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At this past Outdoor Retailer Summer Market the Out-
door Industry Association (OIA) in partnership with de-
sign and innovation consulting rm IDEO, unveiled the
Outdoor Retail of the Future Project. The multi-phase
research initiative is a refreshed look at outdoor spe-
cialty retail in light of new technologies and a continu-
ally evolving market.
In the September issue of Outdoor USA Magazine,
we caught up with OIA President Frank Hugelmeyer,
who explained that the inspiration for the project grew,
in part, from the observation of a demographic shift,
where 70-80 percent of the U.S. population is now liv-
ing in an urban or suburban environment. This trend in
combination with many other variables has elicited a
broader consumer segment that, in the eyes of the OIA,
has remained virtually untapped.
The industry does a great job of reaching the en-
thusiast, but there's a signicant market share in the
U.S. that we just aren't capturing, Hugelmeyer said.
He went on to describe this elusive consumer as less
outdoorsy and more outsidesy. The distinction high-
lights one of the main questions the Outdoor Retail of
the Future Project is askingHow can outdoor retail
and the industry in general be more inclusive?
The OIA isn't the only one posing the question. Moun-
tain Equipment Cooperative, the Canadian retail equiva-
lent of REI, has just launched its new brand platform
aimed at celebrating the diverse community of outsid-
Outsiders conveys a new, more inclusive denition
of what it means to be active outdoors, said MEC CEO
David Labistour. MEC is embracing the needs of the
future, while remaining focused on our goal of leading
people from their front door to the far outdoors.
MEC's rebranding comes after research ndings iden-
tifying differences in regional activities across Canada
(it's a big country) as well as other trends like the fact
that activity levels decline most signicantly after high
school. The retail cooperative's research also found that
while backcountry activities remain its largest product
offering, the strongest growth has been in urban activi-
ties such as cycling and running.
But what does all this mean?
Here at the Outdoor USA Magazine specialty retail
laboratory, we hear time and time again that categories
like active lifestyle apparel/footwear, functional fashion
pieces, travel and leisure products and urban activities
like running and cycling are slowly but surely conquer-
ing more and more square footage on the sales oor.
Many buyers say they will continue to expand in these
areas because the extension beyond traditional outdoor
products provides new opportunity for customer acqui-
sition, and it also helps maintain an atmosphere and as-
sortment that is distinguished from Big Box stores and
the infamous online price slashers.
Just look at this month's Focus Shop article where we
feature Treadz, a specialty retailer in Glenwood Springs,
Colorado that categorizes itself as a Mountain Lifestyle
store, as opposed to just outdoor. So, why would the
most prestigious trade publication in the outdoor indus-
try bother reporting on a retailer that, someone may ar-
gue, isn't even technically an outdoor store? Because
it's interesting!
The Treadz concept reects many of the principles
that both MEC and the OIA Retail Future of the Proj-
ect are attempting to illustratethe idea that there are
opportunities that reach far beyond brand staples like
The North Face, Mountain Hardwear and Patagonia. For
Treadz these opportunities have translated into products
that reect Glenwood community values like anything
Made-in-USA and apparel constructed with sustain-
able and socially responsible fabrics. Other examples
include local crafts like soaps, hand bags, and jewelry,
as well as more fashionable lifestyle pieces from brands
like Nau and Horny Toad and casual workwear like Born
apparel and Johnston & Murphy shoes. The versatility
of Treadz' assortment is only one of many examples of
specialty retailers who are consistently innovating new
ways to keep outdoor retail fresh and inclusive.
On the other hand, we realize that a lot ofretailers are
successful because they have found a highly techni-
cal niche. This is especially true of many performance
alpine and paddle sports dealers. However, the point
isn't to empty the shelves and open a fancy, entry-level
lifestyle boutique. The point is that all stores, even the
most technical shops, can benet from brainstorming
creative ways to appeal to a broader consumer. The rea-
soning is that in being more inviting through our com-
munications, product variety, merchandising, etc. we
create a retail environment that will cultivate a more
committed and condent consumer. As a consequence,
more people may make the leap in identity from out-
side to outdoor.
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Have a comment or opinion? An idea for
a story? We want to hear about it.
Heres how to reach us:
>>> editors@odrmag.com
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The Fuse Uno shell (left) and the Thermoball half zip (middle) are big updates to the Summit Series for 2014
Brand new for the Fall/Winter '14 season is
a fabric technology and construction method
from The North Face that may revolutionize
the way apparel is produced in the outdoor
Enter Fuse Form, an innovation that can
weave two performance properties into a sin-
gle fabric. The technology is exclusive to The
North Face. In fact, Jake Martin, senior product
line manager for The North Face Summit Se-
ries, claims that there is nothing else like it on
the market.
