2006 Annual SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey

Welcome to the 2006 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey, where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer up industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good, and desperately needs improvement in the industry. As we did last year, the Winter Outdoor GearTrends® magazine only featured a summary of a few result highlights. To read the complete survey with detailed analysis of each category result, you'll need to be a SNEWS® subscriber. As always, there's a lot of information packed into both this summary and the full survey results on SNEWS®, offering the industry plenty to digest, discuss, ponder and take pride in.
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Welcome to the 2006 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey, where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer up industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good, and desperately needs improvement in the industry. As we did last year, the Winter Outdoor GearTrends® magazine only featured a summary of a few result highlights. To read the complete survey with detailed analysis of each category result, you'll need to be a SNEWS® subscriber. As always, there's a lot of information packed into both this summary and the full survey results on SNEWS®, offering the industry plenty to digest, discuss, ponder and take pride in.

Keep in mind that although SNEWS® surveys hundreds of outdoor specialty retailers all over the country, this survey is by no means scientific in its approach. We do believe the results are quite representative of the outdoor specialty retail market as a whole, and those surveyed are consistent from year-to-year, so comparing answers from past surveys presents a useful picture of trends, market conditions and retailer moods.

The survey was available for retailers to fill out online from Oct. 6 to Nov. 28, 2006. Those completing the surveys represent over $2.7 billion in outdoor specialty sales. Sporting goods chains, discounters, department stores and big boxes are not included in our surveys. The majority of those responding to the survey represent businesses with three or fewer storefronts. Results are representative of the U.S. market in 2006.

Finally, while we regularly receive some truly amazing financial offers, which we appreciate, we never disclose who responded to the surveys, since that is the promise we make our retailers for their honesty. One final point of importance, SNEWS® only poses the questions and does not predispose retailer responses by providing a list of choices. Since we ask retailers to list only one best-selling brand, it is quite possible, and in fact, probable, that brands which are consistently strong sellers, but not best-sellers, do not get recognized in this survey.

For a summary look at the cheers and jeers from retailers in 2006, read on:


Who do you rate as the "best" supplier to do business with?

Patagonia -- 13.5%

Cascade Designs -- 12%

Mountain Hardwear -- 6%

The North Face -- 5%

NRS -- 5%

SmartWool -- 5%

Aqua-Bound -- 4%

Eddyline -- 4%

Marmot -- 4%

Black Diamond -- 4%

Also receiving multiple votes were: Osprey Packs, Impex Kayaks, Outdoor Research, Kavu, Horny Toad, Kokatat, Icebreaker, Werner, Columbia, Peregrine and Merrell.

What a difference a year makes. Results showed no dominant player this year and a much wider spread of nominations for best company with no fewer than 31 companies getting at least one vote. Patagonia hung onto its top billing as the best supplier with which to do business -- but just barely. Several retailers even stated that had other companies been better this year, Patagonia would not have gotten the vote since it was experiencing delivery problems. Cascade Designs told us last year it was gunning for the No. 1 spot and nearly got there. In fact, Cascade was the ONLY one of our top 10 from last year that did not slip in percentage. Icebreaker, clearly a dominant player now in the merino wool clothing market, broke into the top 10 ranking last year, but slipped off a bit, falling to about 14th or 15th place -- too bad we don't do a top 20. Continuing to freefall out of favor with retailers is Montrail, with more retailers than ever bemoaning the quality of service and communication since Columbia acquired the company. Interesting, since Columbia garnered a number of top billings in various product categories this year, but not one nod for Montrail. Applause please for SmartWool, which jumped into the top 10 this year, and also for Eddyline, making its first appearance ever in the top 10. In fact, having three paddlesport companies gracing the top 10 this year is significant. In all cases, retailers cite reasons for voting a company into top spot consideration with a common voice: open and honest communication, consistent on-time and complete delivery, good margins, and good quality product.



Who do you rate as the most difficult supplier to work with in the business?

