OIA Rendezvous 2004: Seminar takeaways and final musings

We wrap up our 2004 OIA Rendezvous coverage with summaries of each of the 12 seminars taken from our reporters' notebooks. This really was the best Rendezvous ever in so many ways. Keynotes, as we have said, were amazing, unbelievable, inspiring, challenging. Seminars were better than last year, with room for improvement -- but we also realize there is simply no way to provide a seminar menu that will satisfy all the attendees all of the time. Even in the seminars that were, well, wanting for more focus or direction, there was something to learn and take away.
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We wrap up our 2004 OIA Rendezvous coverage with summaries of each of the 12 seminars taken from our reporters' notebooks. This really was the best Rendezvous ever in so many ways. Keynotes, as we have said, were amazing, unbelievable, inspiring, challenging. Seminars were better than last year, with room for improvement -- but we also realize there is simply no way to provide a seminar menu that will satisfy all the attendees all of the time. Even in the seminars that were, well, wanting for more focus or direction, there was something to learn and take away. Gems in the rough and sparkling diamonds could be found anywhere you looked at this year's Rendezvous -- you just had to be willing to open your eyes for a moment or two. With our eyes wide open then, we break down the seminars, one-by-one:

Targeted Look at Participants with Potential
Frank Hugelmeyer, Outdoor Industry Association
While they say numbers don't lie, they sure can appear to dance around commonly held perceptions of truth. In presenting quick snippets from two studies (both free to OIA members), Frank Hugelmeyer offered up a tasty sampling, though far from the full meal a few posing questions appeared to want, from the latest numbers, stats and findings from two studies: "Exploring the Active Lifestyle" and the "2004 Outdoor Recreation Participation Study." Exploring the Active Lifestyle is the result of a study conducted by Harris Interactive, identifying how, why and in what activities consumers enter the market, what sparks consumers' involvement in the outdoors and barriers to participation. It also seeks to establish the potential size of the outdoor market and examines purchase habits and channels of distribution preferences. The 2004 Outdoor Recreation Participation Study is an annual study reporting participation of Americans aged 16 and older in 21 non-motorized outdoor activities, from backpacking to climbing, camping to kayaking, snowshoeing to telemark skiing.

Quick takeaways:
>> Time is the major limiting factor as to why consumers do not participate in a new or one favorite activity. OIA believes that by marketing our industry as a healthy lifestyle, we have a way to break down the barriers of time. Money is NOT a major limiting factor according to the studies.
>> The average age a person starts a favorite outdoor activity is 18. The average age a person stops a favorite activity is 26. Fifty-three percent eventually start up again -- the rest do not. The No. 1 reason for not starting up again is lack of necessary gear.
>> Despite numbers indicating 90 percent of outdoor participants were introduced to an activity between the ages of 5 and 18, and that a social network, including family, is critically important to participants, the OIA admits that this industry still does not have a focused tactic to engage and draw families into the industry -- but you'd better believe they are working on it.
>> From 2001 to 2003, only three outdoor activities showed participation increases: mountain biking, canoeing and sit-on-top kayaking. During that same period, three activities showed a decline in participation: bird-watching, backpacking and trail running.

Sustainability and the Outdoor Industry
David Bennell, Business and Environment Associates
Continuing a discussion started at a similar seminar at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, the sustainability session once again focused a spotlight on environmental and social responsibility and company collaboration on resources. Exceeding its seating capacity, the first half of David Bennell's presentation focused on what sustainability means within the context of a company and outlined a game plan to build a sustainability program within an organization. Admitting it is a huge undertaking, Bennell encouraged baby steps to break it down to make the concept a reality. To build a sustainability program, he offered the following outline: senior management needs to develop a policy, develop accountabilities, standardize the process for data collection, communicate and train employees, and commit to continued improvement. The second half of the seminar was then turned into a group discussion identifying sustainability and responsibility issues within the outdoor industry. Joe Hyer, owner of The Alpine Experience in Olympia, Wash., shared that his customers frequently ask about the environmental mission of the various brands he carries; however, when he asks manufacturers about it, he rarely gets a reply. Nearly 60 percent of the retailers in the room said they are also asked the same question by their customers. Scott McGuire of Keen Footwear said his fast-growing company is small with stretched resources and, at this time, isn't able to devote manpower to answer these questions. Bennell offered that companies don't have to start from scratch and resources are available online from Business for Social Responsibility (www.bsr.org) and Greenbiz.com (www.greenbiz.com), which touts itself as the resource center on business, the environment and the bottom line.