So if you're a designer, and you want to
build a garment with high abrasion resistance
in one area and then use a lighter weight ma-
terial in another, chances are you're going to
be sourcing multiple fabrics and playing with
a lot of seam tape.
The problem with seam tape, Martin told
us, is that it's not breathable; it adds weight;
and it restricts movement.
As the consumer demands more and more
versatility from performance apparel, seam
tape can be a serious obstacle, especially
in terms of breathabilityair does not pass
through it at all (0 CFM). The beauty of the new
Fuse Form technology is that, right now, it al-
lows for textiles with different tensile strengths
to be woven into a single fabric. This provides
versatile performance with less taping and a
clean look.
While Fuse Form has made its debut in
several The North Face concept carslike
the U.S. Olympic team Freeskiing Team uni-
formsone of its most interesting applica-
tions is in the brand's Summit Series.
The purpose of the The North Face Sum-
mit Series has stayed very consistent, said
Martin. It is the brand's premier offering for
any alpine or expedition climbing application;
the description we use is the tip of the spear.
This includes apparel in addition to footwear,
gloves, backpacks, tents and sleeping bags.
Martin manages the development of Summit
Series apparel from concept to production.
The challenge that he and his team have
been toying with is the ability to change the
way that garments are actually constructed.
The goal was to come up with a way to use
multiple fabrics, and at the same time, elimi-
nate seamstwo things that almost never go
We spent a lot of time on the back end with
our manufacturing partners going through an
exhaustive trial and error process just to gure
out if we could even achieve this, said Martin.
And there wasn't one single solution. In
other words, Fuse Form is a concept that
encompasses a variety of fabric construction
Martin explained that depending on the type
of characteristics you are trying to create in
a single fabrice.g. breathability, abrasion
resistance, lightweight, etc.each is going to
require a different methodology for construc-
tion, so the nal product depends on the capa-
bility of the supply chain.
It's a two-part puzzle, he said. Separate
from the entire design process in-house, you
have to nd and develop the actual yarns, and
then you have to work with the factories and
mills to see if they have the capacity to make
According to Martin, Fuse Form itself wasn't
something the factory brought to the brand
and said Hey we are doing this cool Fuse
thing. Martin describes the development pro-
cess as an entirely collaborative effort.
The technology requires custom machinery,
and currently there are limitations in terms of
what yarns can be used. While The North Face
has experimented with different yarn types,
weights and strengths, the Fuse Form product
on the market for Fall/Winter 2014 is aimed
at achieving different levels of abrasion resis-
tance in a single fabric.
And in the Summit Series this is best ex-
emplied by the construction of the Fuse Uno
(MSRP $399), a technical shell with a name to
match its story.
The concept behind Fuse Uno is twofold.
First, the shell is constructed using Fuse Form
technology. It is built from two pieces of mate-
rial that are woven together into a single fabric.
The material for the upper half of the garment
has a high tensile strength that is more abra-
sion resistant, and the lower half is made with
a durable, but lighter-weight yarn. This is what
puts the Fuse in Fuse Uno, and the benet is
dual performance with minimal seam taping.
In a typical jacket we are going to sew
about 22 yards of seam tape and in the Fuse
Uno, we are only using about 10 yards, said
Martin. As explained, this means more breath-
ability, less weight and better freedom of
movement. It also looks really cool.
So, where does the Uno come from? The
name is a nod to a unique origami-like con-
struction method The North Face uses to build
the garment from a single pattern piece. It is
common in apparel design to cut dozens of
pieces (arms, hood, torso, etc.) and seam tape
or stitch them together. However, imagine a
single piece of material that lays at on a table
and then can be folded into a jacket, as if you
were folding a piece of paper into a swan. This
is essentially how the Fuse Uno is built.
Martin informed us that there is some con-
fusion in the media about the difference be-
tween Fuse Form and the single pattern piece
construction method. To clarify, Fuse Form is
the technology or process used to weave the
face fabric and only the face fabric. It is what
allows that fabric to have two different per-
formance qualities woven together instead of
Entirely separate from Fuse Form, is the
single piece construction technique. So in
the case of the Fuse Uno shell, the face fab-
ric (made using Fuse Form) is layered with a
waterproof-breathable membrane and a knit
backer that goes next-to-skin. This 3-layer
laminate is a standard pattern used in techni-
cal apparel. Think of this pattern as a single
piece of paper that is ready to be turned into
a jacket.
The Uno technique is essentially a feat in
geometry. The North Face is able to take that
3-layer pattern piece (a.k.a piece of paper)
and cut it in a way that allows it to be folded
into a jacket. The word Uno was chosen be-
cause the swan is built from a single piece of
paper as opposed to cutting wings, a neck, a
beak, etc and taping them together.