Confluence -- 20.5%

The North Face -- 19.5%

Crocs -- 14%

Marmot -- 8%

Too Damn Many! -- 6%

ExOfficio -- 5%

Patagonia -- 5%

Merrell -- 5%

Burton -- 4%

Polar -- 3%

Also receiving multiple votes were: Astral Buoyancy, Mountain Hardwear, Victorinox, Keen, Johnson Outdoors, Filson and Mountainsmith.

Sigh. Confluence keeps climbing the ladder in a category no company wants to win, and this year it grabbed top honors with a percentage that ranks among the all-time highs in SNEWS® survey history.

And, right on its heels, and slipping badly since showing two years of dramatic improvement, is The North Face. In the past, retailers had complained about the company's customer service, but that wasn't the case this time. In fact, a number of retailers pointed out that communication wasn't the issue this year. It was a lack of consistency in delivering what was ordered, having poor stock positions, extremely slow shipping, and poor ASAP on key products.

All this was good news for Crocs. We suspect that had TNF not slipped up as it did and Confluence not managed to do nearly everything possible to anger so many retailers, Crocs would have once again owned the top spot -- the company needs to send thank you notes for that. Crocs got ripped by numerous retailers for having reps that would actually berate retailers for not placing larger orders or placing infrequent orders. One retailer summed up what many others wrote in so many other words (many not even printable): "The company needs to improve on returning phone calls, showing respect to its dealers, shipping what is ordered on time, not bullying for bigger or more frequent orders, and not selling to anyone with money in hand…but the company doesn't care what we think anyway, so what's the point in even saying anything."

It was also sad to see that what was formerly known as our "Too Many to List" category, and heretofore renamed by several retailers to be the "Too Damn Many" category, trended back up, after slipping down slightly on the list last year.

Overall, we need to repeat what we said in last year's survey and the survey before that. Manufacturers who were voted "Most Difficult to Deal With" should take to heart that you are continuing to fail your specialty retailers if you are breaking promises, not taking responsibility for your actions or inaction, being very difficult to deal with, not delivering, delivering poor quality product, not communicating, lying about what you have or have not done, and not showing respect.

If you're on the list of most difficult to deal with for 2006, read the paragraph above carefully and then look in a mirror. You're on this list, retailers tell us, because more than one of the reasons above applies to you.


What are the top-selling hardgoods categories this year?

Backpacks (includes hydration packs) -- 18%

Sleeping Bags -- 15%

Rec Kayaks -- 11%

Tents -- 9%

Climbing -- 7%

Sport Racks -- 4%

Stoves -- 3%

Snowshoes -- 3%

Travel (luggage and packs) -- 3%

Backcountry Skiing -- 3%



What are the top-selling softwear categories this year?


Women's Sportswear -- 23%

Socks -- 15%

Men's Sportswear -- 15%

Underwear/Base Layer -- 14%

Technical Apparel -- 9.5%

Rainwear -- 6%

Men's Outerwear/Shells -- 5%

Women's Outerwear/Shells -- 5%

Kids' Apparel -- 3%

Technical Paddling Apparel -- 2%



What were the fastest-growing product categories this year?

Women's Sportswear -- 19.5%

Footwear (casual and multi-sport) -- 15%

Travel (luggage and packs) -- 11%

Merino Wool (anything) -- 9%

Soft Shell -- 8%

Men's Sportswear -- 6.5%

Backpacks -- 6.5%

Sport Racks -- 6%

Rec Kayaks -- 6%

Socks -- 4%



What is your total sales volume year-to-date?

Less than $499,999 -- 5%

$500,000 to $1 million -- 18%

$1 million to $2 million -- 18%

$2 million to $3 million -- 18%

$3 million to $4 million -- 2%

$4 million to $5 million -- 8%

$5 million to $6 million -- 3.5%

$6 million to $7 million -- 0%

$7 million to $8 million -- 3.5%

$8 million to $9 million -- 0%

$9 million to $10 million -- 5%

$10 million to $20 million -- 2%

Over $50 million -- 6%



How are your sales this year compared to last YTD?

