Outdoor Industry Association announced Jan. 13 that it acquired the 5-year-old Outdoor University program, which brings together retailers, reps and manufacturers for seminars and outdoor activities that educate retail staff members.
OIA acquired Outdoor University from Ken Barmore, who will continue to help run the program as a full-time contractor for OIA. While Outdoor University has consisted of a single event held near Madison, Wis., it will evolve into a national program, said OIA President Frank Hugelmeyer. This spring, Outdoor University will include the Wisconsin event, plus two new events in Black Mountain, N.C., and Becket, Mass.
"One of our goals is to impact, from an educational standpoint, every professional in the industry, no matter what position they're in," said Hugelmeyer. He noted that the programming for Outdoor University will essentially remain the same this year, and new programs will be added to address basic salesmanship and education for retail managers.
"Building a management track is very important so there are best business practices on how to run retail shops," he said.
Hugelmeyer told SNEWS® that OIA's resources will allow the Outdoor University program to expand more quickly, while OIA will benefit because Outdoor University complements its overall strategy to increase the resources it provides for retailers.
What's not clear is how the national expansion of Outdoor University will affect Outdoor Academy, the 10-year-old retail education program coordinated by Outdoor Adventure Sales. Outdoor Academy now includes three events held in Southern California, Northern California and Washington state.
"The goal is to create a relationship with Outdoor Academy, so we can learn from each other," Hugelmeyer said. "We'll begin those discussions at (the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market) show."
The continued growth of Outdoor Academy and Outdoor University signal that centralized training programs will only become more popular. "Retailers get called by 50 reps all wanting to train their staff," said Hugelmeyer. "You either pay the staff to come in early or later. But if you consolidate it in one location over one or two days, retailers reduce their expenses of training dramatically. "