Though it's been just over a year since leaving CamelBak, Sky George has been anything but idle. Together, with his business partner and wife, Stephanie, George has been busy putting together a new business, focusing on jewelry for the outdoor enthusiast.
Named Tarma Designs, after the city in Peru that lies between Lima and Machu Picchu, a place George told us was "very spiritual for us and a place we thought many people would like to go," the jewelry line, which officially launched in February 2005, is something he believes offers an unfulfilled opportunity for retailers in today's evolving marketplace.
"Outdoor enthusiasts want to stay connected to their interests and support what they believe in, even when they are not at play," George told us during an exclusive first-showing of the line at SNEWS® world headquarters.
"In so many product categories sold at outdoor retail shops, the trend has been leaning increasingly toward offering more everyday fashion, natural and ethnic products. Apparel has been very successful in responding to this, and I believe women have been a big part of driving the change," he said.
Noting that the opportunity exists from seeing successful, albeit limited sales, mostly during gift season, of jewelry at outdoor specialty stores, George told SNEWS® that he sees a strong opportunity for jewelry to become a year-round sales boost.
"It has only been recently that the outdoor market has become open to jewelry as a category and that presents an ideal market opportunity for those retailers who are looking for added sales all year long with a very small in-store footprint.
"We know there’s a tremendous opportunity in the outdoor marketplace for the jewelry category," added George. "Every woman who walks into an outdoor store would also purchase jewelry if it were available."
George put together the business idea and seeds for the Tarma line while on a five-week hike in the California mountains along the Pacific Crest Trail during the spring of 2005. An artistic and stylish expression of the passion for enthusiast activities is what came from this trip.
To capture the extremes of sport and style George told us, Tarma’s jewelry line is divided into two collections: Sportif and Artisan. Sportif focuses on literal interpretations of outdoor activities and gear along with natural shapes for women and men. Crafted from recycled 316L stainless steel, accessory cord and nylon webbing, the line offers 22 styles of pendants, earrings, wristbands and bottle openers.
Artisan brings limited, handmade, unique jewelry designs to market that are ideal for specialty retailers and stores that carry authentic, ethnic and eclectic styles.
"This collection is about travel, adventure, discovering new places, people and cultures," said Stephanie George. "We meet each artisan, document their story and bring it back for the retailer. This combination of high style and fair trade is especially appealing to the affluent woman shopper in the outdoor market."
At its first trade show, the Natural Product Show, Tarma garnered rave reviews from attendees we were told and, along with numerous individual shop orders, nabbed several very key customers -- Gaiam and Whole Foods. Whole Foods is putting the line in 11 of its stores and working with Tarma to develop a display case for the Artisan line.
Recognizing that jewelry needs to be effectively displayed, and realizing outdoor retailers might not leap at the opportunity to carry jewelry, George has established what he believes is a very attractive POP program designed to get even conservative fence-sitters into the game.
"For $125, I provide a POP display and the retailer gets to choose five pair of earrings from any of the 12 earring styles we offer -- a $125 retail value. The POP is a countertop display that will hold our pendants, wristbands, openers or earrings," said George. "Each display header is constructed from bamboo plank with a milled Tarma logo and the ABS display face mounts on a recycled chipboard spinner."
George acknowledges that getting outdoor retail specialty store buyers to jump into the program will likely take a bit of work, but he also believes he's offering the right product at the right time if stores will just give Tarma an opportunity.
"As an outdoor person, I have always made my own jewelry that was meaningful to me and I wanted something that was fun and meaningful for the outdoor retail store customer," said George. "No one has done it like this before which is why it has not sold in outdoor."
Larry Harrison, president of Earth Games, a veteran rep agency located in Southern California, invited George to show the Tarma line during a recent Outdoor Academy, even though Harrison is in no way involved with Tarma.
"At the little showing we had with Tarma, the kids on the floor absolutely loved the stuff and let's face it, they are the customer," Harrison told us. "Each member of the store staff had a different affinity toward each one of the sports depicted by the symbolic nature of the designs, and the quality of the pieces is so good they almost look like sterling silver."
Harrison noted that the people who saw the line also appreciated the fact that Tarma celebrates the spirit of adventure and a love of the outdoors with its designs. For George, that is music to his ears, as he told SNEWS® his company is absolutely dedicated to maintaining the outdoor experience as a key to a balanced and healthy life. As part of its vision, he told us, the company supports education, equitable commerce, social diversity and pursues sustainable environmental practices.
For more information on Tarma, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-824-8201.
SNEWS® View: If you are like us, your first reaction, when reading that Tarma is about selling jewelry to outdoor specialty store customers, is the eyebrows raise a notch. However, if you are also like us, then once you see the product, your mood will do a 180 and the opportunity for adding a new sales category to the sales floor becomes immediately evident. This line is beautiful, and our team was already sizing up pendants, earrings and bracelets we'd like to wear within days of seeing the line. Larry Harrison notes, wisely (but don't let the wise compliment go to your head Larry), that it is the kids on the sales floor -- the 18 to 25 somethings -- who represent the primary customer for the more youthful nature of the Tarma line. If you are an older (as in over 35) buyer, or even an older (and you know who you are) store owner who insists on playing gatekeeper by closing out the idea of jewelry in your store before giving it a chance, then we firmly believe your customers may be missing out and that means you may be missing out on establishing a fun, new category in your store. Of course, we assume that if you do try the category, you won't simply buy five or six pieces, bury them somewhere on a crowded counter with poor lighting and even less merchandising, and then say, "See, told you it wouldn't sell" in an email to us later this year. Because, that mode of testing the sales-potential of a new category is a self-fulfilling prophecy with a message of failure stamped all over it. As for Sky George, it is good to see his energy and vibe back into the outdoor specialty game. Yes, there is life after CamelBak.