Tips on Creating Successful Retail Events
Panel of speakers from Rutabaga, Midwest Mountaineering and Outdoor Divas
The purpose of the retail events panel was to share practical ideas and tips on creating a successful retail event and did the participants have a lot to offer. Veteran retailers Rod Johnson of Midwest Mountaineering and Jeff Weidman of Rutabaga have consumer events that have 20-plus year histories, while Kim Walker of Outdoor Divas was the relatively new kid on the block talking about her 2-year-old store's monthly speaker series. The panelists emphasized that these events aren't done just to generate sales but to educate the public and grow the industry. Rutabaga changed the emphasis of Canoecopia from a sales-driven event to an educational forum and offers more than 100 seminars, and has developed two new smaller-scale events to draw new participants and women to paddlesports. To help make any event successful, partnering with vendors is key and the panel offered ideas on how to persuade manufacturers to work with your store. They've pitched the following: use the event as market research and send product development team to hear customer needs and issues firsthand; introduce a new product, like sponsor Exel did with Nordic walking; or tout it as a training opportunity for the vendor's customer service staff. ("Where else can a rack company learn to put their product on 300 cars in three days?" Weidman asked.) Panel members agreed that manufacturers have to win, too. A retailer can't ask them to participate and not give back (i.e., writing orders post-event). Walker's store brings in a speaker every month to talk about outdoor topics targeted at women and draws anywhere from 20 to 80 participants each time. She generates a press release on every event and has seen 25 percent to 30 percent of them turn into articles, adding that the exposure is "better than ads."

Creativity in the Workplace: Techniques that Work
Peter Downing and Dave Claflin, Spark
This session was as much a wacky history lesson on "how did they invent that" (like hot dog buns, Teflon-coated pans!) as it was a session about creativity. Peter Downing and Dave Claflin, partners at communication company Spark, wanted to downplay BIG overwhelming ideas to, instead, provide a quiver of useful tools to keep at the ready to invigorate and assist the creative process. They suggested breaking ideas down into little conquerable pieces to achieve success. Also, move meetings offsite to brainstorm, ask another department person to set ground rules and moderate your meeting, and, most importantly, let all ideas flow freely rather than being beaten down by practicalities. They also offered the Creativity Toolbox for launching a creativity discussion. Among the tools to get the juices flowing are:
>> Moneybags -- brainstorm like you have unlimited resources.
>> Idea Log -- keep track of a problem and break it down into sections, "great ideas can generate from your problem."
>> Feel My Pain -- turn a problem around and look at it from another's (i.e. customer) perspective.
>> Where Else Would It Work? -- explore taking a product into a new or different category.
>> Idea Box -- brainstorm a product into various categories, then break down into different pieces and look at how they connect to make something new.
>> Flipping -- flip an idea around and look at it from a different perspective.
>> Cherry Split -- breakdown a problem into two main component categories, then break down further for possible solutions.

