where price point seems to be slipping further down in the minds of both specialty retailers and consumers in terms of importance — lost ground yet again.

What are the top-selling climbing hardware brands this year?

Black Diamond – 54.5%

Petzl – 27%

Mammut – 6%

Liberty Brand (Lucky from Vaude) – 3%

What are the top-selling climbing shoe brands this year?

Five Ten – 45%

La Sportiva – 30%

Mad Rock – 6%

What are the top-selling climbing apparel brands this year?

Prana – 42%

Patagonia – 9%

The North Face – 3%

Arc’Teryx – 3%

Marmot – 3%

What are the top-selling climbing rope brands this year?

Sterling – 24%

Blue Water – 22%

Mammut – 15%

Black Diamond – 15%

Petzl – 12%

Beal – 9%

New England Ropes – 3%

What are the top-selling climbing harness brands this year?

Black Diamond – 48%

Petzl – 27%

Misty Mountain – 6%

Mammut – 3%

Singing Rock – 3%

Mad Rock – 3%

Arc’Teryx – 3%

The Wintersports Department

Forty-nine percent of the stores responding to our survey told us they carried snowsports equipment, continuing the year-over-year increase that began in 2006. In 2007, 6 percent more respondents reported carrying snowsports equipment. Bucking the trend of the past, though, this year the increase was a result of a few more stores carrying backcountry skiing equipment, rather than snowshoeing gear.

What are the top-selling telemark / AT ski brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 37%

K2 – 17%

Atomic – 11%

Fischer – 8.5%

Black Diamond – 8.5%

What are the top-selling telemark boot brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 40%

Garmont – 28.5%

Scarpa – 17%

Alpina – 6%

What are the top-selling cross-country ski brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 34%

Fischer – 26%

K2 – 8.5%

Alpina – 8.5%

Atomic – 6%

What are the top-selling cross-country ski boot brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 34%

Salomon – 23%

Alpina – 14%

Fischer – 8.5%

Rossignol – 3%

What are the top-selling snowshoe brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 25%

Atlas – 34%

MSR – 26%

Tubbs – 8.5%

G&V – 2.5%

Crescent Moon – 2%

Redfeather – 2%

The Paddlesports Department

Seventy-six percent of our responding stores told us they carried paddlesports equipment, a dramatic increase of 23 percent over last year — reason alone that paddlesports brands did so well, or not so well, in some of our overall categories, like most difficult and best suppliers.

No real surprises this year in any category. Is whitewater back? Not yet. Retailers told us, as they have every year for the last five, that only Jackson Kayak is a viable kayak company commanding full retail in a category that is typically sold at bro deal or not at all. One retailer even wrote, “We have no interest in whitewater. Biggest problem is buyers are young and have no money. Product price is whored universally. So, we stay away from it like a leper with eboli who is HIV+.” Well, no points for being politically correct, but the message is clear. Paddlesports needs to figure out how to eliminate the bro deal and find a way to sell at full retail and only full retail, especially in the whitewater category.

What are the top-selling whitewater kayak brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 63%

Pyranha Kayaks – 17%

Jackson Kayak – 13%

Wave Sport – 11%

Liquidlogic – 4%

Dagger – 4%

What are the top-selling canoe brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 24%

Mad River – 24%

We-no-nah – 22 %

Old Town – 13%

Bell – 1.5%

What are the top-selling touring kayak brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 7.4%

Wilderness Systems – 28%

Necky – 18.5%

P&H Kayaks – 11%

Perception – 7%

Eddyline – 3.5%

What are the top-selling sit-on-top brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 16.5%

Wilderness Systems – 27.5%

Ocean Kayak – 20%

Hobie – 9%

Liquidlogic – 7%

Native – 3.5%

What are the top-selling PFD brands this year?

Stohlquist – 24%

Astral Buoyancy – 20%

MTI – 20%

Extrasport – 9%

Kokatat – 5.5%

NRS – 5%

What are the top-selling paddle brands this year?

Werner – 37%

Aquabound – 35%

Bending Branches – 7.5%

Harmony – 3.5%

What are the top-selling paddlesport apparel brands this year?

