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A group of independent specialty outdoor retailers plan to launch a new retail omni channel that aims to match online consumer gear searches with local brick-and-mortar shops that can fulfill their order that same day.
The site, LocalGear.com, expects to launch in March 2014 and hopes to capitalize on a generation of e-commerce-savvy customers who don’t want to wait for online orders to ship, or simply want try something on before buying.
The goal, said Mike Massey, president of Local Gear and Massey’s Outfitters, is to help consumers find the gear they want and bring them into the store, allowing local specialty retailers the chance to do what they do best — provide great service to complete the sale.
There are plenty of other local product searches such as The Find or Google Local, but the difference with LocalGear, Massey said, is that “we’re going to be driven by service, not price.”
In the simplest of terms, here’s how it will work:
>> LocalGear will work with outdoor brands to upload their entire catalogs of product.
>> The site will then work with specialty retailers to match their inventory to the catalogs.
>> When consumers search for a product, they’ll get the official description from the catalog along with MSRP, and then instantly be able to see all the nearby shops that have the product in stock.
“The final sales price (anything below MSRP) will be between the customer and retailer,” Massey said. LocalGear will only display MSRP.
While Massey admits that many online shoppers shop solely by price and may scoff at having to communicate separately with store to see if there’s any discount, he thinks there are many others who value service and the ability to get the product they want right away.
“Instead of driving to 12 stores, or waiting for your online order to ship and wondering whether it will fit, you can see a local store has it, go there, try it on and buy it,” Massey said.
LocalGear also aims to improve many “shop local” sections on vendor websites that frequently don’t provide updated inventory information or only have sparse information such as that the store carries the brand, but not necessarily the product.
LocalGear will be able to tell the customer that a store that carries the exact product they want, down to the size, color and model year.
Of course, to be successful, LocalGear will need brand and retailer participation to build a reliable inventory database that gets frequently updated. Retailers will have to pay $99 a month to join ($49 for each additional store) and vendors have a couple of options to join for $500 to $1,000 a month. If a vendor doesn’t want to participate, retailers will be allowed to upload the product information themselves.
Massey’s goal is to launch LocalGear in March with 50 retailers and 50 vendors.
Along with Louisiana-based Massey’s, Half Moon Outfitters in South Carolina and Georgia, and Travel Country in Florida are part of the initial group invested in the project. LocalGear plans to present an operational version of the site to industry players at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 in January.
Massey said the biggest attraction to LocalGear, beyond the outreach to consumers, will be the site’s ease of use.
“Retailers will just have to send us their UPCs (product barcodes) and we’ll match everything up,” Massey said. “They don’t need to worry about descriptions or photos. All that will be provided by the vendor, and it will all be consistent.” For vendors, anyone familiar working with Excel spreadsheets will find the site easy to work with, he said.
LocalGear will give ranking preferences to stores that update their inventory more often, letting consumers know where they’ll be more likely to find the product in stock.
Ultimately, Massey said LocalGear looks to level the playing field with some of the bigger players in online retail by taking advantage of the same technology, but preserving specialty retail service.
“We want to pull the industry together,” Massey said. “We can’t survive if Google and Amazon end up skimming 15 to 20 percent of our business. People don’t want the outdoor industry to turn into a massive Internet outlet mall.”