In recent weeks many retailers have stepped up to help support brick-and-mortar retailers survive the coronavirus pandemic through profit-sharing ecommerce revenue. Osprey is the latest to announce such a program, but with a twist that also promises to drive traffic once stores begin to open. 

It's called the “Buy Online, Fit In-Store” program. Here’s how it works: Customers who buy certain multiday pack models (that benefit from custom fitting) will be directed toward their nearest Osprey dealer and encouraged to visit for a custom fit session. The customer will head to the store with her new pack and receive fitting services (using Osprey’s new contactless method), and the retailer will get a 15 percent credit towards their Osprey account.

“Our goal with the program is two-fold,” says Brian Mecham, senior director of sales. "It provides retailers with an additional revenue stream and, most importantly, drives customers into stores once restrictions are lifted. Generating traffic and opportunities for add-on sales will be critical over the next few months.”

Wes Allen of Sunlight Sports thinks this provides a glimpse at what a healthy outdoor retail ecosystem could look in the future. “Retailers stock product, invest in training on the product, and expose customers to new product launches,” he says. “Then on the backside, brands incentivize people to go into stores after they’ve made an online purchase. No matter where their entry point, they will hit both direct and in-store experiences.”

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It’s potentially a much healthier dynamic for all involved. “For the last 10 years or so, brands and retailers have kind of been mad at each other because they’re competing for the same customer," he says. "But this turns that problem on its head by making brands and retailers partners again."

Allen provided an example of how this could work to the mutual benefit of both parties: A customer might walk into a store on his way to dinner. He sees a pack he likes but doesn’t want to carry the pack to the restaurant, so he goes to dinner, then goes home and logs on to Osprey’s website. He decides to buy the pack online because he sees the color he likes there, but Osprey encourages him to take it back to the shop for a custom fitting. He does, and then he also sees an Osprey hydration bladder he likes, so he buys that in-store. The retailer gets 15 percent on the pack purchase, full margin on the bladder, and Osprey is engaging with the customer on all channels.”

Contactless pack-fitting

Osprey believes it can create a new way of pack-fitting that benefits the consumer while retaining social distancing guidelines. The company will be providing retailers with a video tutorial (not yet available at press time). Topics will include: setting up the pack-fitting area to allow for proper distancing, having a demo pack that the employee can don to show the ideal fit and fit process, practicing routine cleaning of regularly used fit tools and sanitizing pack sizers before and after each use. 

The program is slated to run through the end of July, at which time Osprey will re-evaluate to see how both retailers and consumers have responded.

Allen, for one, hopes it will become the new normal. “This could be how we keep retail and brands healthy on the other side of this pandemic,” he says.

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