Continuing with our celebration mode looking back at what was new and hot to SNEWS® and the outdoor industry 25 years ago this month, we bring you our look at May 1984. If you missed our April retrospective, click here.
Printed on green paper, this issue of SNEWS contained a very intriguing interview with Jim Reyen, an employee of Johnson Camping since 1964 and at the time of the interview, president of the company. 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 May:
An all-too familiar story
Is Schwinn putting itself out to pasture? Seems like it. Generations of families worked at Schwinn and took pride in their craft. Few were retained as the company began using more sub-contractors over the past two years. The work force has been reduced to a crew of paper shufflers, according to SNEWS sources. Schwinn is heading for the suburbs…Sources say the family-owned company never allowed itself to become dynamic and never tried to dominate the market once the Euro 10-speed invasion started in the early 70’s.
Fitness boom ending? SNEWS predicts fitness fade. A scan of the May Esquire confirms our feeling. Esquire devoted most of their May issue to fitness with glossy updates of old information. BORING. Americans are up to their necks in fitness palaver and are ready to turn to something new. Anyone for croquet? (SNEWS in 2009: Well, if you are going to get something wrong, you might as well get it really wrong! In 2001, SNEWS launched its own fitness coverage with a separate fitness section -- clear proof that fitness had done anything BUT fade.)
The Svengali of Sawyer speaks
“The canoe trade is more actively marketing on a year-round basis and encouraging dealers financially to sell boats twelve months a year instead of for just five or six,” said Harry Roberts of Sawyer when announcing a new inexpensive Royalex boat.
They said it: Jeff Brody of Seconds Best in Northern California
During an interview about the seconds business for this northern California retailer, Jeff Brody called Eureka’s off-shore manufactured tents “rubbish” and predicted, “More U.S. tent makers will have off-shore products. These will be better made and will use domestically manufactured poles to avoid the pole problems of the past.” Well, one out of two isn't bad on the predicting the future front.
Fabrics and notions
>> Stereo polypropylene? The ubiquitous PP is now proudly advertised as the material being used by Infinity in its stereo speaker cones. “With a polypropylene cone, when you put in music, it comes out music, and not music plus papery distortion.” Adds SNEWS…and when you play tropical music the cones pass the moisture through.
>> Ambush fabric is one of the new light Cordura cloths. A 100 percent nylon with a ¾ ounce Urethane coating. The good hand on this material comes from the three-ply Taslan filling used with the 330 denier Cordura warp. Jansport will use it in some of the gear for the upcoming Lou Whittaker expedition to Everest.
He gets around
Columbia Sportswear has hired Doug Prentice, former Midwest rep for Gerry, to “merchandise and work with dealers to keep Columbia’s line current,” according to team leader Tim Boyle. SNEWS in 2009 -- Prentice was just named vice president of merchandising for White Sierra.
They said it: Jim Reyen, president of Johnson Camping
SNEWS – has there been too much me too in the industry lately?
“There are four to five companies that consistently come out with innovative new products every year and they probably drive the whole industry. A lot of companies then work on the variations of the themes of those companies.”
SNEWS – who are the innovative companies?
“In tents, my company, Eureka, North Face frequently comes up with new ideas, Sierra Designs have been very active in designs the last few years, Sierra West since 1980 has many new designs particularly in the lightweight market, and Moss is certainly right at the forefront.”
SNEWS – do you think backpacking in general has died, leveled off or is on a steady pace?
“It’s grown hugely since the 60’s and it had to level off because it was such a big fad. But I will say that it maintained itself longer than many fads that have happened since, like the Western clothing and roller skating fads which lasted one or two years each. Backpacking lasted through the 70’s and generated many loyal customers. Demographics and everything else say family camping is the trend now.”
SNEWS – do you think that the camping industry on a whole is becoming more business-like?
“I think it has matured. It’s interesting that in 1965 to 1968, I thought it was mature. Then, backpacking took off and it became a fresh, new exciting industry. Now, it’s getting back to where it was 20 years ago…But I certainly think that the people that are in the business now are good businessmen. You’re seeing more marketing of the product, different types of advertising, more promotion and things that you see in other industries that are more marketing-driven.”
To read the full PDF version of the May 1984 edition of SNEWS, click here.