Developing Leadership Skills that Create Impact
Corey Nielsen, Nielsen Training Group
It is a challenge to present a leadership seminar that could conceivably take several days into a compact seminar lasting several hours. What you end up with is a sound-bite that sounded more like a trip to the zoo. From peacocks to panthers to dolphins, owls, sea gulls and even Shamu, Nielsen mentioned them all to draw parallels to human behavior. While this wasn't anything most of us haven't necessarily heard before, Nielsen has an entertaining knack for saying the obvious slightly differently, which made it more fascinating and perhaps even a bit inspirational. While we'd all agree that good leadership is about getting desired results, Nielsen asserts that it takes a jungle to make a good team, and a leader must learn to recognize and make the best use of each member's animal tendencies -- to view the definitions for each animal group, see our Rendezvous story from last year, "OIA Rendezvous energizes industry amid aspens" -- www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/01217.html. Nielsen asserts that to be a good leader, the desired results of leadership have to be selfless, strategic and balanced. In other words, a leader has to be able to know to what extent the results of his or her leadership balance across the employees, the organization, the customers and the investors. Leaders must be able to turn vision into action by engaging others individually and collectively in processes and practices that create value.

Creating Successful Color and Color Trends for Spring '06
Beth Kepler, color specialist
With a background working with Nike, The North Face and Camelbak, Beth Kepler brought her design and color expertise to the Rendezvous to share the trends for 2006. Kepler noted that color is the first impact you have on a customer to draw their eye and building an effective color brief can be the map to success. A color brief establishes the brand statement and the direction of the brand by describing the targeted consumer and product, sharing signature colors, sales history and a breakdown of trend information. Design trends to watch for in 2006 are: embellishment -- a focus on details, especially with fabric patterns; connection -- an emphasis on how pieces are put together; and clarity -- streamlined, clean lines that are exact and pure. This fall she said chocolate brown is going to be big, while the seemingly ever-prevalent pink is going start morphing into berry and plum shades. "The most exciting aspects for the spring 2006 color are the dynamic color combinations," she said. "There will be effervescent and full colors including clear blues, bright oranges and red for men. Watch for emerald greens and berry/plum combinations for women, along with more vivid pastels. There will also be very clean, crisp grays combined with warm neutrals and delicate metallics."

Leveraging Outdoor Markets -- How to Maximize Your European Presence
Ben Gerrits and Leo Salazar, Outdoor Europe
After a brief introduction by the speakers to Europe, its population, currency, European Union development (25 countries with a total of about 296 million people and nine countries now using the Euro currency), and how various countries break out of the group (Germany is the largest with 82 million people), Gerrits and Salazar turned the seminar into an open discussion among attendees. Those with experience in Europe as well as those with little or none talked about their experiences and gave tips to other attendees. Lee Fromson of Cascade Designs said there was "no better place" than Ireland for a manufacturing office, although not for sales and marketing. He also recommended tapping industry contacts to find leads on agents and distributors. A lot of discussion centered on which country was better for an office, or if a certain nationality or language was better for your manager. The consensus was that each country has its own loyalties and prejudices and the best way to manage business in more than one country is with someone from that country. Dieter Tremp of ispo added that if one country or nationality must be chosen, then Switzerland would be his first choice. Patry Loomis of Deuter added that one disadvantage that creates marketing issues is that there is no one pan-European magazine; rather, each country has its own. Plus, editorial standards often differ there where some magazines will simply tell you that if you place an ad they'll write about you. Adam Druckman from Teva said he has found grassroots marketing at events to be extremely beneficial.

Aligning Retail Technology with Growth Strategies
Jim Crawford, Retail Forward
There is little doubt that advances in technology hold quite a lot of promise for retailers both now and into the future, but which technology advances are meaningless if a customer can't use it or relate to it. Jim Crawford pointed out that the irony of much of the technological use by retailers today is focused on reducing expenses, but does little if anything at all for driving revenue. He pointed out, "There really are only two ways to increase profits: attract more customers and increase revenue." When looking at what technology can do for you, the most important thing to remember is never disappoint your customer. He provided a litany of examples where electronics and automation only served to frustrate or disappoint customers. Crawford pointed out that when turning to technology, it was important to learn to identify what your customers want and need. "You have to develop a loyalty that goes beyond price," he says. Plasma screens in stores replacing printed signs are one example of technology coming into play that makes shopping a more visual experience for customers and a much easier way to manage experience for retailers. POPs announcing sales, providing information, and more can be changed throughout the store at the push of a button, rather than having to send employees around manually to update signs for example. For more, go to www.retailforward.com.

