General manager, Hudson Trail Outfitters, Gaithersburg, Md.
Of all the new technologies coming out in apparel, what are some of your favorites and why?
I think the most impressive is Mountain Hardwear’s Dry.Q system. I think their advances of late have been really creative. They were lacking creativity in the last couple years, but they seem to have a ton of direction there. It is super innovative and that’s what that company needs more than anything.
Anything that Arc’teryx does is always industry-leading and they’re very forward-thinking. The North Face is doing some stuff with the Insect Shield, though it’s not brand new technology, it’s newer.
How did the store do this past winter?
I think like anybody who is not dependent on weather, but whose business gets a little boost with winter ... without winter it’s pretty challenging. Winter has a small number of categories, but those categories represent a lot of dollars.
Our holiday business was really strong. The accessory products and knick-knacky things did well. There was obviously a slowdown in anything that was winter-related, like insulated outerwear, hats and gloves. We were much closer to last year’s numbers than I would have liked, we were better off than many people were. Still, none of us industry-wide were happy with lack of winter.
What are some of your best-selling items right now and why do you think those are popular?
I would say as we transition into the spring season, I think there’s a big push in our industry for fashionable apparel. I think there are a lot of vendors who are really taking a lot of silhouettes and colors and different styles and combining the technology of the industry with the fashionable part of it. I’d say all of the new spring assortments from all of our vendors are doing well.
This time of year is always about your hardgoods business, too, which really propels the business forward and all those categories are strong for us. We’re the largest bike retailer in the mid-Atlantic, and our biking sports, boating, stand-up paddling is all really strong.
But the most surprising thing is the amount of softgoods apparel that we’ve sold over the past 45 days. It’s a really good sign for the season.
What do you see becoming the best-selling items this coming summer?
I think there’s probably the most amount of excitement for a lot of those softgoods collections — the mixing the casual everyday look with the functional product. Our industry is good at creating value items that aren’t just singularly focused. So customers are really excited about our softgoods collection. Our bike collection for the spring and summer seasons is going to be strongest one yet. The tri market has taken off the running business is off to a very good start. Our hardgoods business is really good this time of year most exciting part is to see how our customers have responded to our apparel.
How does your store create loyal customers?
This would sound like a cheesy response, but it’s not: We just celebrated our 40th year of being in business and we really are able to speak on behalf of a loyal customer following. You have to remain relevant with the market, not just with your products, but also with your specialty services.
We do so many things with the community whether it be teaching them how to tune up a bike, how to change a flat tire, how to pick out a kayak. We offer about 30 consumer classes. One is remaining relevant with your customers through anything that is social media — our Facebook page is very active, our Twitter page is very active. But most important is to deliver on what you say it is that you do.