Raising the bar in retail relations

GoLite embarks on a listening tour with retailers to learn how to address common pain points as the brand relaunches.
Publish date:
The smiling staff of Ascent Outdoors in Seattle, Washington, behind the cash register.

The staff at Ascent Outdoors in Seattle, Washington, talked shop for two hours with GoLite brand manager, Josh Clifford, sharing common pain points in working with brands.

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.

Josh Clifford at Wildernest on his retailer listening tour

GoLite Brand manager Josh Clifford has embarked on a retailer listening tour to better understand the needs and wants of the specialty outdoor retailers he hopes to work with.

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.”

Steve Sutorius, owner or Wildernest (center) talks with sales rep Kris Stahl and GoLite brand manager Josh Clifford on Clifford's retail listening tour.

GoLite sales rep, Kris Stahl (left) and brand manager, Josh Clifford, had a candid, in-store sit-down with Steve Sutorius, owner of Wildernest on Bainbridge Island in Washington.

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

Kevin Sparrow (in black hat) and Justin McGregor discuss the finer points of hangtags during GoLite's retailer listening tour.

Kevin Sparrow, store manager at Ascent Outdoors and sales rep Justin McGregor discussed the finer points of hangtags during GoLite's retailer listening tour.

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."

Clothing displayed at Wildernest | GoLite listening tour

When it comes to racks, they need to be durable and evergreen—not seasonal—say retailers. Branded hangers are always welcome, says Steve Sutorius of Wildernest.

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

You can visit the GoLite team and scope out the new line at booth #VO110-SL.

GoLite SNEWS banner ad


GoLite black jacket with logo

Exclusive: The rebirth of GoLite

Everyone loves a good comeback story. When the wildly popular ultralight gear company, GoLite, ceased operations back in 2014 due to a struggling business model, backpackers, hikers, and outdoor athletes around the country mourned. Four years later, the brand is back in business ...read more

Hand holding a GoLite jacket wrapped in compostable polybag

GoLite tackles a huge retailer pain point: polybags

A common scene plays out at every retail shop across the country whenever a shipment arrives: Boxes are sliced open, products are unearthed—and before long, a crinkly mountain of polybags grows in their wake. According to our recent survey, only 9.7 percent of retailers surveyed ...read more

GoLite GoResponsibly bales of recycled bottles

50 shades of green

She cradles a plastic bottle in her hands like it’s a precious living thing. Her gloved hand turns the bottle over so she can inspect it. Then, with lightning precision her other hand raises a set of clippers, and she removes the colored plastic ring from the bottle’s neck. With ...read more

Two customers look at a Nikwax hang-tag on a blue jacket while one of them holds Nikwax products.

How one brand is evolving the way it supports specialty retailers

A relative newcomer to the outdoor scene walks into a brick-and-mortar retailer in search of a waterproof jacket to bring on his first big backpacking trip with friends. He finds the gear intimidating and the prices shocking, but thankfully, an educated staff member explains the ...read more

MTI aid worker in Uganda wearing red technical GoLite shirt smiling at camera

14,000 shirts

Uganda is an east African country just a bit smaller than Oregon, and odds are you didn’t think of it the last time you geared up for a hike. That’s about to change. More than a million refugees have crossed the border into Uganda. Most are Sudanese and Congolese, and their ...read more

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Awards

Retailer of the Year, Vendor of the Year, and more

Hundreds of representatives from outdoor brands and retailers gathered last night for the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance annual awards, which pay tribute to the vendors and retailers that are leading the outdoor industry in excellence. The presentation happened in Knoxville, ...read more

backpacks hanging on a climbing wall in a retail store

Here's what a healthy outdoor retail ecosystem could look like

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 ...read more

Plastic Impact Alliance members logos: Hydro Flask, Eco Vessell, Jetty, Ultimate Direction, Catapult, The Voice, GoLite, Costa, United By Blue, CamelBak, SNEWS, Stanley, nathan, Adidas Terrex, Klean Kanteen

Brands unite to nix single-use plastic at summer Outdoor Retailer

Truth: Single-use plastic sucks. We all know it. So let’s do something about it at our biggest convergence as an industry: Outdoor Retailer. Minimizing our impact on the planet is central to so many of our brands, yet we consume untold amounts of single-use plastic at our most ...read more

The Innovation Awards

The 12 Innovation Awards winners

Celebrating groundbreaking achievements in outdoor gear, the inaugural Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards honored new products that change the way we adventure outdoors. From sustainable solutions to revolutionary creations, 20 distinguished judges with backgrounds in retail, ...read more