50: What the Big Acronym (REI) is Up To, with Wes Allen

“In the last four or five years, [REI has] really been focused on having the brands, and having new product first.”

– Wes Allen

EPISODE PREVIEW:

Today, we get to sit down once again with Wes Allen, the Outdoor Industry Correspondent for Channel Mastery  and the former President of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. Wes is also the principle of Sunlight Sports, a premium specialty retailer and member of Grassroots. His iconic store is located just outside of Yellowstone National Park in Cody, Wyo. 

Wes and his team brought home the coveted Retailer of the Year award from Grassroots. In this episode, he shares the top takeaways from the Grassroots Connect buying show, which took place in Knoxville, Tenn., June 14-17, 2018.

The Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is a community of 65 independent, specialty outdoor retailers who together are a collaborative team and community, and influencers in the industry. Wes is also the principle of Sunlight Sports, a premium specialty retailer and member of Grassroots, located just outside of Yellowstone National Park in Cody, Wyo.

After 18 months of grappling with new best practices and relationship struggles between brands and the retailers comprising Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, the waters seem to be calmer. But there were still a lot of challenges that surfaced in the three-day event, and the many conversations that occurred during the gathering. Namely, some challenging pricing demands on premium brands within outdoor by a certain 800-pound gorilla, Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI)

GUEST PROFILES:

WES ALLEN

Wes Allen is an outdoor industry professional with a wide range of experiences. He has served as president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, was the outdoor business representative for the Wyoming Governor’s Task Force on Outdoor Recreation Economy, and was the national sales manager for Chaco. Currently, he’s is a principal with Sunlight Sports, in Cody, Wyoming, leading marketing, buying and community engagement for the specialty retailer. Wes also is a brand-building consultant through Tilt/Shift Brands.

Wes’ guiding force is his total focus Sunlight Sports’ ability to do good in its community – for its employees and its family.

TOPICS COVERED:

Outdoor active lifestyle, REI, Airstream/pop-up retail, Moosejaw and Walmart, and the runway leading into Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, 2018

SELECT QUOTES

“In the last four or five years, [REI has] really been focused on having the brands, and having new product first.”

“I’m not sure that [dropping prices] does serve brands in the context of lifetime customer value or building brand equity – or even serve REI all that well.”

“It’s not a new concept; it’s not a new part of the cycle for industries to go through. What’s new is the environment it’s happening in.”

“There’s a whole group of retailers out there that would love to see the opportunities in the higher end of the market open up, and they will or would support your brand.”

It might behoove people to really think about high-end specialty segmentation versus big box outdoor chain segmentation. That’s going to be a really hard conversation to have.”

“I‘m not going to blame specialty brick and mortar retailer – who’s spent years building up a market – for losing their mind if they have to compete on their brands with Moosejaw sitting out in the Walmart parking lot.”

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