North Americans have started spending more time outside, experiencing
nature while they stay fit. And outdoor equipment suppliers are more than
happy to provide them with the necessary gear.
Hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, rock climbing and mountain biking
are all sports that require special equipment. As consumers look for ways
to spend their money on outdoor activities, outdoor equipment suppliers have
a growing market.
Paul Bagley started an online retail site for outdoor supplies and equipment.
"I ran across a unique product that I liked and I was very interested in
the Internet," he says. "I started small and expanded from there."
Bagley enjoys outdoor activities and likes working in the outdoor industry.
"It's been fun. I like the industry, so it's intriguing to see new trends
Start-up costs mainly involved finding a hosting company to get the business
running on the Internet.
"I started with about $2,000 worth of inventory," says Bagley. "I had
a realistic approach of slow and steady growth with a reasonable budget."
His business has experienced around 20 percent growth each year.
Bagley has noticed there are pros and cons to selling on the Web.
"The advantage of the Internet is that it gives the rural person access
to a selection that you couldn't get unless you live in a major metropolitan
area," he says.
However, he also says that certain products don't sell well
via the Net. "Some things you have to try on, touch or feel."
Bagley is confident that his business and other online retailers will continue
to have success. "I think [the outdoor industry] has a good future. Based
on my own experience, I think there's a lot of room for growth and room for
independents to survive and flourish."
The traditional retail stores are still very much open for business.
Domenic Saverino runs a traditional outdoor equipment store. "Our e-commerce
business has increased," he says.
But Saverino says that, for his company, it is still more profitable to
sell in-person directly to customers. The store has been in business for
over 54 years and is still growing.
"We have $1.5 million in inventory. We recently put a $1-million renovation
into our building," says Saverino.
Start-up costs will naturally vary from store to store. But inventory,
office and warehouse space, as well as staff, are some of the key components
to getting started.
Saverino's advice to people interested in opening an outdoor supply store
is to market specific products.
"Do not try to be everything to everyone," he says. "Study your market
area. Consumers are very well informed, so you have to be knowledgeable."
He also says that if you are interested in the outdoor supply industry,
you need to be customer-oriented.
"You have to enjoy dealing with all types of people. You also have to
have a keen sense of what people will want and what items to stock. What
you like may not necessarily be what is going to sell."
This is a great job for people who love to spend time with Mother Nature.
"We are all avid outdoor enthusiasts. It's like the 'kid in a candy store'
mentality," says Saverino about his staff.
"We all keep up with the latest innovations in our industry. We are service
based, so we have to know what we are talking about."
The increasing number of people participating in outdoor activities as
part of their lifestyles as well as their vacations has helped the outdoor
industry market unfold. Campers are a large source of business for the outdoor
industry. But weekend outdoor sports are still growing.
The Outdoor Recreation in America 2001 survey conducted by the American
Recreation Coalition noted an increase in the percentage of people participating
in certain outdoor activities. The activities that saw the most growth were
wildlife viewing, hiking, boating and running or jogging.
Chad Sorenson is an account executive for a company that hosts trade shows
for all kinds of outdoor industry professionals.
Sorenson says that the outdoor supply industry is looking good. "I definitely
see opportunity for growth."
But you need to know your market. Talk to people already operating similar
According to Sorenson, the equation for success includes:
And if your business has a shop in addition to or instead of a Web site,
having the right gear for your region and being strategically located are
Sorenson says that starting out with less competition is better. "If possible,
find a town that doesn't already have an outdoor store."
"A store's location should also be in an area that attracts wilderness
adventure seekers, because customers will be both local residents and tourists."
As more activities and holidays take place outside, more and more outdoor
supply retailers will be able to operate stable businesses online or on the
Outdoor Industry AssociationAn organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the human-powered
outdoor recreation industry
International Center of Outdoor Recreational EquipmentRead about Seattle's outdoor recreational equipment industry
U.S. Office of Consumer GoodsCheck out its sporting and athletic goods index page