From Sept. 3-8, Marmot hosted its annual dealer outing in Wyoming's Teton Mountains. Exum Mountain Guides led Marmot representatives and retailers through two days of rock climbing instruction, followed by an attempt to climb the Grand Teton. Marmot invited SNEWS® to grab its favorite boots, buckle up a harness, and go along for the trek. Here are a few insights from the company about why it works for them to do this kind of outing, and how it's changed, as well as some SNEWS® observations from the field while bagging the peak with retailers.
Tweaking the Program
The structure of the Marmot dealer outing has changed a bit, said Alex Kutches, Marmot's national sales manager. In the past, Marmot ran a series of outings throughout the country (climbing, canoeing, etc.), which were open to just about any person on the sales floor who could pay the $300 to $400 fee. Now, Marmot runs only the Teton trip, picks up the whole tab and more closely considers who it invites, focusing on retail store owners. "These are the people who are making the decisions," Kutches said. "In this environment, you can really open the door to new conversations."
That's not to say that other employees are prohibited from attending. Our group included folks such as Gavin Ferguson, a buyer for U.S. Outdoor Store in Portland, Ore., and Andrew Hubbard, a store designer for Galyan's.
Kutches said the dealer outing program is not really designed to court new dealers, but to spend time with "the people who are really doing things to strengthen partnerships."
Interestingly, Marmot made a point to say that the week wouldn't focus on serious business talk, and Marmot made no formal product introductions. Instead, the week was intended to allow people to enjoy the outdoors and get to know each other casually. If that sounds a little too warm and fuzzy, well, meaty discussions naturally popped up along the trail. Although retailers appreciated that business discussions weren't the point of the trip, they relished the discussions that popped up spontaneously.
"You know there just aren't enough opportunities these days where we can go out and have fun and just chew the fat," said Mike Plante, owner of Travel Country Outdoors in Orlando, Fla. He said gatherings that are more informal go a long way toward helping business partners become more comfortable with each other. He and other retailers on the trip agreed that Marmot is one of only a few manufacturers reaching out in this way.
One Person's Perspective
Carolyn Burnham helps develop tents and sleeping bags for REI. Here's what she had to say about her experience on the Marmot trip:
"What I really enjoyed was the chance to meet and talk with other dealers. I really feel that interaction with our competition helps to break down barriers in an industry that really isn't that big to begin with. We can get pretty isolated in our offices, and lose touch with reality if we're not careful! It's great to touch base with others in the same industry and find out what they're up to and how they're dealing with a rapidly changing business environment."
Tree Hugger Moment
This trip might have been all about Marmot and rock climbing, but retailers and Marmot folks were also buzzing about Arborwear clothing designed for tree climbing. We saw rugged Arborwear pants and shorts on at least three people, one of whom declared, "I've been wearing these shorts for three days and they don't even feel sticky or nasty yet."