Do Not Carry – 9%

NRS – 35%

Kokatat – 16.5%

Immersion Research – 13%

MTI – 5.5%

Level 6 – 3.5%

What are the top-selling paddlesport accessory brands this year?

NRS – 39%

SealLine (Cascade Designs) – 13%

Harmony – 9%

Sea to Summit – 7.5%

SNEWS® also asked retail respondents a few questions regarding trade shows, including which ones were essential to attend, and then which dates were best for retailers to attend in the summer.

Rate the importance of the trade shows below — national, international and regional — to your store and buying staff.

Well, this was certainly an eye-opener to us, and we would suspect it will be to national trade show organizers as well. We left responses to the regional shows, and expectedly, the percentages are small because few respondents in each region would care about attending the regional shows.

In terms of a national show picture, however, there is every indication a lot of work needs to be done if a national show, such as Outdoor Retailer, is to remain a must-attend event for the vast majority of retailers nationwide. We were stunned to see that nearly 25 percent of survey respondents said Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and 10 percent said Summer Market was of “no importance” to them. This industry needs a viable and vibrant national show. We are fully on board with that. But, if retailers are not coming, what kind of a national show is that? Seems a lot of work needs to be done for retailers to feel it is worth both their time and money to make at least an annual pilgrimage. Those who do attend frequently tell us that while Outdoor Retailer is vital to business success, it is becoming more and more difficult to find both the time and the budget in the face of rising competition, increased travel costs and increasing operational expenses. Work, clearly, needs to be done.

We received several responses and listed just a few to summarize the overall mood of outdoor specialty retailers regarding trade shows:

“Order due dates will drive when and if we attend shows — we are having to do a lot outside of the traditional dates due to early order due dates. I think that OR winter will really in the future be spring summer for the next year and that the summer show will become a winter show due to dates moving up, and that the show people need to think about this. Also the extra days that have been added have not benefited us and so we do not attend.”

“Looks like we are moving to a break between softgoods and hardgoods? i.e. early rag show and later hardgoods show (which means) more travel, more money, and suppliers still cannot deliver???”

“As former manufacturer, the essential question is ‘what is the purpose of the show?’ The issues for manufacturers are not show dates but rather, order dates. I do not find shows to be good places to work lines or make buying decisions, therefore, I do not need shows to launch the buy cycle.”

“I think that it may come down to Outdoor Retailer one year and then look at the Regional idea for the “off” season — whichever one that is.”

Much ado is being made of the need for trade shows to move dates earlier to accommodate a shifting buying cycle…at least this is what trade show organizers, Outdoor Industry Association and manufacturers are telling us. We’re interested in what you think. Rate the following proposed date ranges for summer trade shows in terms of preference for your trade show attendance schedule:

When Outdoor Retailer announced it was moving its 2009 Summer Market dates into July (click here to read our story), it was made very clear to SNEWS® that the date change was very much an OIA-driven decision that Outdoor Retailer management supported … if that is what the industry really wanted. However, we received such a volume of emails and calls following the decision and after our June 2007 article that we wondered if perhaps the most important trade show attendee — the retailer — had even been asked about the move at all. From what our survey results reveal, more than 50 percent of retailers said they will not attend if the show is in July, or if they do attend, it will be with far less staff — not exactly a message manufacturers who are paying to exhibit will want to hear.

A few comments from the many we received sum up the overall sentiment of those opposed to moving the dates:

“Changing dates on trade shows to be earlier and line up with things like ISPO (and OutDoor) seems an effort on the part of show organizers to make more money and manufacturers to crush the little new upstart companies. The big players fly us in to look at their lines anyhow, so not sure how an early show will change all that?”

“If it was ever to move into July or June, then wouldn’t it make more sense to have Winter OR as the summer buying show 1.5 years in advance? I am tired of working on the manufacturer’s schedule. It seems to get earlier and earlier, and I don’t even know what my season was like or what was selling and I have to have my orders in. So, no longer does the customer have input in product and what is going to be made — it is manufacturers and overseas deadlines.”

SNEWS® also asked retail respondents a few free-thinking questions. Here’s a representative sampling from the avalanche of responses we received:

How would you propose Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Retailer work together to make Outdoor Retailer trade shows more useful and, naturally, sufficiently vital to guarantee your attendance each year?

>> “If possible, resolve the show date conflicts between the large China-sourcing apparel companies and the paddlesports industry. Otherwise, look for the paddlesports folks to bolt to a different show.”

>> “How about a totally anonymous, democratic vote (to decide show dates)? One brand, one vote. Let the whole group of vendors decide what they need. At the same time ask us retailers the same thing. To me the trade show is a chance to meet with the decision makers and have our voices heard. I have not looked at a major clothing brand at OR much in the last few years. Usually only the companies that totally blew getting samples need to be seen there. Patagonia is done by Nov 15th in the fall and June 15th in the spring, so all I do at OR is follow up on questions after we have written and look at colors that were not sampled before. I think the better the company is the less benefit OR has. It is the little guys that get a groove on at OR and have real success. OIA and Outdoor Retailer need to work ever harder to make the show be a place where upstarts have a chance to break into the world dominated by Columbia or Patagonia or ‘Mountaineverywear.’ Think of guys like Jetboil, the early Cloudveil, the show the guys were showing us Crocs at a folding church table… they are what my shop needs more of.”

>> “Get rid of the junk exhibitors and the manufacturing/fabric exhibitors. If the exhibitor is not of interest to a retailer, they should not be there.”

>> “Make the seminars earlier, perhaps during the open air demo so that they are easier to attend or make them later.”

>> “While having 1 trade show is potentially more cost effective, and allows retailers that carry many lines to see all of their store products at once. Since, our paddlesport industry is different than clothing’s cycle, or biking’s cycle, why not have smaller OR shows at appropriate times during the year for paddlesport dealers. When the season slows down. Rather than having other products lines such as bicycles/clothing dictate when Summer OR happens. Generally, most of the paddlesport rep groups are focused on carrying specific paddlesport industry products. For what it cost companies like Confluence, or Legacy to attend summer OR. They could put half that amount into paddlesport focused events for the retailers to go, experience the product hands on, write orders, and be trained on the product.”

>> “Have the classes (seminars) at times that we can attend — plus put them in rooms in the convention center and not at the Marriott.”

>> “I think that the shows do a good job, and if they stay in tune with the market, I am good with how they are presented.”

>> “Get the vendors to bring price list and order forms… have ‘writing’ areas for retailers to write orders…it’s a buying show right?”

>> “More marketing co-op discussions between vendors and retailers. Scheduled group discussions between (existing) buyers and design teams — maybe one hour. Get input from the outside. Retailers have little input — give us an ear. This process creates a better cohesive alliance between the two.”

>> “The only problem is fewer reps are visiting the stores, so now we have to see the lines at the shows, meaning we have little time for new things and that is what we go (to Outdoor Retailer) for in the first place.”

>> “Have them during a time of year when people can focus on the task at hand. Mid August for the summer show? Come on people, think about it! Make it convenient for the buyers, not the sellers. Who brings the money to the table? What a concept…”

>> “Wish I had an answer for this but I don’t. We attend the shows when we can, but having a small store and small staff numbers I can’t always go.”

>> “Stop the 3pm beer parties every day. The OR show has gotten out of hand with parties starting earlier every day and by 5pm you can hardly walk aisles let alone have a meeting. I’m the last person opposed to having a beer, but no kegs should start till 5pm. We have 8 buyers attend OR and we need every appointment on the hour to count for all 8 buyers. We are there to work and need to get a job done in a limited time, then kick back and relax and drink and tell stories.”

>> “I have no real issues with the OR shows as is. I see all of my major vendors before OR, so I am there primarily to see smaller vendors.”

>> “We’re going to be there no matter what — but STOP trying to be all things. If the boat people can’t work with clothing, do two smaller shows. I’m really tired of the show getting bigger.”

We all know that green is the “in” and much-hyped color for eco-friendly appearance, but we’d like to know what it means to you, as a retailer? How much of a difference does it make to you if a manufacturer is green or not? Are you more apt to support a green company that can back its eco-friendly assertions?