Up between 1% and 10% -- 32%

Up between 11% and 20% -- 38%

Up between 21% and 30% -- 5%

Way up! (over 50% up) -- 5%

Down between 1% and 10% -- 8%

Down between 11% and 20% -- 2%

Even -- 5%


What are the top-selling accessory brands this year?

Cascade Designs – 7%

Sea to Summit – 6%

Aquabound – 5%

Peregrine – 4.5%

Nalgene – 4.5%

SmartWool – 4%

Camelbak (bottles) – 2%

Eagle Creek – 2%

Yakima – 2%

Werner Paddles – 2%



What are the top-selling pack brands this year?

Osprey – 29%

Gregory – 7%

The North Face – 6%

Kelty – 6%

Deuter – 2%

Marmot – 2%

Camelbak – 2%

Mountainsmith – 2%

Granite Gear – 2%

Lowe Alpine – 1%

Osprey continues to serve specialty retailers in customer service, sell-through and products that grab the attention of customers, and as a result, the company further solidifies its stranglehold on the No. 1 spot in the SNEWS® survey. Gregory continues to tail off, which we find surprising from a company that for so long was the unquestioned specialty category leader. All else remains pretty much status quo with a few percentage point shifts here and there.



What are the top-selling tent brands this year?


MSR – 17%

Mountain Hardwear – 9%

The North Face – 8%

Sierra Designs – 7%

Marmot – 4%

Kelty – 3%

Eureka – 3%

Black Diamond – 2%

Hilleberg – 1.5%

Big Agnes – 1%

The Hubba Hubba tent continues to generate raves and sales and, as a result, MSR continues its rule as top of the heap in the tent category. What was interesting to us this year was that percentage of votes for top sellers was more diversified this year, with Eureka and Big Agnes taking some small chunks no doubt from others on the list.



What are the top-selling sleeping bag brands this year?

Western Mountaineering – 12%

Marmot – 11%

The North Face 11%

Mountain Hardwear – 10%

Kelty – 4.5%

Sierra Designs -- 2%

Slumberjack – 1%

Say hello to Western Mountaineering, which garners essentially the same percentage of votes as last year, but leaps to the top of the top-selling list by virtue of a slip by both The North Face and Mountain Hardwear. Marmot is creeping back up the list as well, thanks to a solid line of women's bags, retailers tell us. Not sure what happened to Big Agnes this year, but after a strong showing on the list in 2005, the company hardly generated much notice in the survey in 2006.



What are the top-selling men's technical outerwear brands this year?

The North Face – 28%

Mountain Hardwear – 14%

Arc'Teryx – 11%

Marmot – 9%

Patagonia – 4%

Kokatat – 4%

Ibex – 3%

Cloudveil – 2%



What are the top-selling women's technical outerwear brands this year?

The North Face – 31%

Marmot – 15%

Mountain Hardwear – 8%

Patagonia – 7%

Arc'Teryx – 5%

Isis – 3%

Kokatat – 3%

Columbia – 2%

Applause for The North Face which surges back to the No. 1 position this year, pushing Mountain Hardwear from its place at the top in last year's survey. No resting on laurels for any brand though, as this category continues to prove that garnering attention and sell-through is a fickle thing in a category with so much sameness and apparently little consumer brand loyalty.



What are the top-selling men's sportswear brands this year?

Patagonia – 20%

The North Face – 15%

Columbia – 10%

Royal Robbins – 6%

Mountain Hardwear – 6%

Prana – 5%

Kavu – 2%

Ibex – 2%

ExOfficio – 2%



What are the top-selling women's sportswear brands this year?

