On the eve of its relaunch as a brand, GoLite brand manager, Josh Clifford, hit the road on a listening tour to gain insights on how GoLite can be an ideal partner to specialty outdoor retail stores. In a time when retailers often feel disenfranchised from the brands they work with, GoLite aims to start out on the right foot, building systems, practices, and communication methods that will ensure the strongest of retail relations.
Clifford, who previously worked in dealer services for ExOfficio and in retail for Patagonia, understands “the love triangle” of rep/retailer/brand relationship. “We want to raise the bar in retail relations and go above and beyond to support our specialty outdoor retail partners,” says Clifford. “We want to forge personal relationships with our retailers and learn how to avoid the common pain points they feel with other brands.”
On this first leg of Clifford’s listening tour, he teamed up with two of his sales reps, Kris Stahl and Justin McGregor of Summit Sales, and visited with Steve Sutorius, owner of Wildernest on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and the leadership team at Ascent Outdoors in Seattle, Washington. Some common themes quickly emerged.
Communication & transparency
Retailers long for open lines of communication, responsiveness to inquiries and problems, and transparency when problems crop up.
“It’s really frustrating when we reach out to brands to edit orders or get new product in and two or three days go by and we don’t hear anything back from them,” says Sutorius. “Our customers expect customer service from us, but we don’t always get it from brands. If I treated customers the way some brands treat me, I would be totally out of business.”
Sutorius understands that problems crop up—items sell out and brands can’t always deliver on pre-season orders. “My pet peeve is when brands ship incomplete size runs. If you can’t allocate me a complete size run of something, don’t ship it. Pick up the phone and tell me what happened. Transparency goes a long, long way with retailers. Tell me what happened, and all will be forgiven. But uphold your end of the communication contract.”
Brand stories matter
The stories behind the brands are critical today. Millennials and Gen-Z buyers want the brands they wear to represent who they are. “In recreating GoLite, we focused on building a brand that people would be proud to wear,” says Clifford.
Kevin Sparrow, manager of Ascent Outdoors sees it every day in his shop. “There are so many choices in terms of product,” he says. “Our customers—especially our younger demographic— want a story. The brands they wear are part of their identity. The better a brand can tell an authentic story, the better it will sell.”
POP displays, hangtags, and packaging
Clearly POP displays and packaging is a big pain point for retailers. Most retailers have tangles of dusty fixtures taking up real estate in closets and back rooms. Unwanted banners and signage go straight to the bin. Catalogs clog the recycle bins. The solution is simple, according to Sutorius, who takes great pride in the curated look and feel of his store: “If I didn’t ask for it, don’t send it. It’s way more important for my staff to actually try the product than to get a banner for the wall.”
“Good packaging and tagging is way more important than signs and posters,” says Sam Lozier, operations manager at Ascent. “On hangtags, there should be minimal messaging— simple and straightforward. Keep it clean and sharp and durable. Don’t give us booklets of tech info in four different languages. Don’t tell us your complete warranty policy on a hang tag. Get the message down to four or five bullet points with the key product features. Tell the larger story on your website."
Sparrow explained his frustration with the racks that brands often send, and how they keep reinventing them season after season. “A brand introduces its spring line and we get a rack. Next thing you know, we get the fall line and an entirely new rack. The new stuff doesn’t work on the old rack, so it has to go into storage. Racks should be modular and flexible and work season to season.”
Another message Clifford heard loud and clear: Use less packaging. Lozier pointed out that it sends a mixed, inauthentic message when a brand that touts its environmentalism ships every little item in a polybag or sends multiple boxes with one SKU per box, when all could fit into a single box.
The perfect partnership
Clifford intends to continue his listening tours as GoLite reps introduce the new spring line to its retailers nationwide.
"This listening tour was a unique opportunity to get out in front of these retailer pain points and really listen to the retailer to see where we can affect change and create a model that works better for everyone," says Clifford. "It was so great to get into some honest conversations with both Ascent and Wildernest and to hear what's important to them, what works, and what doesn’t."
Clifford says the dialogue has already worked to prompt some important GoLite initiatives in terms of B2B packaging, inventory allocation, POP, and more.
"We look forward to further listening and learning in future visits throughout the country," says Clifford