So, what's the advantage of constructing a
garment from a single piece? Again, less seam
Both technologies exist to the same end
said Martin.If you take the jacket and turn it
inside out, its astounding how few seam lines
there are.
Currently the origami construction and Fuse
Form fabric technology do not provide any
advantages on the manufacturing end as far
as efciency is concerned, but it is denitely a
step in the right direction that has excited the
design community.
According to Martin the next step is to close
the loop and nd a way to make use of the
scraps that are left over in manufacturing. Ma-
terial waste can be a huge cost for brands that
produce at such high volumes.
Best case we can make another garment
from the left over material, said Martin. And
maybe the alternative is to make something
like a tote bag.
The brand is also looking forward to see
how the technologies can be applied to oth-
er products like backpacks, gloves, or even
sleeping bags.
We denitely want to see how far we can
take it, said Martin. If anything's clear, it's
that people really feel like this is the future of
how we can construct not only outerwear, but
outdoor products in general.
The advantage of weaving the face fabric us-
ing Fuse Form technology and using
the "origami" construction tech-
nique from a single pattern piece
is less seem taping. Because there
is less seem tape, the Fuse Uno shell
is lightweight, more breathable and has better
freedom of movement
The geometry allows the jacket to be
folded and taped into a three di-
mensional shape. The concept is
similar to origami, the Japanese
art of folding paper
The jacket is cut from a single piece
of material. This material is
comprised of a three layer
laminate. There is a waterproof
breathable membrane in between
a face fabric and a knit backer
The dark red and light red represent
the different tensile strengths of the face
fabric. The dark red is a more durable
yarn and the light red is a
lighter-weight yarn. Fuse
Form technology weaves
them into a single face fabric,
requiring zero taping
Purnell debuted at OR Summer '13, here's a shot of the booth from the 2014 Winter Show
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Workwear and lifestyle apparel brand Pur-
nell debuted at the 2012 Outdoor Retailer
Summer show, and We were met with a lot
more enthusiasm than I expected, President
and Co-founder Brita Womack told us during
an interview at this past Outdoor Retailer Win-
ter Market in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The brand's roots are actually in the wind
energy industry, and outdoor specialty retail
was the next logical step. Purnell's other half,
co-founder Brent Dehlsen, comes from a fam-
ily that has been in the renewable energy busi-
ness for over 30 years.
He grew up basically climbing wind tur-
bines and doing maintenance on them before
eventually running multiple renewable energy
companies, said Womack.
Somewhere along the way he felt there was
a need for clothing specically tailored for the
renewable industry; it's a very specic niche.
These are people who require comfort, protec-
tion and performance while scaling turbines
and other structures, but then they have to
step into the ofce for a meeting. They're in-
dustrial athletes, said Womack.
Dehlsen explained that Purnell actually re-
sides in a group of several other companies
that are all related to engineering and design
in renewables and sustainable construction.
Two examples of businesses in that group are
Avianda, a construction company in Mexico,
and Aquantis, a company that builds turbines
to harness the power from deep ocean cur-
It's kind of a mashup of different engi-
neering projects, said Dehlsen. It makes it
fun to have a company like Purnell in the mix
that's more creative driven in a whole differ-
ent market, but still shares the same design
While Dehlsen assists with the design pro-
cess, Womack runs Purnell on a day-to-day
We started with a niche in the wind in-
dustry market, and then after we debuted at
OR, the more lifestyle focused stores were re-
ally interested in our aesthetic, she said. The
aesthetic is a product of what the co-founders
describe as purpose driven design, clearly tak-
ing inspiration from the engineering heritage.
While much of the product began as tech-
nical workwear, making use of heavy canvas
with stretch material built into most of the
fabrics, the soft-hand and vintage appeal
combined with a variety of more profes-
sional button-up styles in the men's line give
a modern spin on the lifestyle category
clothing that is appropriate for work and for
play. Softness is always a priority, Dehlsen
Womack explained that Purnell started with
just a men's line and after the debut, a lot of
retailers were inquiring about a women's line,
so the brand answered this year.
Again, we worked with a lot of stretch
fabrics. We kept with a more vintage look, like
railroad stripes and classic, woven shirts, she
Versatility and simplicity are key features
of the brand, which exhibits a more mature,
careful design approach compared to other
lifestyle apparel on the market. The goal is to
cut out all the unnecessary elements, giving
the garments a more clean, practical look.
We don't consider ourselves a trendy
brand, but more of a modern or functional take
on these classic, casual styles, she said. It
goes back to being inspired by the wind en-
ergy industry and this concept of purposeful
design. All the technology that goes into con-
structing these massive structures has a spe-
cic purpose, and we try and apply the same
philosophy to our apparel.
As far as key products in the collection,
women's leggings with the fair isle patterns
have been a smash hit, Womack told us.
Women like to wear them as a base layer, but
also maybe with boots and a skirt or a tunic.
Another big push this year is the brand's line
of Awesome Possum beanies, and this isn't to
be confused with the more familiar opossum
that you might see on the side of the road.
The line is made with fur from the Australian
brushtail possum that comes with an entirely
different story of its own.
Nearly a century ago the brushtail possum
was introduced to New Zealand, where it had
no natural predators, and as is very common
with invasive species, the possums rapidly re-
produced until eventually becoming a serious
problem. It turns out that the possum's fur is
a great natural insulator because air pockets
within the fur trap air, which retains heat.
Once you put on one of the beanies, you
can literally feel the heat radiating, said Wom-
ack. The other cool thing is that a lot of people
aren't familiar with the story about the brush-
tail possums, so the response is usually really
good. People nd it interesting.
Because the brand is based in Santa Barba-
ra, Calif., it's seen more adoption on
the West Coast with some growth in
the Midwest and Pacic Northwest
as well. The more vintage styles are
catching on in cities like Portland
and Seattle, and this is likely part
of a larger trend that's been gaining
momentum in the outdoor industry,
Womack told us.
Purnell is also in stores in the Southeast,
where the styles are more seasonal and the
look tends to be a bit more rugged than is
typical on the coast. Currently, the focus is on
growing representation in the Colorado and
Utah territories, where the founders see a lot
of opportunity. New England is the other region
they are currently seeking more representa-
We're over a year in, and right now what
we are trying to do is just build awareness. We
are one of those brands where if you touch it,
feel it, try it on, you'll be hooked, said Wom-
She explained this is why the sales strategy
is focused on specialty stores because they
can provide that in-store experience that isn't
accessible online
Online you can't tell that it feels great,
and the simplicity of the design isn't going to
resonate like it will in a store, she said. We
think we are the perfect t for those retailers
because we can help them differentiate from
the bigger box brands, and our message is
simplequality and purpose driven design.
The Awesome possum beanie is made from the fur of a pesky Australian marsupial A minimalist design approach mixed with creative patterns and functional materials
...lifestyle focused stores
were really interested in
our aesthetic
Co-founder Brent Dehlsen in his
younger years
Brita Womack, co-founder, and colleague testing apparel functionality
on a wind mill climb
The patterned tights are a big seller Purnell boasts rened, mature styles for men
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DNF Media, Inc.
1444 Franklin St.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Published by
!"#$%&' )$ "&*+*,&'
-$' *.,)"#$&/0"&& 1-1&"
Printed in the USA.
Subscription is $65 for USA and $165 for international.
To get your subscription, visit: odrmag.com
or email: subscriptions@odrmag.com
Opinions expressed by authors and contributors to
Outdoor USA Magazine are not necessarily those of
the editors or publishers. Outdoor USA Magazine is not
responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or
artwork. Articles appearing in Outdoor USA Magazine
may not be reproduced in whole or in part without
express permission of the publisher.
Outdoor USA Magazine is published monthly.
POSTMASTER Send address changes to:
DNF Media, Inc.
1444 Franklin St.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Direct general enquiries to: info@odrmag.com
!"#$%&' )&*+, -. /-,0, +&11 '-%0&%2$113
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play model to the ever increasing amount of content on
its platform, which means marketers are going to have
to compete for space.
A spokesman from Facebook told Ad Age, We're get-
ting to a place where because more people are sharing
more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you're
a business is to pay for it. In other words, money talks;
the more money, the louder the voice.
For optimal visibility of posts, Facebook has always
encouraged page owners to post relevant, engaging
content, such as when it announced earlier this month
that links to news articles will be given more promi-
nence, especially on mobile. This is good news for pub-
lishers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and
Outdoor USA Magazine.
The bad news is that there is no surere way for mar-
keters to predict or guarantee how many of their fans
will see a given post organically, no matter how rele-
vant. What is guaranteed is that the number of organic
views will steadily decrease over time. But, stepping
up your company's content game isn't the only way to
boost reach. Another way to make sure your fans see
your stories is by sponsoring your posts, reads Face-
book's guide for businesses.
According to Ad Age, many marketers who have
poured an immense amount of resources into acquir-
ing likes, fans and followers aren't happy about being
pressured to pay more on top of an already cumber-
some investment. It's important to take into account all
of the staff costs for social media curators, the costs of
analytics and the time it takes for a business to source/
develop/track content.
