Nikwax turns to a local Seattle retail shop (and laundromat) to get the word out about the importance of washing gear.
Quarters drop, washing machines churn, dryers spin at Lunar Laundry in Seattle. But it was not your typical night washing underwear and sheets. On Oct. 21, the commercial washers are chugging away, filled with enough Gore-Tex jackets, down sleeping bags, and synthetic puffies to outfit an expedition.
Welcome to Nikwax’s Laundromat Takeover, an event the company cooked up to teach customers to do a better job of washing their gear, which, of course, leads to a longer life, better performance, and more sales for Nikwax.
“In an age where we’re consistently fighting to capture the attention of the customer, we’re looking for unique ways to engage them,” Nikwax spokeswoman Kate Ketschek said.
Ketschek describes these one-on-one interactions as an opportunity to create loyalty by making it a little more personal as well as inspire belief in the usefulness of the Nikwax line. “Actually using the products and asking questions directly to Nikwax reps and retail associates who know the products, that doesn't happen in a traditional ad,” Ketschek says. “It's priceless, yet it cost us very little to put the event together.”
To launch the Seattle event, Nikwax – whose North American headquarters are in Seattle – reached out to Second Ascent, a specialty retailer in the same neighborhood, said Nikwax Marketing Director Heidi Allen.
“We put on a lot of events,” Second Ascent Marketing Director Andrew Magnussen said. The company’s Facebook page announces everything from seminars on bear and avalanche safety to classes on backcountry meal planning to their nearly 6,000 followers. Many of those events focus on education of some kind and often include raising money for outdoor non-profits (in this case, Northwest Avalanche Center).
Magnussen says one thing setting Second Ascent apart from online competitors is that education component. Customers don’t just come in to purchase gear, “but to learn how to use it as well.” Products like Nikwax, designed to extend performance life, are especially important for a store like Second Ascent that sells used gear in addition to new products.
Christina Cox arrived at the event with some snowboarding gear she hadn’t gotten around to washing yet, after hearing about the event through Second Ascent. A former REI employee, she says she saw a lot of jackets get returned that could have been salvaged through proper treatment. Even though she’s familiar with gear care, she adds, even she hadn’t quite gotten around to cleaning all of last-season’s clothing.
Patrick Murphy, on the other hand, came to learn. He’s frequently out backpacking and camping and has gotten frustrated by his down sleeping bag failing when it gets any moisture. He found out about the event while asking questions at Second Ascent about improving his bag’s performance. He listened closely while Allen explains the proper detergent measurements.
The event drew more than 30 people with piles of shells, parkas, pants, and sleeping bags to clean up. Thirty isn’t exactly a mob, but Ketschek says it was enough to feel like they had a chance to personally speak about the gear care with everyone that attended, even if the biggest cheers came during the raffle fundraiser prizes.
That personal connection is also crucial for retailers like Second Ascent that are competing in an increasingly crowded web-based retail market. Being able to provide classes and hands-on experience with the products and the people behind the products they sell gives customers a reason to keep coming back. "I believe it's important to have a social component to our store," Magnussen says. “It’s what makes specialty retail special.”
Retailers interested in hosting their own Laundromat Takeover should contact Heidi Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.