The Camp: A More Hip Retail Experience

Could it be that the outdoor industry needs to loosen up, think younger, and have a little more fun? Shaheen Sadeghi, former Quiksilver president and the developer of a new retail and sports development in Southern California thinks so.
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Could it be that the outdoor industry needs to loosen up, think
younger, and have a little more fun? Shaheen Sadeghi, former Quiksilver
president and the developer of a new retail and sports development in
Southern California thinks so.

That development is dubbed The Camp and is located in Costa Mesa
(Orange County). Anchored by a new 12,000-square-foot Adventure 16
store, The Camp is a mix of surf, outdoor, recreation, and fashion
meant to become the cool place to shop, try out gear, get advice, eat
well, attend hands-on clinics and talks, or just hang out by the fire
pit, Sadeghi told SNEWS®.

"We felt most of the outdoor industry was operating in the '70s mode.
We wanted to line up the presentation with the product, and with the
sophistication of the customer," Sadeghi said about his goal to blend
the fun attitude of surf and skate with the quality and core product of
outdoor in one village-like retail setting.

"It's really important for outdoor to bring in that next generation,"
he said. "If you can't expose the younger customers, you'll lose some
of that energy."

In addition to Adventure 16, which was the first to open Feb. 22, The Camp (www.thecampsite.net)
with its 3.4 acres and 50,000 square feet of retail will house
Billabong (also now open), Patagonia, Cyclewerks, Liburdi's Scuba
Center, and a Bikram Yoga center, all expected to be open this month.
By April, Sadeghi expects the restaurants and food emporiums to clear
all the health inspections. They will include Guru's Café in a central
yurt, The Lodge fine dining, and the Village Bakery with pastries,
gourmet take-out and wine.

Sadeghi turned
down his share of suitors for space at the develoment, he says: "You
can't go out and buy your way into this." Potential operators he said
had to meet three criteria: They had to be authentic, offer core
product, and have a true heritage within the industry.

"It's not about age," he says over and over, himself in his late 40s
and neither a Gen Xer or Yer. "It's about frame of mind," he adds,
since his age group is now surfing, camping, hiking or mountain biking
with its kids. Many of his potential customers may be dot-com refugees
too who needed to "mellow out" after going at a "speed that just wasn't
sustainable."

But Adventure 16 seemed to pick up the pace quickly after its opening,
according president John Mead. "Despite only word-of-mouth promotion,
we had a very busy first sales day, and business has been steady and
growing," he told SNEWS®. "We are delighted with the way our store
turned out and feel very positive about the success of the center and
our store."

With one more valued spot to lease at The Camp, Sadeghi is being picky.
He's considering a sports medicine center, an adventure travel agency
or bookstore, or something that specializes in women's or kid's
offerings. The careful consideration isn't new to him since he's no
stranger to development -- In 1993, he opened a center called The Lab
directly across from The Camp's site on Bristol Street. The Lab, still
going strong, is known as the "anti-mall" with its carefully planned
graffiti-covered and crumbling walls, weedy looking plants and no
department stores, but an array of small, cool, urban shops. Compared
to The Lab, The Camp, with a name that can mean many things such as
surf camp or go camping, he said, will have more of an "organic" and
"clean" feel that begs for hanging out and enjoying.

The events of Sept. 11 "made us pull off the freeway and take the time to look at a map," he said.

SNEWS® View:
Listen up, outdoor. Here's a relative outsider but savvy businessman
who's been to Outdoor Retailer shows for a few years, and calls them
"stiff" and old and still buried in the '70s. This kind of outsider
shouldn't be ignored since he can be just the kind of person who can
peek in and, without bias, say, hey, lighten up, loosen up, and let's
move into the next century. Then help the industry go there. His
development, assuming its successful and we have no reason to believe
it won't be, could be the harbinger of a new breed that could attract
both current outdoor enthusiasts and younger newcomers. And that mix
could keep the energy up and the industry alive.

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