Officially, SNEWS launched its first publication in February 1984. 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. If you missed our February retrospective, click here. Today, we’re on to March 1984, and what a time it was.
Printed on yellow paper, this issue of SNEWS contained one-on-one interviews with Skip Yowell of JanSport and Gordon McFadden, then of Helly Hansen. We also noted that video training (then all the rage -- how times change) “would become the future force in point-of-sale advertising.” Hey, so we didn’t even come close on that one. 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 March:
Manufacturers opening retail outlets
SNEWS asked Christy McDivitt of Patagonia about their plans for mail order and retail shops. “It’s partly true, but we’re not getting deeper into mail-order and out of the wholesale business. Our line is so broad now, that a Patagonia dealer can’t carry everything. Mail-order is one way for customers to access the line. We’ve seen catalog sales grow and we are putting a little money into it.” Look for one or two Patagonia retail outlets. The company is looking for space in select retail locations devoid of dealers to fill niches in their market share.
>> Re: Walking and backpacking – “Fabric/leather boots have charisma, but leather boots are on their way back. As non-trail alternatives, more stylish and colorful fabric leather boots will remain strong. I don’t perceive much growth of interest in backpacking. Walking is certainly going to come on, but I wouldn’t label my product for the market as a 'walking shoe.'” --John Korb of Vasque
>> Re: The driver in walking growth -- “There’re 30 million joggers in the United States. My estimate is that 20 million of them are serious, and that 10 percent of that 20 million will drop out of running every year. The bulk of them will drop out because they hurt themselves or realize that if they continue to run, they will hurt themselves in the future. A large number of those people will be the people who walk because they want something similar to replace jogging as exercise.” --Erik Merk of Danner Boots
>> Patagonia who? -- A favorite SNEWS tale from a couple of years ago concerns a well-known alpine skiwear designer who took to the Sun Valley slopes. She found none of her creations but lots of Patagonia pile, shell and bunting wear. Last seen, the lady was screaming, red-faced, into a phone, “Who the hell is Patagonia?” She knows now.
On the water
Canoe bull market? Harry Roberts of Sawyer reports a 28 percent sales increase last year and now Rob Center of Mad River reports their pre-seasons are the best ever and increased interest in entry-level paddling.
Fabrics and notions
- After the fall of Klimate, Latok’s Jeff Lowe has been looking for a substitute coating or laminate for his technical mountaineering line of clothing. Looks like Gore-Tex will get the nod after Lowe’s test with Entrant proved that coating not good for winter use. According to Latok, Entrant ices up too easily because of lack of breathability.
- The main reason for the popularity of the new Gore-Tex products from Japan is the softer hand of Japanese fabrics. In an ironic twist, much of the fabric supplied to Gore Japan comes from Toray -- the Entrant people.
- Cotton look will be strong at least through 1985. Best synthetic cotton look/hand fabric is Propex 3, a spun-woven polypropylene fabric that comes in sailcloth, tricot, duck, packcloth and chamois.
They said it: John Korb of Vasque
“Too many retailers are procrastinating on their summer orders. They have to plan more in advance. The problem is too many of them got pushed into buying six months in advance by the big softgoods people and after they ate a few bad products they got scared. The retailers who are overly cautious will get into a predicament this spring.” (SNEWS note from 2009: Only six months? What retailers wouldn’t give to have that short timeframe now -- somehow, the six months that proved to be a problem in 1984 has morphed into nearly a year and is an even bigger problem today.)
They said it: Ken Horowitz of Hydra
“I’ve been perplexed by the trade journals race to get wholesale information into the hands of people who had no business getting them just so they could claim higher circulation rates. Small wonder that the store owners have gotten frustrated when every outdoor program director at the nearby school suddenly starts buying everything under the sun at wholesale prices and ruins the nearby specialty shop.” (SNEWS note from 2009: Wonder what Ken would have said had social media existed in 1984.)
They said it: Gordon McFadden of Helly Hansen
On reps and repping: “They sell the goods three times; once to the dealer, then they clinic and sell it to the sales staff, then they go in and work during major peak time and work in the stores with the sales force. Reps are the most critical part of the success. If his selling job stops with a purchase order, he’s not doing the dealer or the consumer justice. We’ve grown from $1 million to $10 million in three years primarily because we’ve worked to understand what the dealer wants and how the rep becomes the dealer’s arms to get the job done.”
To read the full PDF version of the March 1984 edition of SNEWS, click here.