Marc Sherman & Jason Giroux: Retailers talk staying green

Outdoor Gear Exchange leads way in 'click-and-mortar' retail
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Eco-friendly products are on the rise across the board in this industry that values conservation and Earth-friendliness.
And so are eco-conscious business practices among manufacturers and retailers — such as Outdoor Gear Exchange, a click-and-mortar retailer that has put in place initiatives to keep itself as green as possible to preserve the places we live and play.

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Owner Marc Sherman said over the years the store has taken several steps to be more eco-friendly, such as reusing packing materials and selling environmentally sound products.

Along the way, Sherman said, he likes to include the opinions of his staff to help make business better.

“We meet formally twice a year as a group for offsite retreats and regularly on an informal basis at crags, trailheads and waterways,” Sherman said. “We’ve found that by fostering an open dialogue of ideas, we’ve developed great systems within the shop.”

So who better to offer business advice to his retailer brethren? He and Jason Giroux, the store’s technical apparel and footwear buyer, share their retailer’s knowledge on eco-business, sales trends, consumer activity trends and other issues facing the industry.

Plus, they express why they think the show’s timeline should change to better benefit outdoor retailers and new manufacturers with cool products.

Tell us about how you’ve focused on green business.
Giroux: We try to do this in a number of ways. One program that was put into place last year is our box-recycling program. Our business operates on a downtown outdoor walking mall, so we decided to ask our neighbor businesses for their unused boxes to be used for our Web fulfillment. We’ve saved money not buying new packaging materials, saved our neighbors money in waste disposal payments and kept a multitude of boxes from being made and probably thrown into a landfill at some point.

What pursuits are your customers chasing?
Sherman: SUP is strong with renewed interest in kayaks. We’re also seeing more interest in crossover running [trail runing within city limits]. Winter alpine touring equipment, especially tech-fit systems are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s great to see resorts actively engaging in the discussion about safe and responsible human-powered uphill use of their facilities. Adventure travel continues to get people into wild places, even if not with extreme-level activity, but we’re also seeing more interest in pushing the limit throughout our breadth of activities.

What are some sales trends in terms of product? 
Giroux: For apparel, I am seeing an uptick in summer wool sales. Recent cool weather may play a part in that, but staff and consumers are beginning to understand how wool can perform in warmer climates, too. Typically, selling expensive rainwear in the summer months is difficult, but this year it seems customers are willing to pay more for a better product.

In what areas is innovation lacking? 
Sherman: The outdoor industry will continue to seek new ways to make use of emerging material technologies, but we need to see what’s needed to avoid creating more wasteful plastic in an effort to make money off our desire to engage with the wilderness. More than new technology, I would like to see manufacturers continue to engage the next generation by making it easier for families to get outside. I also think we should be cautious in our efforts to feed our technology addictions in the wilderness and make sure we continue to look for renewable ways to do so.

What biggest issues facing the outdoor industry? 
Giroux: We are some of the first to recognize that a changing environment is potentially catastrophic for our businesses. [We should] focus on local economy, bringing manufacturing back home, putting aside typical capitalistic measures of success and measuring Gross National Happiness — and just be socially/environmentally responsible and sustainable with each business decision. [We can] avoid the carbon footprint of air shipping, reduce dependency on non-renewable resources and use textiles that require less pesticide water or chemicals to fabricate.

What do you hear retailers talking about the show? 
Giroux: Outdoor Retailer should be the most relevant tradeshow in our industry. However, it is still scheduled at least one — perhaps even two — months late. Even the typically later deadlines for hardgoods are getting earlier and earlier, some before OR starts, and softgoods will be mostly booked before I even get to the show. It’s a detriment to the industry that new products struggling to get into the market may not have a chance by the time OR happens, because OTB is locked up already. I think many retailers that weight the cost/benefit of attending the show will continue to have less benefit as orders are booked more and more before the show.

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