However, this is the reality of social media. It's a
service, and now that public companies like Google,
Facebook and Twitter need to appease investors, they
are turning to businesses to oat the bill, so that users
won't stray from the platforms. We expect to see much
more stringent content reach models in the future.
call published in The Oregonian on Jan. 30, 2013, where the
author used that quote from Boyle. However, Boyle wasn't
talking about the recall. In fact, Boyle's statement was made
during a day-long information session about several new Co-
lumbia products, and he was speaking about the company's
overall business strategy. The quote was taken out of context,
and Boyle's statement does not reect how the company
feels about Omni-Heat or the product recalls that followed.
In last month's editorial about the problems Columbia
has had with its Omni-Heat electric apparel, we re-printed a
statement Columbia CEO Tim Boyle had made during a De-
cember 2012 press conference. Specically, we printed "Co-
lumbia Chief Executive Tim Boyle had this to say at a press
conference regarding the defective product, "We can confuse
people by releasing these innovations too quickly. We'll have
a more measured approach to how we release them in the
future." Our source was an article about the Omni-Heat re-
Social networking services like Facebook, who is
largely seen as the leader in the space, are valuable to
marketers for the opportunity to build a fan base and
engage a large audience. The value has not changed,
but recent communications from Facebook say the cost
It's no secret that the organic reach of posts on Face-
book is limited. When your business posts content
whether it's an image, an update, a contest, a video
etc.that post is only visible to a small percentage of
your fans. In 2012, Facebook reported that pages or-
ganically reach about 16 percent of fans on average,
but this number is subject to so many variables that it's
difcult to use as a reference point. For example, Ago-
ra Pulse, a social media analytics service, claims that
the reach of a given post ranges from 2-47 percent of
fansthat's a big gap.
Marketers approached Facebook last year about the
fact that they were seeing a steady decline in their or-
ganic reach over time, which can be monitored by page
owners. At that time, Facebook responded that it had
made a few adjustments to the site's algorithmic lter
for the purpose of managing spam and irrelevant posts.
Now, Facebook has announced a new stance.
In a document sent out to partner's last month, the
social networking service explicitly stated that organic
reach from marketers' posts will continue to drop off.
The remedy? According to Facebook,To maximize de-
livery of your message in News Feed, your brand should
consider using paid distribution.
The three-page documenttitled Generating Busi-
ness Results on Facebookreevaluates how market-
ers should approach fan acquisition on the platform.
Now, the main reason to acquire fans isn't to build a
free distribution channel for content; it's to make fu-
ture Facebook ads work better, reports marketing trade
magazine, Ad Age.
Facebook attributes the more aggressive pay-to-
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Alpine Shop has 3 locations in Missouri and 1 in Illinois, above the Kirkwood, St Louis, Mo. store
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Address of Headquarters: 440 N. Kirkwood Rd. St. Louis, MO 63122
Number of Stores: 4 total; 3 in Missouri (Kirkwood, Chestereld and Columbia), 1 in
Illinois (O'Fallon)
Phone Number: 314-962-7715 (Kirkwood location) Website: alpineshop.com
Store Hours: Mon-Fri 10-8, Sat 10-6, Sun 12-5
Owner: Russell "Holly" Hollenbeck, Lisa Hollenbeck
Date of Establishment: 11/1973 - Original Owner; April 1, 1978 - Russell Hollenbeck
purchased the store
Number of Employees: 75
Average Store Parking Availability:
Sports Covered: Alpine skiing and snowboarding; bicycling; canoeing and kayaking;
climbing; camping and backpacking; adventure travel; custom boot tting; sports/active/
Average Store Square Footage: Ranges from 4,800 sq. ft. to close to 18,000 sq. ft.,
depending on the store
Average Square Footage for Individual Departments (apparel, equipment, etc):
Leading Apparel Brands: Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, Marmot
Leading Footwear Brands: Merrell, Salomon, Keen, Chaco
Leading Gear/Equipment Brands: Burton, Specialized, Jackson Kayak, Wilderness
Systems, Salomon Ski, Osprey
In 1973, Bob Moors, an avid climber, saw
the need for a climbing shop in St. Louis, Mo.
where a thriving community of adventurers
had been drawn to the mountains and streams
of the Ozark highland region. At the time, he
owned a small home winemaking shop, so he
opened his new store upstairs.
Shortly thereafter, the climbing outdid the
winemaking, said Russell Holly Hollenbeck,
now co-owner of Alpine Shop.
Bob started building on the inventory, start-
ing with canoes and cross-country skis, then
moving into down jackets. In 1978, he was
looking to move to the west coast. Holly, a
frequent customer at the shop, was interested
in taking over. He wanted a lifestyle change
from his career in corporate nance. The op-
portunity to make a living out of his passion for
the outdoors was too hard to pass up. It was a
gamble that paid off.
One of the main inuences of my corporate
background was that I didnt like it, said Holly.
