Outdoor Retailers (Stores) vs. Online Sales (Amazon)

In all our blogs, here at OutdoorLoyalty.com, there is a sense of optimism for the Outdoor Industry as a whole and Outdoorists everywhere.  The issue here is the extreme success of Online Sales of Outdoor Products which is directly affecting Independent Outdoor Stores.  From a distance, one would see a David vs. Goliath battle.  At a time of record sales of outdoor products and services, the “local” outdoor stores are closing their businesses after many years of being an integral part of their community.  We are not pointing at either side of this reality.  It is a “fact” that all Outdoorists need to know.

Mother Nature…

In 2016, large national Outdoor Retailers (Eastern Mountain Sports, Sports Chalet and Sports Authority) closed their doors and filed for bankruptcy.  Each entity claimed their “per store” loss of customer activity and sales was their motivation to close their operations.  This stark reality has occurred in the face of burgeoning outdoor product sales on all levels of evaluation.  There is one glaring variable at work here; Online Sales, at an alarming rate.  As an industry so dialed into it’s marketing strategies (Analytics and Meta Data usage), how can this be happening?  This may be a simplistic analysis of the dynamic here, but stop for a moment, look around you at all the Outdoorists you know and tell me “don’t they all buy Outdoor Gear online?”…Maybe not totally, but a percentage of their outdoor purchases.

We all talk about “Sustainability”, but in terms of the independent Outdoor Retailer, we look with a “blind eye”.  When we see the growth of the Outdoor Industry trending at around $887 Billion annually (i.e. Pharmaceuticals- $466 Billion and Education- $278 Billion), we think there is enough to go around:  In general, YES.

The reason we see an “Us vs. Them” is because of the trends over

Poudre River

the last few years.  In 2011, the Online percentage of Outdoor Gear sales was about 2.5% of overall sales.  In 2016, it increased to just under 10%.  If you consider the net profit of sales for a “brick and mortar” Outdoor business being between 6% to 8%, compare that to an Online business which can be in the range of 17%.  Comparing initial mark up percentages of OR at 52% vs. OB at 35% you can see the inequality existing.  The major difference is due to gross volume.  Outdoor Retailers can not, by any means, compete on this battlefield.  That is the reason for a “Call to Arms” for all independent Outdoor Retailers.  Below is a 5 point plan for retailers to regain market share:

  1.  Consider “free” shipping for customer’s purchases.
  2.  Highlight Quality and Value to Online Customers.
  3.  Refocus technological expenditures to enhance the customer’s purchasing experience.
  4.  A continuous evaluation of expenditures for the business.
  5.  Focus on the “experience”, not on the “sale”.

Over the past 5 years, there has been a recovery and resurgence for three very prominent Outdoor Retailers who were considering closing their doors and businesses.  In all three cases, they have been purchased by Millennials with a new set of eyes in viewing how to rebrand the business to bring it into the 21st Century and who their customer can and should be:

A)  Gravity Sports-  McCall, Idaho/ Michelle and Scott Reagan    They moved from Corporate Life to “Do what they love” The Outdoor Experience.

B)  Black Creek Outfitters-  Jacksonville, Florida/ Joe Butler.  Success is all about changing Outdoorists consumer demands.

Outdoor Retailer

C)  Sturtevants- Sun Valley, Idaho/ Olin Glenne & Ben Jacobson Its all about lifestyle, experiential environment and focusing on the “Outdoor Experience”.

It is all about a response to the ever changing Outdoorists needs for taking “The Road Less Traveled.  When you boil down to what this means, consider the three elements of OutdoorLoyalty.com:






These words sum-up the success of 21st Century Outdoor Retail which should entail rewards with “Points For Participation” on top of Purchases.

Below is a link to an article about the New Face of Outdoor Retail published by Outdoor and Fitness Industry News authored by Courtney Holden.  Read and Experience…







13 comments on Outdoor Retailers (Stores) vs. Online Sales (Amazon)

  1. Analytics and Big Data are now in reach for Outdoor Retailers
    To access and structure quality info to reach out and communicate to customers…Just The Beginning.

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