How to sell more adventure travel gear

Tap into the adventure travel burst and market to frequent fliers with tips from the brands and retailers who do it best.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
Adventure travel

Summit Hut encourages its customers to put their adventures on the map. Photo courtesy of Summit Hut.

As much as the outdoor industry might hate to admit it, the shutterbug wandering the streets of Rome has many of the same needs as the guy waiting for his backcountry skis to come through baggage claim. The overlap between what travelers and outdoorists want is even bigger than you might think, and the outdoor industry is in a better position than ever to take advantage it.

We owe that position, at least in part, to the demise of specialty luggage. Ten years ago, there were close to 3,000 luggage specialty shops in the US, said Don Godshaw, president of Travelon Bags. Today, that number sags below 1,000.

With the golden years of boutique luggage behind us and Millennials’ increasingly apparent disinterest in department stores, more customers are turning to outdoor and sporting goods stores for their travel needs.

Travelon's Urban North South bag is thief-proof, giving travelers peace of mind. Photo courtesy of Travelon.

Travelon's Urban North South bag is thief-proof, giving travelers peace of mind. Photo courtesy of Travelon.

Eagle Creek is one of the brands that has risen to fill the void; Marketing Director Lisa Buco says they���ve seen particular increases in sales of their larger luggage pieces, which feature tough fabrics and rubberized details that appeal to both travelers and outdoorists. They shout “Adventure!” without taking sides. Patagonia, Herschel and The North Face have also hopped on board, producing duffels and travel bags that can withstand both inclement weather and TSA’s manhandling.

Help customers understand what they want

Luggage is but one example of the considerable crossover between travel and outdoor. Instead of looking for differences between the two markets, brands and retailers should be seeking similarities, marketing as if they have not two disparate audiences, but one with both travel and outdoor interests. People want to define how they use their own gear, rather than brands explaining which backpacks are for climbing versus traveling, for example.
That helps avoid the paradox of marketing to hardcore adventurers without turning off newcomers and vice versa, said ExOfficio General Manager, Brian Thompson.

“We try to position product in a way that’s accessible to everyone. One person’s adventure might be more extreme than another’s, but to us, they’re both great,” Thompson said.

Everyone, regardless of destination, is buying gear for one reason: They want to be comfortable. Part of comfort is having a working raincoat or blister-busting shoes, and part is having peace of mind. Products as simple as packing solutions eliminate one extra stressor in the life of a traveler. The story brands and retailers need to be telling is how their product is going to make a trip more comfortable.

Harness the impulse, market to the spontaneous shopper

Adventure Travel Trade Association President Shannon Stowell says that with the mainstreaming of adventure travel, he’s seen softer itineraries, a lower percentage of hardcore adventure-seekers, and an increase in first-time adventurers.

That’s where knowledgeable staff members come in. Luggage and other essentials draw travelers into the store, where employees have the opportunity to teach the customer about the apparel or accessories available to them and fill in any gaps in their packing — and shopping — lists.

Here, accessories are a key money-maker. Godshaw says the travel company’s decision to specialize in smaller bags and inexpensive gadgets has been their secret to success, both in the outdoor world and in the wider travel market.

“Gross margin on accessories [like packing solutions, luggage tags, socks, and adapter plugs] is significantly larger than gross margin on [larger] bags,” he said. “We feel accessories should be 35 percent of travel business sales and 40 percent of gross margin.”

Capture the adventure atmosphere

To recommend accessories or add-ons, retailers need to do their homework first, said Chris Howe, owner and founder of shops Denali and Trailblazer: Get know the consumer as an individual, learn about his or her preferences, and figure out the needs of that specific trip. Even better if one of the staff members has been there and has some first-hand perspective on the trials of travel in that area of the world.

A thoughtful store atmosphere can spark those ideas, too.

When Howe was designing two of Denali and Trailblazer’s newest locations, he paid a visit to the local lumberyard and bought more than 150 trees to incorporate throughout the stores.

Howe turned his store into a forest. Photo courtesy of Denali/Trailblazer.

Howe turned his store into a forest. Photo courtesy of Denali/Trailblazer.

One of Summit Hut’s two locations hosts half an airplane, branded “Osprey Airlines,” to draw customers into the luggage section. Take a seat, imagine the clouds funneling past your window, and conjure the same butterflies you get when you’re coming in for a landing someplace new. When you exit the cabin, maybe you’ll grab the suitcase or backpack you know you’ll need for that vacation you started planning when you first sat down.