Prana – 13.5%

The North Face – 12%

Patagonia – 10%

Horny Toad – 9%

Royal Robbins – 8.5%

Columbia – 7%

Mountain Hardwear – 6.5%

Kavu – 4%

Icebreaker – 2%

Surprising to us is the disappearance of ExOfficio from the women's sportswear list, and near disappearance of ExO from the men's sportswear list above. Could it be that ExO is being viewed now more as a travel line and less as sportswear? Or could it be that the competition in this heated category has gotten so strong that ExO has been pushed out of a best-selling category and now resides as a strong, but no longer best-selling brand? We're scratching our heads on this one gang as from our side of the fence, looking at ExO's line, it's as strong if not stronger then ever. Perhaps the company's appearance for the first time in our survey in the "most difficult" company to deal with has something to do with this trend as well? Congrats are in order for Kavu, which climbs aboard the list. All other players remain strong and consistent in both men's and women's.



What are the top-selling men's footwear brands this year?

Keen – 18.5%

Merrell – 12%

Montrail – 10%

Vasque – 10%

Chaco – 6%

Asolo – 4%

La Sportiva – 3%

Crocs – 3%

Salomon – 3%

Hi-Tec – 2%

Montrail continues to slide down the scale as Keen leaps to the top, quelling any thoughts that the brand's funky toe design was a flash-in-the-pan story. In fact, the real story is the continuation of a trend from last year with the 2006 survey resulting in over 44 separate brands being named by retailers as best sellers. As we said last year, when it comes to footwear, any manufacturer seeking an entry needs to realize it is entering an already way over-saturated market.



What are the top-selling women's footwear brands this year?

Keen – 19.5%

Merrell – 17%

Chaco – 10%

Vasque – 9%

Montrail – 6%

Dansko – 4.5%

Salomon – 4%

Crocs – 3%

Anyone who might have wondered about Keen's staying power with women and the brand's relevance to the retailer and female consumer should wonder no more. Under new president Kirk Richardson's direction, Keen continues to command respect, attention and sell-through. Montrail is struggling to stay on the list, and we'd suspect that unless things change soon at the company (read Columbia) the brand will be in danger of disappearing from the list altogether next year -- something no retailer or, for that matter, this publication wants to see.



What are the top-selling sock brands this year?

SmartWool – 41%

Wigwam – 15%

Bridgedale – 12%

Darn Tough – 6%

Teko – 4%

Dahlgren – 3%

Congrats to a little company that could -- Teko -- which appears on this list for the first time. SmartWool continues to own the category, though, and we see no signs of that market position changing next year.



What are the top-selling underwear brands this year?

Patagonia – 39%

Icebreaker – 19%

Terramar – 6%

SmartWool – 5%

Ibex – 3%

Duofold – 3%

More diversity of votes as an increasing number of brands are garnering a place on the racks of retailers it appears. Patagonia still dominates, but it's no longer a sure bet the company's base layers are retailer or customer favorites. Icebreaker continues to gain popularity, which should surprise no one.


The Climbing Department

Fifty-one percent of the stores responding to the survey told us they carried climbing equipment, the same percentage as last year. Montrail, which has slipped as a must-have brand for many retailers on the footwear wall, bucked the odds by increasing its percentage hold on the climbing shoe wall, indicating that perhaps some of the other price-point brands slipped a notch or two this year. As La Sportiva continues as the clear category leader, Five Ten, we're sure, surprised those who were calling and emailing us much of last year with rumors of brand turmoil by climbing solidly into the No. 2 spot. For next year, we might have to rethink the category of climbing apparel, since even more retailers wrote us this year wondering what, exactly, was climbing apparel by definition.

What are the top-selling climbing hardware brands this year?

Black Diamond – 70%

Metolius – 7%

Petzl – 5%

Trango – 3%

CAMP USA – 2%

Wild Country – 2%



What are the top-selling climbing shoe brands this year?

La Sportiva – 35%

Five Ten – 17.5%

Montrail – 15%

Mad Rock – 12%



What are the top-selling climbing apparel brands this year?

Prana – 42%

The North Face – 7%

Patagonia – 2%



What are the top-selling climbing rope brands this year?

Sterling – 31%

Blue Water – 22%

Beal – 19.5%

Mammut – 11%

New England Ropes – 5%



What are the top-selling climbing harness brands this year?

