Every year, at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, the Rutabaga team awards trophies (little ones so they're easy to carry home) to the store's vendors who they think did a great job for the store, its customers and the industry.
This year's winners are (with comments from the Rutabaga team below each):
Outstanding Canoe Vendor -- Wenonah
They've delivered on-time, their blem-rate is practically non-existent, and their office staff is great. The company is continually trying to improve their product.
Outstanding New Canoe Vendor -- Novacraft
We thought they'd be a small niche player, but they're taking off here. Staff love them and they are nice people to work with too.
Outstanding Kayak Vendor -- Liquid Logic
Great product, great service and no delivery or order problems. We love them.
Best Accessory Vendor -- tie between NRS and Peregrine
Both are wonderful with in-house reps who want to grow everyone's business. They're both so good we couldn't bear to not give it to the other.
Best New Paddle Vendor -- Sawyer
Great paddles that you can't kill. Those who like the Humvee aesthetic are going bonkers.
Best Paddle Clothing Vendor -- Bomber Gear
Innovation that's real and understandable and price points that make it easy to buy. Finally, it's nice to see some life injected into the paddle clothing market.
Best Clothing Vendor -- Arborwear
Great pants and without a doubt the most comfortable pants our team has ever worn. In addition, they're a couple of really nice guys who are passionate about pants.
Outstanding Customer Service -- Pyranha
Jim Hager should be cloned and sent to every manufacturer in triplicate. He fixes problems in hours, not days or weeks, and is cheerful about it. All of his staff are like-minded. When one of his boats had a technical problem, he told us to pull them off the floor immediately and then took them back and wrote me a check in a week. Wow!
Best New Vendor Customer Service -- Frost River Packs
They had a cloth source glitch at the last minute before Canoecopia and worked double shifts and long hours to finish their order before the show. (As more manufacturers need to realize, customer service is not about being perfect, it's about fixing what you break and doing it quickly and with a great attitude. We love those kinds of companies.)
Best Sales Rep for 2003 -- Mike Lilly from the Wellman Group
Mike made navigating the corporate world of Old Town a breeze and was a total asset to the company. He's a great man and a great rep. We wish all reps were half as good.
Rapid Vendor Growth Award - Yakima
We sold a ton of racks this year and with one small exception, they kept us well-supplied. You can't sell boats without selling racks, we've found. Plus, they're very open to listening to feedback about how to help service our account.
And last but not least...winner of the "Best Vendor of Stuff We Don't Currently Sell" award is -- Bell Canoe
They thought it was something of a joke. It wasn't. They were then pleased and flattered, we think. They are already distributed through John and Carl's in our area, and that's fine.