12: Rich Hill of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance: How to Elevates Wholesale Success Through Multichannel Expansion

“Consumers know when you’re trying to manipulate them to purchase from you and not their local trusted retailer. It pisses them off.”

– Rich Hill


As the president of Grassroots, Rich now has 65 bosses, all with unique needs.  And he LOVES it. First and foremost, he deeply cares about this intrepid group of retailers, many of whom he’s worked with for decades. But he also has a treasure trove of information and data (available, surveyed and built) that he can put to work for the success of the entire outdoor industry. In this episode, we begin with the premise that what we’re chasing is customer loyalty. To earn that rarest and most cherished of gifts, brands and retailers need to work together to see it through a consumer’s perspective.

Rich doesn’t pull any punches on how to do this, and the answer lies in the interplay and inter-reliance of all channels. His observations are backed by decades of experience in all facets of the industry, by his hands-on experience in varied channel development, and by data he’s collecting. This is a must listen episode for understanding the BIG picture and the CRUCIAL details of how to move forward.


rich hill

Rich Hill is President of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, a national network of independent retailers working together for the health and growth of specialty outdoor retail.  Hill is a self-described “product of the outdoor industry,” blending a family passion for outdoor experiences with a lengthy career of distinct roles at each level of the retail supply chain. Hill’s career as an executive and entrepreneur began in specialty retail at Adventure’s Edge in Arcata, Calif. This led to entry level roles as a thread trimmer, shipper, and customer service rep at Kokatat Paddlesports. Hill’s diverse experiences in sales and operations led him to vice president roles at PrAna (2008-2012), Patagonia (2001-2006) and Marmot (1988-2000), as well as stints as president of Ibex apparel (2006-2007) and founder of the car camping brand, TICLA (2012-2013).


the interplay and inter-reliance of multi-channels, transactional values of different channels, how an emotional connection to brand amplifies the importance of strategic choices, data-backed vendor report cards, DTC behavior, brands following the same policies as retailers, coordinating opportunities, building and learning from loyalists (repeat customers), the ultimate value of flagship stores,


“When you look at channels through (a single) lens, I think it distorts reality no matter what lens it is. The only lens that you want to wear is you’ve got to take it from a consumer perspective. Every channel has a benefit and every channel leads. When you look at the consumer and the choices of the end user, it’s all based on building loyalty.”

“If that is your focus – long-term customer loyalty – a lot of this channel discussion falls away because you realize that harmonious channel behavior from a brand leads to loyalty and it breaks down the barriers.”

“I call it channel agnostic, when brands and strategies are like, ‘We’re going to put forward the most amazing product we can and we’re going to put forward a harmonious channel strategy to give our customers the best possible, diverse experience of purchase.’”

“We cannot do something in our direct channel and not have it be fully understood by our wholesale partners.”

“Consumers know when you’re trying to manipulate them to purchase from you and not their local trusted retailer. It pisses them off.”

(On why focusing only on gross margins of DTC is a flawed foundation) “Customer acquisition cost, return rates, and marketing expenses are way higher than everybody expected them to be when they go into these strategies.”

“You only need to make ten phone calls (with your most loyal customers). That’s it. And you will learn more and you will realize their behaviors are interacting across all channels of your business.”

“85% of your loyalists shop in all of your channels.”

“What do we need to do to have a successful multi-channel business? The unfortunate answer is everything.”

“What percentage of your direct business is at full price? It’s the elephant in the room and it’s never asked. But without that information, I can’t tell you if I celebrate your success or if I think you’re on a path to destruction.”


Grassroots Outdoor Alliance: https://www.grassrootsoutdoors.com/

Compass and Nail (A Loyalty Architecture Company): https://www.compassandnail.com

Connect with Rich on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rich-hill-4bb4833


GRASSROOTS OUTDOOR ALLIANCE:  Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is an active, independent network of 64 independent retailers working together for the health and growth of specialty outdoor retail. Through data collection and analysis, direct member support, specialty events and deep vendor partnerships, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is creating both a vision and roadmap for the long-term success of independent specialty retail. Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is also recognized as a catalyst for the success of its retailers and vendor partners; an advocate for specialty independent retail; a promoter of education and community within the specialty channel; and a key influencer of the national outdoor industry. For more information on Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, please go to http://www.grassrootsoutdoors.com.

GRASSROOTS CONNECT: Grassroots Connect is an ideally timed, invitation-only buying show for the specialty outdoor industry hosted by Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. Scheduled as early as possible in the buying cycle, Connect provides a highly efficient opportunity for retailers, reps and vendors to present, discuss, plan and collect pre-season orders. Cost-effective and simple, Connect is both an incubator and testing ground for the greater outdoor industry. Invited retailers receive a per attendee reimbursement to offset their travel costs. Future confirmed dates include Knoxville, Tennessee (Nov. 7-10, 2017, and June 12-16, 2018). To request a retailer or vendor invitation, please go to http://www.grassrootsconnect.net/request-invitation

Have questions or ideas for Kristin and the Channel Mastery podcast? Email: [email protected]

Like what you hear? Or maybe you don’t?
Help us deliver exactly what you need from Channel Mastery by writing an iTunes review at: