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Outdoor Equipment Supplier

North Americans have started spending more time outside, experiencing nature while they stay fit. And outdoor equipment suppliers are more than happy to provide them with the necessary gear.

Hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, rock climbing and mountain biking are all sports that require special equipment. As consumers look for ways to spend their money on outdoor activities, outdoor equipment suppliers have a growing market.

Paul Bagley started an online retail site for outdoor supplies and equipment. "I ran across a unique product that I liked and I was very interested in the Internet," he says. "I started small and expanded from there."

Bagley enjoys outdoor activities and likes working in the outdoor industry. "It's been fun. I like the industry, so it's intriguing to see new trends develop."

Start-up costs mainly involved finding a hosting company to get the business running on the Internet.

"I started with about $2,000 worth of inventory," says Bagley. "I had a realistic approach of slow and steady growth with a reasonable budget."

His business has experienced around 20 percent growth each year.

Bagley has noticed there are pros and cons to selling on the web. "The advantage of the Internet is that it gives the rural person access to a selection that you couldn't get unless you live in a major metropolitan area," he says.

However, he also says that certain products don't sell well online. "Some things you have to try on, touch or feel."

Bagley is confident that his business and other online retailers will continue to have success. "I think [the outdoor industry] has a good future. Based on my own experience, I think there's a lot of room for growth and room for independents to survive and flourish."

The traditional retail stores are still very much open for business.

Domenic Saverino runs a traditional outdoor equipment store. He says that for his company, it is still more profitable to sell in-person directly to customers. The store has been in business for over 54 years and is still growing.

"We have $1.5 million in inventory. We recently put a $1-million renovation into our building," says Saverino.

Start-up costs will naturally vary from store to store. But inventory, office and warehouse space, as well as staff, are some of the key components to getting started.

Saverino's advice to people interested in opening an outdoor supply store is to market specific products.

"Do not try to be everything to everyone," he says. "Study your market area. Consumers are very well informed, so you have to be knowledgeable."

He also says that if you are interested in the outdoor supply industry, you need to be customer-oriented.

"You have to enjoy dealing with all types of people. You also have to have a keen sense of what people will want and what items to stock. What you like may not necessarily be what is going to sell."

This is a great job for people who love to spend time with Mother Nature. "We are all avid outdoor enthusiasts. It's like the 'kid in a candy store' mentality," says Saverino about his staff.

"We all keep up with the latest innovations in our industry. We are service based, so we have to know what we are talking about."

The increasing number of people participating in outdoor activities as part of their lifestyles as well as their vacations has helped the outdoor industry market unfold. Campers are a large source of business for the outdoor industry. But weekend outdoor sports are still growing.

Chad Sorenson is an account executive for a company that hosts trade shows for all kinds of outdoor industry professionals.

Sorenson says that the outdoor supply industry is looking good. "I definitely see opportunity for growth."

But you need to know your market. Talk to people already operating similar businesses.

And if your business has a shop in addition to or instead of a website, having the right gear for your region and being strategically located are also important.

Sorenson says that starting out with less competition is better. "If possible, find a town that doesn't already have an outdoor store."

"A store's location should also be in an area that attracts wilderness adventure seekers, because customers will be both local residents and tourists."

As more activities and holidays take place outside, more and more outdoor supply retailers will be able to operate stable businesses online or on the ground.


Outdoor Industry Association
An organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the human-powered outdoor recreation industry

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