One of Diana Seung’s favorite pieces in the new Backcountry.com line is a pair of knickers, light enough to fit under a ski bib but designed to keep women warm all day in the mountains.
It was such a hit, men wanted them too, she said.
Seung, the executive vice president of merchandising, is most psyched about the array of women-specific products hitting the online shop as part of the e-retailer’s first-ever rollout of its namesake goat-branded, head-to-toe gear and apparel, designed in-house.
“Females are underserved in the outdoor market,” Seung said. “We’ve been very keen on making sure all of our women’s products are designed and influenced by women and the final decision is by me, a woman.”
Starting Tuesday, Backcountry.com will release about 75 pieces in the spring/summer lifestyle apparel collection for men and women, followed by tents and other camping gear on June 1, travel duffel bags on June 16, mountain biking apparel in July, a fall/winter lifestyle collection in September, and technical ski touring and splitboarding gear in October.
While each collection is noteworthy, the ski touring line is a special nod to the 22-year-old company’s heritage. It was founded by backcountry enthusiasts Jim Holland and John Bresee in Park City, Utah, and their first sale was a Pieps 457 Opti-finder avalanche beacon.
To pull together the touring line, Backcountry.com collaborated with Flylow on a ski bib, Smartwool on light ski socks, Black Diamond on touring gloves, and DPS Skis on skis. These pieces will have a dual logo, and other pieces will be Backcountry.com exclusive.
"Backcountry came to us with the idea of a design collaboration with Gearheads," said Scott Bowers, Smartwool VP of sales and marketing. "We love the Gearheads and the credibility they bring to Backcountry so we jumped at the idea. The Gearheads are a perfect source of information through balancing what they know and love as real gear users and what they hear from the consumer about their likes and dislikes. Together, we were inspired to create the ultimate backcountry ski sock."
The e-retailer has sold its own gear for a while, from ski and splitboard skins to t-shirts to flasks. But this is the first time Backcountry.com has collaborated on this level with leading brands to create fully integrated pieces meant to pair together.
As such a strong online retailer rooted in selling other brands' products, Backcountry.com has had to answer the question, why start a line now?
The line is akin to REI — a retailer selling other brands and it's private label. But Seung said the difference is that rather than modeling products after other brands and selling at lower prices, each piece is Backcountry's take on gear based on data they've culled.
Over the years, the company’s trusted customer service experts — between 350 and 550 Gearheads — have interacted with about 5 million customers, collecting feedback for Backcountry.com's own database. Through those interactions, they've learned what customers want.
“Through the Gearhead program, we have so much customer insight. We’ve made that an integral part of our design. These are products you won't find anywhere else.”
Up in Ogden, Utah, Greg Reynolds, one of the owners of Gear:30, said news of Backcountry.com's launch is exciting and if his store was in a position to do the same, they would.
"It absolutely is competition, but that’s never a bad thing in my opinion as long as it’s done ethically and fairly," Reynolds said. "We do some online business and so it is a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge. It forces us all to be on top of our game and at our best in order to compete and that’s not bad."
Backcountry.com will continue to tout gear from more than 1,500 respected brands, such as The North Face, La Sportiva, Outdoor Research, and Burton. Categories include ski and snowboard, camp and hike, bike, climb, run, yoga, snowshoe, paddle, surf, fish, and travel.
“Those brands are so critical for our growth and for servicing the customer,” said Seung. “I view our Backcountry.com line as complementary to the other brands we carry.”