Get a feel for carryon bags at Summit Hut. Photo courtesy of Summit Hut.

Get a feel for carryon bags at Summit Hut. Photo courtesy of Summit Hut.

The other Summit Hut features a map riddled with pins, and from each dangles a luggage tag bearing the information of each store visitor’s last trip. The engagement strategy works: dozens of customers have taken the bait, signing a tag, leaving a pin and even sending in photos from their expeditions, which Summit Hut features on the store walls.

Go the distance with tourism partners

Brands without a brick-and-mortar presence seldom see their consumers in person, but that doesn’t mean they can’t interact.

Partnerships are also a great way to extend reach and blend existing fan bases. The Maine Office of Tourism recently partnered with 104-year-old, family-owned apparel manufacturer L.L.Bean to sponsor six Maine adventure travelers and coproduce an issue of The Maine Thing Quarterly.

L.L.Bean Chasing the Sun

To help promote tourism in Maine, L.L.Bean sent a group of people who had never been there on a trip to explore the state's greatest gems. Photo courtesy of the Maine Office of Tourism.

Though this is the first collaboration of its kind for the Maine Office of Tourism, Director Carolanne Oulette said such partnerships are trending across the US.

“We’re all looking for ways to cross-promote and extend our reach to a greater audience,” she said.

Oulette added that seeking out more brands for future partnerships is “definitely” a part of the five-year plan.

Brands and retail shops alike can team up with tour operators to exchange opportunities for exposure. ExOfficio keeps a kiosk for Seattle-based operator Evergreen Escapes in their brick-and-mortar stores to spread the word about trips in the Northwest.

“It’s a great cross-pollination,” said ExOfficio’s Thompson.

Like the marriage of travel retail and outdoor retail, these partnerships represent the opportunity for industry members to join hands and take the jump into uncharted new markets. That is, after all, is what adventure travel is all about.

Related

orwm15_adventuretravel_thumb

Gear trends: 2015/16 Adventure travel gear

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update ...read more

Family adventure

Editor's Note: Family adventure travel is big business

RIGHT NOW, AS YOU READ THIS, I’M CRUISING THROUGH THE TETONS with my husband and two boys in a 32-foot rented RV stuffed with a couple of tents, a pile of sleeping bags, packs, boots, a stove, a grill, a big cooler and four chairs. I’ve been dreaming of this classic family ...read more

ORWM15_Preview_AdventureTravel

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 Preview: Adventure travel gear

Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015, SNEWS is previewing some of the top trends and new products you’ll see at the trade show and All Mountain Demo in Salt Lake City, Jan. 20-24. Find this story and more in our O.R. Daily Day 0 Preview edition. It’s a common ...read more

ORWM14_AdventureTravel_Thumb

Gear trends: Adventure travel for 2014/15

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update ...read more

adventure travel

Portrait of an adventure traveler

Adventure travel is on the rise, and outdoor retailers are poised to take advantage of the growing market. How do you get travelers into your store, or market your gear to them? The first step is understanding who they are and why they travel. For more data about adventure ...read more

Couer d'Alene

How can the outdoor and adventure travel industries better collaborate?

We're heading to the next Adventure Travel Trade Association conference, in Idaho, to find out. Next month, SNEWS will be traveling to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s annual AdventureELEVATE conference. Lately, we’ve been asking how the ...read more

Photo from Zach Dischner on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zachd1_618/14444020568

Mounting backcountry interest bolsters gear sales

Lighter gear and more diverse participation has sparked a surge in backcountry interest, a windfall for retailers catering to the growing ranks of alpine tourers and riders. The backcountry beckons, bringing more thrill seekers than ever out of bounds in search of deep, ...read more

Adventure travel in Iceland

The Travel Bug: Trailblazing in the untapped market of adventure travel

PUNCTURE-WOUNDED WALL MAPS are no longer suffering in vain: More Americans than ever are putting their money where their pins are. For this new breed of tourists, actualizing their wanderlust in plane tickets and scrolling odometers, the goal is more than just sightseeing. ...read more

Brian Thompson, general manager of ExOfficio.

Q&A: ExOfficio's Brian Thompson on managing the people and processes behind the products

There’s a background story to every piece of new gear you see at outdoor retail. There are tales of design concept, manufacturing and marketing, right down to how the company hired and kept the employee who came up with the next great idea. Bringing all those pieces together is ...read more