This Training Center article is written by the editors of SNEWS®
Adventure travel seekers and a large percentage of travel customers in general need what a specialty outdoor store can offer. Specialty outdoor stores are in the business of outfitting. Travel stores and luggage specialty stores are only in the business of selling luggage.
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If your store begins to think in terms of travel outfitting, which it should, then your customer and your store will be best served and most happy. Take customer going on a walking tour of Scotland for example. A luggage store sells that customer a travel pack and maybe a few pouches and pockets and they are done. The same customer in an outdoor store has the opportunity to be served fully with luggage, travel pouches, travel accessories, footwear, raingear, sun protection, pocket knives, hats and more.
It is well to remember that as a specialty retailer you have the unique opportunity to provide your customer both service and information while closing a multiple high-ticket sale combined with a full complement of accessories--no other store on the block can do that for the travel customer.
That's good news for the outdoor specialty store savvy enough to create a travel department within its walls. No matter how big the category may become or how diffuse the sales may appear, there will always be a strong and profitable presence for travel in the outdoor specialty arena. Provide the quality product, the quality service and the complete selection and the customers will come, over and over again.
You Can't Sell What You Don't Promote
It doesn't matter what you put in your store unless you display it well and promote what you have to sell to the public. This is especially true of travel. We have walked into untold numbers of outdoor specialty stores around the country and have frequently been unaware that travel was part of the inventory mix unless we really searched--embarked on a travel quest if you will. If you consider that just about everyone travels, even though they may or may not be campers, you begin to understand that not making your customer aware of your travel sales potential could really be costing you sales.
The first thing that any store can do to drum up business is look right inside its own doors. A most wonderful thing about selling travel gear is that everyone travels. Travel equipment has the same selling potential as softgoods. Since you spend time merchandising clothing in your store, doesn't it make the same sense to merchandise travel in the same manner? Accentuate your travel department. This is important for two reasons. One, your existing customer may not know that you are the best source for travel accessories and if they are shopping somewhere else for equipment that is naturally sold in your store that is a shame for both of you. Secondly, if you accentuate your travel department, you have an opportunity to sell to everyone that walks into your store at one time or another, even if they are a first-time customer.
Create events in your store that will sell the dreams and adventure of travel such as slide shows. Good slide presentations can be had by inviting in many adventure travel companies since selling travel is what they do. Put on travel clinics in your store, put up signs throughout your store and create a prominent travel department--it really isn't rocket science.
Finally, be aware of the travel peaks. While travel does sell year-round, April, May and June as well as major holidays are the peak times for travel and when travelers are most interested in picking up those necessary travel accessories. Expand and shrink your department accordingly, but never ever forget that travel is not seasonal like skiing. You cannot just put the department away. You must always have a visible travel presence in your store if you expect travel to sell.
Categorizing Travel Customers
To understand what kind of equipment and accessories you might want or need to sell, you need to understand what kind of customer your store is catering to. In general, travelers can be grouped into four categories:
- Independent Traveler - travel pack with wheels or traditional travel pack or convertible luggage for the traveler who travels around Europe or Asia by train or bus going where the mood suits them.
- Adventure Traveler - travel pack with full and sophisticated suspension. This pack is more pack than luggage to suit the needs of the traveler who is more outback / wilderness oriented and visiting Third World countries.
- Sports & Recreation Traveler - organizer duffels with wheels and pack-style carrying straps for toting specialized equipment and clothing to foreign locations such as diving in the Virgins or skiing in Switzerland.
- Traditional Traveler - this is the true luggage category that meets the needs of everything from trade show travelers to those heading out on a bus tour through Scotland.
Assembling the Pieces
While it is true that your customer will probably buy only one travel pack and perhaps one or two pieces of wheeled luggage and expect them to be serviceable for many years, that same customer will return to your store time and again to supply each trip if you are strong in travel accessories.
Packing and Organizing Solutions
>> Most travelers like to be organized in one form or another, and that means small pouches, Pack-It cubes, compression bags, clothing folding kits, toiletry bags, first aid organizers, document organizers, diaries, etc.
>> If you've traveled recently, you know the airlines are upcharging for more and more these days, or simply not providing it – and that means comfort items are a must have for travelers. Think travel pillows, blankets, eyeshades, and earplugs.
>> Passport carriers, undercover neck pouches, money belts. Everyone needs a place and comfortable / convenient way to carry tickets, passports, and valuables when traveling. What method of carrying valuables is up to personal preference and experience so be sure to carry an adequate selection.
>> Luggage and cable locks. Word has it that if you travel to some parts of the world your pack or luggage pockets will get rifled unless they are secured with a lock. Make sure the locks are TSA compatible.
Daypack or Shoulder Bag
>> Every traveler needs a daypack, fanny pack or shoulder bag to tote the guidebook, windbreaker, binoculars, camera and snacks for a day of travel. What kind of daypack / fanny pack / shoulder bag your customer will want is a matter of personal preference so be sure to carry an adequate selection without confusing the issue with too many SKU's.
>> Other items travelers will require (depending on the type of trip and adventure) include: first aid kit, travel alarm, pocket knife (remind your customer that these can't go in the carry on), electrical converters/adapter, flashlight/headlamp, sunglasses, sunscreen, assortment of travel guides, travel games, and luggage tags.
>> You can't sell it, but you can certainly help your customer by having the right products in stock and keeping yourself well trained in the area of travel.