Capturing sales: Lowepro, Joby place more focus on outdoor

SNEWS sits down with Lowepro and Joby’s new general manager Rick Olson for a chat on the growing action camera and accessories sector.

Forget writing 140 characters or status updates, more social media users (especially those who play outdoors) are sharing their experiences through digital photos and video.

That’s led to a surge in action camera sales – everything from GoPro and Contour point-of-view video cameras, to those dustproof, drop-proof, waterproof point-and-shoot cameras from Nikon, Pentax and more.

And where there are more cameras, there are more accessories. That’s good news for Daymen Group brands Lowepro and Joby, best known in the outdoor industry for their packs and flexible tripods, respectively.

SNEWS sat down to talk with the company’s new general manager, Rick Olson for an update on the sector and industry. He tells us that the brands are redoubling their efforts to focus on the outdoor industry:

SNEWS: Why has Lowepro and Joby made it a point recently to focus more on the outdoor market, including new hires from within the industry (yourself included, who came from Mountain Hardwear)?

Rick Olson:
Lowepro’s heritage is deeply rooted in the outdoor industry. Indeed, since 1967 when Greg Lowe designed the first hybrid mountain pack to safely carry camera gear into harsh environments, Lowepro’s design philosophy and success have been driven by three main principals that reflect the industry’s core values: comfort, performance and protection.

When I joined the company, I wanted to ensure that we were not merely paying homage to that heritage, but continuing to lead and innovate products for adventure photographers that reflect our core competencies. We already had a strong design team in place (ex: Pete Hill, our VP of design and development has an extensive background in the outdoor industry, including stints at TNF and Cascade Designs), but I felt it was important to increase our commitment to the outdoor channel if we intended to remain true to our heritage and relevant to our core customers.

Outdoor photographers, from casual enthusiasts to passionate image makers, are shopping for virtually all of their outdoor gear at traditional outdoor retailers. We believe that they also prefer to shop for our outdoor adventure products there versus a traditional camera shop or other environment. We also believe that Lowepro and Joby are uniquely positioned to lead and support an important avenue of growth for outdoor retailers. The fact is practically everyone venturing into the outdoors today is carrying some sort of electronic image/video capturing device. We intend to support the needs of those customers and our outdoor retail partners with innovative, contemporary carrying solutions.

SNEWS: What trends/demands are you noticing from consumers who are heading outdoors with cameras and recording devices?

RO: Unquestionably, the obvious trend is the explosive growth in consumer’s desire (and ability) to capture their adventures in both stills and video, and to share their experience with unprecedented immediacy. From smartphones to action video cameras to advanced DSLR’s, consumers are increasingly carrying electronics, cameras, and video recording devices into the field, and bringing back high quality results.

While it’s difficult to predict the next wave of technological innovations, we know that there are two predominant trends: First, similar to the general mantra in the outdoor industry, consumers are demanding more performance from lighter and faster products. But, second, there is a trend toward more sophisticated products that can record images, video and audio with unprecedented quality.

SNEWS: How does that translate to your latest/upcoming products?

In every way. We’re really focused and excited to meet the needs of adventure image and video makers be they casual enthusiasts or determined pros. While we continue to maintain our emphasis on comfort, performance, and protection, we are doing so with a renewed emphasis around cutting edge materials and design that will enhance the user’s experience from sea to summit.

SNEWS: Are you planning any expansion into any related product categories?

RO: Absolutely. We’re working diligently to introduce several new products within our award-winning Dry Zone family of products to meet the extreme demands required to protect valuable electronics in watery environments. We intend to provide products that offer the unique combination of protection and accessibility whether your touring flat water on a stand-up paddleboard or running a Class V stretch of gnarly whitewater.

And, we’ve already introduced a new category that we think has vast potential for additional growth. Our Optics Series is designed to provide nature lovers and birding enthusiasts with innovative solutions to carrying and utilizing binoculars, scopes and camera gear. There are an estimated 54 million birders in the United States, and with an aging population, that number is likely to grow. In fact, in its 2011 annual report, the Outdoor Foundation cited birdwatching as the fourth most popular outdoor activity by frequency of participation behind only running, biking and skateboarding. It turns out that on average birdwatchers participated in their activity 40 times per year for a total of 538 million outings. We’re interested in supported their needs as well as an emerging subcategory that gained notoriety in print and film (ex: ‘The Big Year’) recently known as extreme birding.

--Compiled by David Clucas