So I moved into retail, but I went in know-
ing my way around a balance sheet and an
income statement.
Although revenue was down 10 percent an-
nually in the rst month, he was able to turn
things around by refreshing the inventory. The
cross country skiing category transitioned into
alpine skiing. The heavy winter offering was
balanced by bringing in bikes, still a big seller
today. The store also became the rst roller-
blade dealer in town, a trend that was emerg-
ing at the time.
In the '80s we got creative and started
sourcing casual apparel from outside the in-
dustry. This was before the active lifestyle cat-
egory was really established, said Holly.
As the business began to take off, the op-
portunity arose to purchase a building down
the street with another partner. It would be a
sort of fateful decision.
Differences eventually arose between the
two parties that led to litigation. Owning the
building with a partner was more of a hassle
than renting, said Holly. I didn't want to be a
landlord, I wanted to be a retailer.
The silver lining was that Holly ended up
marrying his lawyer, Lisa Hollenbeck, who is
now a co-owner of Alpine Shop.
He likes to make the joke that he didn't
have any legal issues before I came around,
said Lisa, but thats just because he didnt
know he had them before me.
A few years ago the Alpine Shop team re-
evaluated its strategic plan for the business,
which led to a new mission statement: Gen-
erations transformed by discovery outdoors.
Our goal is simple, said Lisa. We want to
get people outside and make sure they have
the best experience possible, whether they are
out there for a week long trip or for only an
Together, Holly and Lisa have expanded
the Alpine Shop name to four-locations, three
based in St. Louis and another in Illinois. The
agship store in Kirkwood, Mo. is 27,000 sq. ft.
with roughly 16,000 devoted to retail and the
remainder used as a warehouse space.
The inspiration for the Chestereld, Mo.
store came after the rst Sports Authority
moved to the area. At the time, Sports Author-
ity didn't have a ski department, so they con-
tracted various specialty retailers in the area to
do the buying and stafng.
When we did that, said Holly. We were
able to tap into a lower tier of the market,
which we hadn't done be-
fore, and it was good for
business. That realization
prompted the owners to
seek out a smaller piece of
real estate they could use
as a closeout store. How-
ever, that plan evolved into
just opening another shop
that carried more entry lev-
el product. This became the
Chestereld store, which is
roughly 5,000 sq. ft.
In that same year, a busi-
ness owner in Columbia,
Mo. reached out to the team at Alpine Shop to
see if they were interested in buying him out.
He evidently wasn't doing very well, and
it was very inexpensive, said Holly. We paid
him less than the value of his inventory.
The Columbia store is about 6,000 sq ft and
has the advantage of being close to a large
university. In March of last year, Alpine Shop
opened its newest store in O'Fallon, Ill., which
is 9,800 sq ft. and features a Trek bicycle
We've seen a handful of specialty shops in
the area come and go, but somehow we've
stayed in business, said Lisa. Ironically, I
think both of us have worked more than we
ever did in corporate America, but we love it.
Alpine Shop has continued to thrive for over
three decades, and the competition is strong.
There's a Dicks Sporting Goods, REI, Cabela's
and Gander Mountain Sports in close proxim-
ity to the stores, as well as multiple specialty
dealers and climbing gyms selling outdoor
The owners told us that after they pur-
chased the Columbia store it was at a nega-
tive $275,000 net worth before turning a prot
years later. The Alpine Shop stores have seen
their fair share of black and red, so Holly and
Lisa are constantly thinking of new ways to
stay relevant. Their team actually just struck
up a co-sponsorship deal with the city, to run
some clinics and events for the local O'Fallon
Opportunities like that are crucial, a yer
promoting the clinics will be sent to every
house and school in the area, said Holly.
Lisa, who has been buying for the stores
since they opened, explained that the growth
in women's apparel changed the business for
the better.
When I rst started, there were no Gore-
Tex products for women, she said. Now,
we sell more women's products than men's.
I think last year, we were 51 percent women's
and 49 percent men's.
However, the opening of popular chain
stores like LuLu Lemon and Athleta is putting
pressure on the store. Lisa has seen a steady
decline in yoga wear and is ready to get out
of the category all together. Those chains can
look like specialty stores because they are
smaller and in fancy malls, she said.
The other problem is competition online..
We asked the owners what they saw as the
biggest challenge in the industry currently, and
they both said, the internet, the internet and
the internet.
Like many retailers report, the problem isn't
just the the big online discounters, but often
the vendors themselves. They do big price
promotions online and then some of them open
up a agship store right down the street, said
Holly Now we're competing on both fronts.
Lisa told us that when the store perceived
Columbia was breaking its own pricing poli-
cies online, they tried to call them out, but it
had little effect. So, the store dropped them for
2013 and brought in Patagonia, a brand that
doesn't allow its products to be sold on Ama-
zon. Patagonia is now one of the shop's fastest
growing lines.