Black Diamond – 56%

Petzl – 17%

Misty Mountain – 7%

Mammut – 5%

Singing Rock – 5%


The Wintersports Department

Forty-three percent of the stores responding to our survey told us that they carried snowsports equipment, an increase of 3 percent from the previous year -- though much of this increase was a result of a few more stores carrying snowshoes, not backcountry or cross-country skiing equipment. This was a trend switch from our 2005 survey, when numerous retailers wrote in and told us they had dropped out of the snowshoe business altogether as it was no longer perceived as a viable business for specialty retail. Apparently, the mood has changed.



What are the top-selling telemark / AT ski brands this year?


K2 – 21%

Karhu – 11.5%

Atomic – 8.5%



What are the top-selling telemark boot brands this year?


Scarpa – 29%

Garmont – 28.5%



What are the top-selling cross-country ski brands this year?

Fischer – 23%

Karhu – 14%

Rossignol – 8.5%

Atomic – 6%



What are the top-selling cross-country ski boot brands this year?

Salomon – 21%

Rossignol – 14%

Alpina – 11.5%



What are the top-selling snowshoe brands this year?

Atlas – 34%

MSR – 26%

Tubbs – 20%

Crescent Moon – 6%


The Paddlesports Department

Fifty-three percent of our responding stores told us they carried paddlesports equipment, identical with last year. No real surprises this year in any category, other than the number of retailers who continue to tell us that until the industry (with the distinct exception of Jackson) figures out how to sell whitewater at a full margin, it makes no sense to carry any kind of meaningful stock level of whitewater boats in stores.



What are the top-selling whitewater kayak brands this year?


Wave Sport – 16.5%

Pyranha Kayaks – 14%

Jackson Kayak – 11.5%

Liquid Logic – 5%

Dagger – 5%



What are the top-selling canoe brands this year?

We-no-nah – 24%

Mad River – 22%

Old Town – 14%

Bell – 2%



What are the top-selling touring kayak brands this year?

Wilderness Systems – 32.5%

Current Designs – 14%

Eddyline – 7%

Perception – 9%

Necky – 4.5%



What are the top-selling sit-on-top brands this year?

Wilderness Systems – 22%

Hobie – 18%

Ocean Kayak – 10%

Perception – 9%



What are the top-selling PFD brands this year?

MTI – 21%

Astral Buoyancy – 17%

Lotus – 16%

Kokatat – 12%

Stohlquist – 9%

Extrasport – 4.5%



What are the top-selling paddle brands this year?

Werner – 29%

Aquabound – 30%

Bending Branches – 14%

Harmony – 7%

Lendell – 4.5%



What are the top-selling paddlesport apparel brands this year?

Kokatat – 25.5%

Immersion Research – 12%

NRS – 9%

Mysterioso – 4.5%



What are the top-selling paddlesport accessory brands this year?

NRS – 28%

SealLine (Cascade Designs) – 9%

Sea to Summit – 7%

WildWasser – 6%

Harmony – 4.5%


SNEWS® also asked retail respondents a few free-thinking questions. Here's what we heard:

Do you find industry blogs useful or a waste of time? Which ones, if any, do you find most useful or entertaining? How do you use blogs, if at all?

* Of note, 72% of our retail respondents (typically representing buyers, store managers who are also buyers, and store owners) responded that blogs are either not read at all or are considered a waste of time.

>> Mostly a waste of time. They tend to be gossip oriented and the information I get either does not affect my business or help me make (better) decisions.

>> The blogs are somewhat helpful as they allow for a quick method of sharing opinions but for the most part they are still just opinions and markets vary so drastically both seasonally and regionally.

>> In most cases, useless. If the individual's opinion were measured, tempered, and intelligent enough they'd be writing for a publication, not a blog. Second-rate journalism is usually poor, and often embarrassing.

