Seems not all that long ago, and yet it was February 1984 that SNEWS launched its first issue. And yes, we are in celebration mode and scrambling to catch up a bit so we can present the month of history from 1984 during the corresponding month in 2009 – look for May later this week. If you missed our March retrospective, click here. Today, we're on to April 1984, and what a time it was.
Printed on cream paper with burgundy ink, this issue of SNEWS contained a complete show and trends overview from the SIA spring show – talk about a trip back through memory lane and some insight into how products came to be...or not. Below, then, are snippets from the issue for your entertainment and enlightenment.
We hope you are as fascinated by the differences from and, yes, similarities with today's outdoor industry in these excerpts from SNEWS, 25 years ago in April:
Some things never change
After much indecision and loss of potential market share, Nike brass has realized they cannot sell their XC boot line with their own marketing staff. Behind closed doors at Vegas, Nike people discussed marketing the XC line with Rossignol, Swix and Fischer, among others.
>> Re: Outdoor Retailer Summer Market – North Face plans to be part of the fall Outdoor Retailer trade show. According to Gilbert, going to the OR show will, "be an effort to get the backpacking industry back together. We hope the Outdoor Retailer show becomes the fall show much like the SIA shows have become the spring shows." --Jack Gilbert of The North Face
>> Re: Polypropylene – The North Face has taken a stand and feels polypropylene is only good as a next-to-the-body layer for transporting moisture. They feel that polypropylene's low melting point, odor retention and low abrasion resistance doesn't lend itself to their marketing commitment of offering quality goods. Simply, North Face feels better synthetic polymers exist.
>> Re: Going offshore – A good dome tent under $150? That's what Eureka has in their off-shore produced Wind River model which is $80 wholesale and $133 retail at 40 percent. Also off-shore frame and soft packs at great prices.
Whatever happened to…
>> The Snot Watch – Officially called the Sports Wipe, it was a circular plastic device that adhered to wrists and was designed to, and we are not kidding here, wipe snot into a hinged compartment simply by drawing tissue inside the opening across the nose. SNEWS® wrote at the time, "Asked if the tissue came with it, the manufacturer responded, ‘At this price..are you kidding?' At any price, he had to be joking."
When JanSport began its trek down the mountain and onto campuses…
>> JanSport is thriving having been recently acquired by Blue Bell which owns Jantzen. They'll have more manufacturing and marketing expertise at their disposal and will advertise in Playboy, Cosmopolitan and People magazines.
Fabrics and notions
>> Aero K, it's been out there for a few years, but not until Tina Cole of the Elephant's Perch in Sun Valley pointed it out to SNEWS did we know that it's a porous PU coating (much like Entrant) being used in panels in Descente's cycling suits, which double nicely as XC and running warm-ups. The Perch people say the material is great, and that the gang test before they buy.
>> Biotex is "the best waterproof/breathable product I've seen or used." That quote from a man who's signed a statement not to reveal any more about this new miracle product. Big hype? Not around to our source who has tested Biotex and will not say if it's a laminate, coating or something entirely different. (SNEWS® current editor comments: Biotex was launched by Thoratec Laboratories Corp., a California biomedical research company, with Bion II, a fabric that claimed to be competitive with Gore-Tex – how many times has that line been used? – and projected sales of $20 million by 1986. Gerry was the company's first known customer. It's 2009 – anyone heard of Biotex or Bion II? Yeah…so much for that miracle product. Oh, and for the record it was a PU coating.)
They said it: Peter McMullen of Mad River
Peter McMullen points to Hudson Bay Outfitters in the Washington, D.C., area with seven stores as a large specialty chain that's doing an excellent job in selling canoes because they clinic their employees. "I just helped do a clinic for 75 employees who were paid to come in and learn about product. Jim Stewart who set it up did an excellent job of telling the reps what he wanted to get across to his employees: He wanted an outline and something we could hand to them when we were finished. Hudson Bay is selling canoes. They are in malls and free-standing stores and while they're not just a canoe specialty shop, they're selling lots of canoes."
They said it: Ed Dembrowski, president of Bellwether
"Bicycling is to the eighties what running was to the seventies because of fitness purely. The bike industry has been very un-progressive and non-merchandisers. IN the past few years people go on a fitness kick. People got hurt running and started looking for alternatives and then triathaloning comes along. Although I don't think there will be that many triathletes, the sport has given credibility to cycling as a fitness sport. People think they can bicycle and become as healthy looking as triathletes."
To read the full PDF version of the April 1984 edition of SNEWS, click here.