How do we stay alive? Making sure we
have the right mix, said Lisa. She explained
that while volume drivers are an important
part of the business, her strategy is to re-
serve roughly 5 percent of a store's inventory
for what she referred to as new, innovative,
crazy, expensive and wacky stuff.
Each store's personality is dened by that
ve percent, said Lisa. I'll buy crazy prints
and high-end stuff you just won't purchase
Each year, she goes to the AmericasMart
gift show in Atlanta to source non-traditional
items, like jewelry and ornaments. The store
also sells high-end outdoor apparel and ski-
wear ranging from $800-$1000. We can't
keep them in stock, Lisa told us.
This spring, the stores will introduce an ini-
tiative on how to prepare for a music festival,
which is a popular outdoor experience among
the younger crowd. Its directed at the cus-
tomer who might not have a huge interest in
the outdoors, but needs a backpack, hydration
products and camping equipment for that spe-
cic type of experience.
Its about showing customers how they
can use our products, instead of just shelving
them, she said.
According to Holly, what has saved Alpine
Shop on several occasions is having the right
employees, which became even more impor-
tant as the business matured. Rich Husky, the
retail manager has been with the company
since June 2009, and he currently oversees
Lisa Hollenbeck Russell "Holly" Hollenbeck
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the operations between each store. Rich gave
us some insight into how Alpine Shop stays or-
ganized and well staffed in four locations.
We have a labor budget for each store set
at about 10 percent of sales, Rich told us
The stafng uctuates by season. In the
smallest store (Chestereld), there's anywhere
from 5-9 employees, 6-11 for the mid sized
O'Fallon and Columbia stores, and then the
agship Kirkwood store can have between
30-50 employees. These are mostly part-time
positions with one salaried store manager and
hourly key holders. The largest location has
a store manager, a sales manager, a training
manager, a bike shop manager and a service
manager that are all salaried.
Rich explained that the age range of em-
ployees is extremely diverse and that in hiring
he is mostly looking for people
who are sociable and take an
interest in learning each aspect
of the business, especially with
events and new products. It
takes about 30 days to train
each person, and I can tell
immediately if someone just
wants a pay check, he said.
High turnover is one of the
bigger issues specialty retail-
ers face internally. A fun work
environment and open commu-
nication is the best approach,
according to Rich. I make sure the employees
know they can voice their concerns and that
they'll be both answered and heard, he said.
We asked Rich at what size a retailer needs
a general manager as opposed to just indi-
vidual store managers. He explained that it's
more a function of distance. We have stores
that are two-and-a-half hours a part, so having
someone overseeing each one lets the owners
stay really involved, said Rich.
For instance, if ski gear is struggling in one
store, but excelling in another, Rich can go in-
vestigate why and nd a solution because he
understands each location. Along with that, he
also helps coordinate a lot of the outreach with
events. While the stores are more cohesive in
their product mixthe core administrative
team does the buyingtheir autonomy is ex-
pressed with merchandising and events.
Alpine Shop has always been marketing
savvy with a heavy emphasis on events. The
stores collectively host over 250 clinics, events
and races each year with 4,700 unique regis-
trations last year.
Behind the marketing strategy is Tom Os-
wald, whose background is in sports market-
ing for athletic departments at universities. He
wound up at Alpine Shop after adventuring on
the West Coast and then returning to the St.
Louis are. He was looking for a whitewater
boat, when a job opportunity at Alpine Shop
opened up.
What's interesting with events, he told us,
is that when we started charging a registra-
tion fee for clinics that were previously free,
attendance and registration almost doubled.
Todd thinks its because if people are putting
down money, they are going to be more com-
When he came on board in 2001, the mar-
keting strategy was driven by TV, radio and lo-
cal print. Now the cost of TV advertising has
sky rocketed, and the local radio and newspa-
pers don't have the readership they used to.
Today, the way we reach new customers is
more fragmented than ever, Todd said.
The most consistent marketing tool has
been direct mail, which always has a high re-
turn. And then email is another big driver that
is great because the store can literally see the
spike in web trafc on Google Analytics. That
usually translates into brick and mortar visits,
he said.
Only in the last four or ve years has the
store been putting resources into review sites
like Yelp and Google Reviews. The idea is to
ensure that the online presence
maintains a reputation as the
experts in the are with the best
customer service.
The advent of the smart-
phone has changed the ap-
proach for a lot of businesses,
said Todd. When people are
constantly on their phone and
can get a local search from
wherever they are, I want to
make sure our store is one of
the rst to come up as an op-
To achieve this, Alpine Shop is a paying cus-
tomer for Yelp to make sure it can keep com-
petitors off of its pages and display video and
photos with better rankings. For us it's a very
cost effective move to get as many hits as pos-
sible while keeping costs down, said Todd.