>> Useful. We read thepiton.com and a few others. RSS is a great way to have the latest industry scuttlebutt at a glance without having to take the time to visit a bunch of Web sites. We use (several store-operated blogs) to keep customers, our own employees, and friends of the company in the loop on the latest PR, sales, etc. Some customers are opting into our RSS feeds instead of e-mail because their email boxes are already inundated with other mail. They're also great sources of content for search engines, which is important for e-commerce.

>> Useful if I have time. Most are just complaining or too negative.

>> Very little. I find blogs to be gossip journals of people trying to sound important and informed.

>> I regret to say that I do not even go there. I know that my snowsports manager engages in the blog world, as does my boat manager. I think it would be a useful tool to monitor.

>> We don't use them. We do have a bulletin board for our buying group, but the only time I look at it is when I have a question. I have no idea how people find time to surf this stuff. Doesn't seem like an efficient use of time. Spend more time at the show is my advice.

>> I depend on SNEWS® for much of my industry news and insight. I also use the "Buying Group" BBS often and pick up great info there.

>> I believe useful. When any of us has a moment to check them out, it gives us another perspective on the market, products, etc. All resources are useful to some extent.



If you could change one thing about our industry, what would it be? How would you like to see it changed?

>> The one thing I would change would be discount dating and structure with preseasons. Over the last few years preseason discounts have become almost non-existent and dating has gotten tighter, unless of course you have 25 stores or do a huge Internet volume. I would like to have the ability to grow my business in a sustainable manner with consistent growth and with a discount that rewards that growth and not just volume. Our industry is quickly becoming a market for the big-box stores and when that happens, it becomes a commodity and there will be no margin for anyone.

>> What I really see that needs to change is the scam job done on shipping charges. Mountain Hardwear and The North Face are the big offenders here. They make a bundle on freight charges and it's eating away at the bottom line for the retailers who are trying to cut down on costs. Plus, it's a big energy waste.

>> Improve the integrity of suppliers. It seems that they only are concerned with how much you will buy this season, rather than how long you have had a good working relationship.

>> It would be great if we were more professional in our operations and appearance. Most of our brick & mortar operations look tired and worn down. Our programs are typically reactionary and too late. We seem to pride ourselves on wearing 'cool' clothing, but are annoyed when we are not taken seriously. As an industry, we place a lot of dependence on 'windshield' time to educate our staffs and get the word out. We talk about conservation and environmental concerns while sending thousands of road warriors out to educate the store sales staffs (usually 2-6 people at a time) all driving big SUV's. A promotion in our industry is anything that gets you away from sales. We don't value our salespeople, they are the new employees, least rewarded, but are our primary contact with the consumer. I would like to see us act professionally, instead of looking like we came out of the garage or basement yesterday to sell our stuff to our friends in the driveway today.

>> Get old people out of the way. (We need) new young reps, retailers and forward-thinking manufacturers.

>> Vendors keeping their end of the 'preseason deal'. We meet the deadlines, forecast, match quantities, meet minimums, and requirements that vendors create, but they do not seem to feel obligated to follow through on their end of the agreement -- getting product to us as promised. The hard part is that we are the ones punished: If I need to cancel part of an order because the company is one, two or three months behind, I lose my discounts and terms.

>> More demo days and opportunity for staff to check out gear and connections. More time at Outdoor Retailer for seminars, not in mornings or during show. After show or before would be great so it would not interfere with appointments.

>> I have two stores, one located in a college town, and the other in a more average community, demographically speaking. One thing that has become very apparent over the last few years is the lack of interest by younger people in the outdoors. The outdoor programs at the two universities here used to have waiting lists for the trips they ran. Now, at both of them, most trips don't go due to lack of interest. The only trips that still get interest are the guided rafting trips--essentially passive (for the participants, the guides row) party trips. It is very noticeable how overweight and sedentary the younger generation is. The outdoor industry simply can't compete against the Internet, computer games, and iPod industry. I think the outdoor industry has failed to get its foot in the door at the high school PE class level. Most schools only have PE programs that teach the jock sports. The outdoor industry has failed to get young people interested and to give them a sport that they can participate in for their lifetimes.

