We’ve heard the storyline countless times throughout the pandemic: Outdoor sales have been a bright spot as people seek refuge outside. And while this dominant refrain is largely true, the real story for independent shops is more nuanced. “You can’t paint all retailers with the same brush,” says Drew Simmons, spokesperson for Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. “There have been some great successes and there have also been some struggles. One thing’s for sure: The pandemic has really widened the gap between winners and losers throughout our industry.”
The factors driving the volatility are many, according to Simmons: Local pandemic laws, the implementation of health/safety measures, ability to navigate government COVID assistance programs, the swing toward hardgoods, and a retailer’s risk tolerance to remain open.
Yet largely, Grassroots retailers are faring well. In a recent press release, the consortium of specialty shops announced 10 new retail members and reported resilient Q3 and Q4 sales. Overall, the group reports that 2020 sales will be down by 2.75 percent over 2019, but given the rollercoaster ride we’ve all experienced, this can be counted as a win.
“For independent speciality retailers, ‘resilience’ was the word of the year,” said Rich Hill, president of Grassroots. “Faced with a revolving door of challenges -- shutdowns, landlord negotiations, reduced staffing, customer conflicts and more -- they shared their challenges, learned from each other, and worked to find ways to control what they could control.”
Hill credits his group’s success to strong support from its vendor partners. “They’ve been incredible to work with, and we’re thankful for all their efforts,” said Hill. “Like many of them, we thought the bottom was dropping out last spring, and our forecasts were built by reacting to the best information we had at the time. We just ended up selling a very different product mix than expected, as we were all selling to demand.”
Grassroots now represents 94 retailers with 195 total doors in 42 states nationwide. Back in July, it announced the addition of 10 new members; this latest round of growth means that Grassroots has added a total of 20 new stores to its roster in 2020. And they show no sign of slowing down. Because, as Simmons said, "Now, more than ever, retailers want to part of a community. It's a good time to share what you know and learn from others facing the same challenges."
Grassroots welcomes 10 new retailers
The Bear Mountain (shop.thebearmountain.com) has been the premier local destination for outdoor enthusiasts since 2007. The Bear Mountain is a true one-stop shop with apparel, footwear and gear for hiking, biking, travel, camping, fly fishing and more.
Canyon Pass Provisions (canyonpass.com) provides apparel, accessories, and hard goods for those connected to the outdoors and pursuing active lifestyles. Locally-owned and operated in Fair Haven, N.J., Canyon Pass carries only the highest quality products, presents them to our customers in a welcoming environment, and delivers an unsurpassed buying experience.
Footsloggers Outdoor and Travel Outfitters (footsloggersnc.com) was founded in 1971, and offers a wide variety of casual and technical clothing, footwear and equipment. With storefronts in Boone and Blowing Rock, N.C., Footsloggers prides themselves on having a friendly staff who are passionate about the outdoors and highly skilled at assisting customers to choose the right gear and clothing to meet their needs.
Lake Superior Trading Post (lakesuperiortradingpost.com) was built by outfitters who grew up in the wilds of Grand Marais, and has grown with the community to include a broad selection of outdoor gear and unique gifts. Only 20 steps from Lake Superior, the Trading Post is a favored spot to find women's and men's clothing, outdoor gear, trail maps, camping supplies, and a nice gift to bring home.
Little Forks Outfitters (littleforks.com) is a fly-fishing and outdoor adventure store located in the Saginaw Bay region of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Founded in 1995, the shop features a curated selection of fly-fishing tackle, outdoor apparel, footwear, and adventure travel gear.
The Outfitter of Harbor Springs (outfitterharborsprings.com) is a proud purveyor of silent-sport water and snow equipment, as well as running gear and outdoor lifestyle clothing and footwear. Located on Main Street in Harbor Springs since 1971, The Outfitter has 4,000 square feet of retail space for equipment, clothing and accessories for all seasons.
River Rock Outfitter (www.riverrockoutfitter.com) is a traditional, community-based specialty outfitter providing apparel and gear for paddling, hiking, camping, and rock climbing. Founded in 2014, River Rock Outfitter is dedicated to fostering community with in-store events, demo opportunities, local outdoor adventures and meetup activities.
Learn more about Rock & Snow, the legendary shop serving climbers in The Gunks since 1965.
Rock and Snow (rockandsnow.com) is an outdoor specialty store with a focus on rock climbing, mountaineering, hiking and nordic skiing. Established in 1970 by some of the pivotal figures in the Gunks' rich climbing history, Rock and Snow has grown to include two locations in New Paltz and a new Rock and Snow Kids (Rosendale, NY) which opened in November, 2020.
Treads 'n' Threads (treadsnthreads.com) specializes in comfortable clothing for active lifestyles; exceptional footwear from quality brands; and head-to-toe outfitting for hiking, running, working and traveling. The store owners share their love for the outdoors by creating an exceptional retail experience rooted in the mountain lifestyle.
Water Stone Outdoors (waterstoneoutdoors.com) is beginning its 27th year on a street corner in the climbing and whitewater mecca of Fayetteville, W.V. “Quality gear and friendly advice” is their tagline, and their mission is to optimize their customer's outdoor experience “by sharing info and stoke” in a quirky, unpretentious, and down to earth atmosphere.
If you’re a retailer interested in joining Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, contact Dana Howe (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more.