The future of the outdoor industry

Sam D’Aoust, 22, works the floor at Whistler's Escape Route, and he is someone you should know.
This 22-year old has been nominated as a Shop Star for his easy-going ability to connect with customers and his unquenchable thirst for gear knowledge.

This 22-year old has been nominated as a Shop Star for his easy-going ability to connect with customers and his unquenchable thirst for gear knowledge.

Sam D’Aoust started working at Escape Route in British Columbia when he was 17. He started out with a simple enough task, just watching the doors during the holiday shopping season. It was meant to be a seasonal gig. But as the weeks went on, he started selling jackets. It quickly became clear that he had a knack for selling outdoor gear, and he asked to stay on the job through winter.

D’Aoust, now 22, was nominated for our Shop Star contest by his boss, Larry Falcon. He lives and breathes the outdoors, Falcon says, and has a real talent for engaging with customers. He listens to them and figures out what they need by asking what their trips or goals are, and customers are always happy with his help.

Is there a young person in your shop with passion, leadership potential, and a desire to grow? Nominate him or her as a Shop Star today! It takes 5 minutes to fill out the form. We'll be selecting someone for an all expense paid trip to Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show this January. There, the winner will enjoy an immersive experience that shows them all aspects of the industry, including what it's like to work at a brand (The North Face), a media company (SNEWS/OR Daily/BACKPACKER), a PR firm, and as a rep. Plus, they'll get a big ole' swag bag from, The North Face.

We haven’t yet picked a final Shop Star winner, but we want to highlight some exceptional, up-and-coming talent before the nomination period is over. Falcon’s admiration of D’Aoust’s passion for the outdoors originally caught our attention—he’s the kind of guy who gets outside as much as humanly possible, and will rally the team at the Escape Route to camp on a weeknight and make it back in time for work the next morning—but we’re also inspired by his long-term goals. Eventually, he’s interested in being a sales rep for big-name outdoor brands whose products he’s grown to love and believe in.

“As a kid, I was always playing in the woods, and it never left my system,” D’Aoust tells us. “I love being outdoors and playing in the mountains. I love the equipment, and showing people equipment that makes their time in the backcountry better.”

When he’s not at his job as a floor supervisor, you’ll find D’Aoust out in the backcountry all across British Columbia. He hikes, bikes, camps, and paddles, and in the winter, he splitboards and snowboards.

Our Shop Star winner will get an XL Base Camp Duffel filled with new gear from The North Face.

Our Shop Star winner will get an XL Base Camp Duffel filled with new gear from The North Face.

His advice for building a genuine connection with customers and figuring out how to help them enjoy the outdoors as much as possible? Simple: Ask, and then listen.

“You really do have to ask what they’re planning on doing,” D’Aoust says. And to better understand gear, “listen to people who are more experienced than you. Ask for their opinions on stuff.”

Lots of local guides regularly stop by the Escape Route, and D’Aoust learns from them, too.

“You’ve also gotta get out and use the stuff,” he says. “Get out on adventures whenever you can. Go play and use the gear.”

Know a rising Shop Star who might want to win a free trip to Outdoor Retailer and a sweet prize pack from The North Face? We’d love to hear about them. Nominate them here.


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