>> “Green is great if it’s not hype by the marketing geeks. It seems all the corporate companies are hyping the crap out of the green image and making more waste by doing it, whereas the small cottage industry guys already do it because they have passion for the outdoors, not passion to get rich off the outdoors.”

>> “We are more apt to support green vendors. Our customers know it’s a moral issue. Our business is and will move to be a more eco-friendly one. It’s a win-win.”

>> “In a perfect world, all the vendors would operate in a way so as to have as little an impact on the environment as possible. Unfortunately, that is not the case and is not always economically feasible. We do try to support ‘green’ companies whenever possible. At this point in our marketplace, it is not a huge factor with our consumers. We are trying to do what we can as a company and try to educate our customers in the process.”

>> “It won’t make much of a difference to the consumer unless prices, features, and colors are the same. I can support these companies in the short term, until the merchandise begins to pile up on the shelves. Unfortunately, it is going to take $6 dollar gasoline as well as government intervention to get Americans to go green. Once Memphis becomes a seaport, then maybe we can get rid of all the SUVs. Eco-friendly outdoor gear is an insignificant part of the problem.”

>> “Tough subject. On one hand, our industry should be shouting the green message in any and all forms from all the mountain tops. We are the educated liberal masses that should care the most and want to spread the message. On the other hand, we are selling a frivolous pass-time that is very resource intensive. The greenest of vendors is still awfully dirty and is selling goods that, frankly, are a luxury. So, it is a tightrope — Be as green as you can, do as much good as you can, while not appearing hypocritical. From a strictly sales standpoint, the green message is becoming more and more relevant. In a 10-minute outerwear presentation, post-consumer materials and a positive overall environmental commitment might be the third bullet point when explaining the price difference between a Patagonia Rain Shadow and North Face Venture, and, in many cases, that will close the deal. The goal should be to become not just a bullet point, but simply a reality of all manufacturing processes.”

>> “Most of the green claims are dubious at best. I see some pull-through from our customers for things like organic cotton, but we buy it because it sells well, not because it’s ‘green.’ I am no more apt to support a green company than another one because I am very skeptical about their claims. Marmot threw some coconut fibers into a polyester garment and all of a sudden they have a “green” story. Most of this is just marketing hype and manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon because they are afraid of being left out. Patagonia has a great ‘green’ reputation, mostly through marketing, despite the fact that the vast majority of their business is built on petrochemicals.”

>> “Doesn’t mean shit to us or to 99 percent of the customers. Who really gives a rat about recycled foam in a pfd? Who cares about recycled plastic in a kayak? Anyone with a brain knows it takes more energy to pickup scrap and rework it than it does to use new. Same for the recyclers. It’s a social issue and nothing more.”

>> “It’s absolutely important! However, we still have a business to run and we have to buy what will sell. If the company is green, that’s an added plus that we can use to help drive those sales. I think it plays more of an advantage to the manufacturer to be green. The retailer is just the middle man, driven by the consumer demand. It’s up to the manufacturer to make that connection with the consumer. If our customers are actually buying ‘green,’ it makes sense for us to provide that. In our area though, the reality is that people talk about how great it is to be eco-friendly, but it has yet to impact their spending trends and personal taste. It feels great at the show to be around so many eco-friendly companies and people that truly are making a difference. But then we go home and it’s back to business. ‘Green’ hasn’t exactly hit our location yet, but it’ll be nice when it does.”

>> “Green is the future and is no longer a feel good, look at me option. Companies that ‘green wash’ are going to be exposed like a politician in an airport men’s room. If you are going to be green, it had better be genuine or you will lose trust with consumers and never recover.”

>> “Although going green is great, how many companies actually go green? How many are creating a green product by non-green ways or when it comes to warranty isn’t just throwing out the slightly defective product and sending a new one instead of mending. We do like to support eco-friendly companies as we try to do our part as well. Although the consumer has not completely ‘bought’ into this idea, and is not willing to pay the extra money.”

>> “Being green is the cost of entry into the outdoor marketplace. I am sick of companies thinking that putting a green leaf sticker on their product means that mindless drones will line up and pay a premium for it. Give it a rest, folks. Green is cool, great, yada yada. Just do it and shut up already.”

* All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

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