The other digital tool that has proven useful
is Facebook. By now, most businesses have
discovered the value of social media, but there
is still a lot to learn in translating likes into
Todd told us he has seen very positive re-
sults with Facebook ads in the news feed, but
not with other options like sidebar ads and
boosted posts.
For example, the store has hosted a trail
run series for about three years, and it typi-
cally averages about 100-125 runners. Last
year after promoting the event with sponsored
Facebook posts, participation almost doubled.
The marketing team also made sure to have
a group of photographers covering the race,
so they could share a ton of photos. I think in
total we had something like 30,000 impres-
sions on Facebook over the few days follow-
ing the race, said Todd. People were tagging
photos of themselves, commenting, thanking
the store, etc.
The social media budget can range any-
where from $5 to $50, depending on if there
is a big promotion happening, and content-
wise the focus is always on products and
Currently Alpine Shop uses a registration
software for its events. The next progression
in marketing is to combine that information
with merchant processing data in a Customer
Relationship Management tool (CRM) like As-
cent, and then build a strategy from there.
With the Ascent platform, the store is try-
ing to identify its most valuable customers as
well as potential customers who may be event
registrants in the local area that haven't yet
made a purchase.
With that information we can design a spe-
cic promotion that would involve direct mail,
email, Facebook, etc. said Todd. In this day
and age, it's more about nding the narrower
customer that you just havent' reached yet, as
opposed to targeting vast numbers.
Right now the main goal is to get to a point
where after holding events and collecting
email information, the team can use the plat-
form to establish leads for customer purchas-
es and make contact within 24 hours. That's
where we need to be, said Todd.
Brenda Mohr, Lead Buyer
How did you get into buying?
I had the opportunity to work in the buying ofce
of an East Coast based chain and kind of got my
start buying there. And then my husband has been
in the Air Force, so we moved around a lot, and I
started working at a ski shop in Virginia when he was
stationed at Langley Air Force Base. When he got
transferred to St. Louis to y with the Missouri Guard,
I started working for the Alpine Shop in the fall of
1998. I helped open the Chestereld store when the
Alpine Shop was looking for management staff.
Was it a good winter in St. Louis?
We had a very cold, snowy winter, so we were able
to move quite a bit of our core product: gloves, hats, baselayers, winter footwear. So for
this season that has been the strongest for us in terms of pure sell-through.
What brands are doing well?
This year we had a very, very good year with Patagonia. We have a concept shop in our
main Kirkwood location. The brand seems to nally be hitting the Midwest in terms of
trend. They have some really strong volume driver styles that are at the right price.
Are there any buying trends you noticed this season?
I think we had a good year with luxury products. We carry a brand of skiwear called
Shoos that runs in the $800 to $1000 range for jackets. We couldn't keep them in stock.
We don't do a huge volume with it, but it just seemed that the luxury customer was
back in our stores this year.
Have any products surprised you?
Lisa and I went to the Gift Show in Atlanta., which exhibits everything from Christmas
ornaments to scarves and gift product. I think as a category that has been the biggest
surprise for meChristmas ornaments, jewelry, little interesting trinkets, etc.
What is on the mark down rack this year?
Because it was colder we did really well with insulated apparel, but soft shells seem to
be a little softer than normal, and I think it's that everybody was buying a coat.
How are you keeping the inventory fresh?
I think color is one of the best ways to do that, and the jewelry and scarves are also
very unique. Sometimes we go to the mall and look at stores like Anthropology or Urban
Outtters for inspiration in terms of the eclectic mix and presentation.
What is the biggest challenge in buying for the stores?
Well, I think for us the biggest challenge has been that we have four very different
stores in terms of size. It's making sure that we understand the customer in each
community and buying appropriately.
Are there any sales reps that you think are going the extra mile?
The one that stands out in our territory is a gentleman by the name of Tim Harwood.
He works with Adventure Sports Marketing based out of Chicago, and he represents
Eagle Creek, Princeton Tec, Steripen, Stanley and Suunto. Tim just has a really good
grasp of what retailers need in terms of support. We see him frequently, and he's always
on the road. He always supports our events. And I think he's always trying to help our
staff, whether it's sending links to helpful articles or educating us on the latest sales
2013, Alpine Shop, castlewood state park, trail run series
Marmot i one of the store leading apparell brands Store sizes range from 4,800 sq.ft. to 18,000 sq. ft., above the Chestereld location Merrell, Salomon, Keen and Chaco are Alpine Shop's leading footwear brands
Tom Oswald, marketing director