>> Pre-season deadlines are getting WAY too early! By the time I go to Outdoor Retailer, most of my big orders have been written. With TNF, I am rebuying items when I have no idea how well my first order sold, cause the season before order hasn't been shipped yet. In other words, I have to write a Fall '07 order before I even receive my first Spring '07 order. Doh!

>> More cooperative outdoor regional events to benefit the outdoors.

>> Two things: 1) Stop looking to REI as the industry leader -- there are many other retailers who do as good a job, if not better, in their respective towns and/or regions. 2) The supply chain seems to run amuck. We have to order earlier and earlier, even before the season we are in has shown us its trends and still the order fulfillment does not improve. Why is this? So many promises from the early order deadlines, but the timeliness of shipments rarely improves...it almost makes sense to steer away from the new until the kinks get worked out, but we thrive on the new, fresh and exciting, and yet we continue to frustrate ourselves and scramble more than we should in season. Having honest expectations would be nice!!!

>> I would improve the working relationships between the retailers and vendors. The buying process, the delivery issues, the timing could use much improvement.

>> I would like the industry to acknowledge that the market is shrinking and that expanding distribution to box stores is not the same as having a vital independent specialty network. And I would like to see more women and minorities in positions of power and influence within the industry.

>> Standards, standards, standards...The devil is in the details. It seems we can't or don't want to agree on standardized specification for basic gear categories, leaving the salesperson or consumer no means to determine which product best suits their needs. Which sleeping pad is warmer, one that provides R-3.5 or a pad rated for 3-season use, or a pad rated to 30 degrees? Even on products like backpacks where we have a standard, we still don't have an apples-to-apples comparison for pack capacity. How high do you fill the spindrift collar with 1-inch balls? I understand it's much more complicated than I make it sound, but the consumer deserves a better set of tools to comparison shop. Ultimately, getting the customer into less-than-optimum equipment does no one any good. If you have a self-service style customer or one who gets assisted by a less than knowledgeable salesperson, they could end up in an outdoor situation with gear that is less than optimal. If they can't stay warm, or their pack doesn't hold everything they need, or they go for overkill gear that's too big and heavy, the result could be an unpleasant or uncomfortable experience and as an industry we lose one more potential enthusiast.

>> I would love to see more vendors sit down with retailers and talk about how our businesses operate. The more we each know about each other, the more we can help each other do business better. As I have learned more about order timelines from vendors, I understand why they have the deadlines they do. That's just one example of communicating with each other in order to build a better relationship between vendors and retailers. I'm in this for the long haul, and for me, it's all about building relationships.

>> I think the growth of our industry has benefited quite a few of us, but it has also eliminated a few of us who where not savvy enough to keep up with the times. I miss the old ways to a point because it was a much more simple time, but those days are gone and if you can't run with the big dogs, you will disappear. I still get excited at summer Outdoor Retailer and eating dinner with friends in the industry, but pressures are mounting with the changes that have been made to some of our beloved vendors. Running our businesses and our vendors businesses like a public company might be more efficient, but it is surely not as much fun. I love this industry and I have enjoyed meeting some of the pioneers of this industry, because they were pioneers in the woods and rock as well as the retail jungle.

>> Lack of monetary compensation for retail staff. How long can we service customers with time, information, training and attention and not make a living wage? We perform like consultants and get paid like fast-food service.

THE FINE PRINT

» All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don't name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

» The SNEWS® Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS® LLC. Contact SNEWS® at survey@snewsnet.com for reprint details and restrictions.

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Retailers offer up their takes on the good, the best and the worst of 2005 Here it is -- the complete 2005 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey. Unlike past years, GearTrends® published only select results from the survey and from the avalanche of emails over the last week after the ...read more

2006 Annual SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey

Retailers aren't afraid to tell us what they think, and we're not afraid to tell it like they say. Hard to imagine this is the fourth SNEWS® Fitness Retailer Survey. More and more, we hear from manufacturers dying to get on or move up a particular list in our survey—or get the ...read more