Promoting Active Living by Design
Rich McClintock, Civic Results and Livable Communities Support Center
Rich McClintock spent a lot of time talking about the obesity rates in America and the importance of a livable community, which OIA members have heard a lot about before. He did give several websites as reference for more information about working on these issue with your local communities or with your company: www.activelivingbydesign.org, which has a lot of research; www.activelivingleadership.org, which discusses how government and business can get involved; www.walkablecommunities.org; www.walkbikeinfo.org; and www.cnu.org, which as the Congress for the New Urbanism also has resources, speakers and news updates.

Leading to Ethics
Andy Smith, Springboard Solutions
As Andy Smith, a 22-year veteran of Harley Davidson, likes to say, "We're not human BEings, we're human DOings." He also stressed that when it comes to ethics, "there are no answers," especially if your decision is weighing "right versus right" since you then have to decide what's MORE right. He stressed how vital it is for every company to have ethics guidelines, and not some long academic nonsense (if you can't repeat them, they aren't any good, he said). The guidelines should revolve around the Three Rs: Respect, Responsibility, and Results. He said they need to be core values -- not an aspirational value -- that are created from the heart. He used Harley's guidelines as an example: Tell the truth, Be fair, Keep your promises, Respect the individual, and Encourage intellectual curiosity. Smith also advised seeking assistance when you face an ethical choice, and that "shelving hard decisions is the least ethical thing to do."

Ideas on Creating Successful Consumer Experiences
Walter Robb, Whole Foods Market
From an inspiring keynote -- see last week's coverage of the OIA Rendezvous (www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/02075.html) -- to a packed room eager for more, it became clear that Walter Robb could ramble on for hours in his folksy, conversational style and the audience would still be eager for more. What follows are a few snapshots of Robb wisdom:
>> Identify what is the culture of your organization and what your organization is there to do. Once you do that, training, hiring, merchandising all become clear.
>> For Whole Foods, training works on the following premise: "We are a learning organization, not a training organization. Learning is a proactive, self-responsible action."
>> Hire employees for who they are and for their personality, not for what they know.
>> Do what you do really well. A good retailer analyzes sales data every day, every week. Big problems will show up in little numbers.
>> Work hard to both satisfy and delight your customers.
>> Retail is both art and science. The presentation of the product is the art, the story you tell. The science is the research and numbers behind sales data, and knowing what merchandising techniques work and which don't.
>> Learn how to study competition. You have to learn from your competition, not fear them.
>> Stores should reflect the mix and diversity of the communities you serve.

Protecting your Brand: Trademark Law
Pete Kinsella, Faegre & Benson partner
Competing for an audience in the same time slot as the Whole Foods president, Pete Kinsella nevertheless kept his small audience riveted -- and filled attendees with information in return. Not as if trademark law is a lively subject, but he managed to insert enough examples to keep the interest high. First, he explained the difference between different types of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks and trade dress). Then he began getting into the fine distinguishing characteristics, what's been approved (and not), and how to battle infringement. The trademark process, depending on how thorough and complicated, can cost upward from $1,000 but can be many times that if it demands the work of a private investigator. A simple preliminary search may only cost $100 to $300. A "TM" or "SM" after something means the application is pending; an "R" (as in SNEWS®) means it's a done deal. For a company's protection, he stressed that you should never ever use the product or company name as a noun ("It's a Xerox"), but rather as an adjective ("A Xeroxed paper"). It's also important to continually police the use of your name, and send out cease-and-desist letters, even if the use is just similar or a knockoff. He explained multiple tests you can use to test a trademark, as well as discussed the expanded to-dos vital in the cyber age that involves websites, urls, metatags, linking, framing and keyword buys.

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