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Seven a.m. came three hours too early. I did my best to rally, though, and slipped into the Outdoor Retailer Industry breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Shhhh. The event kicked off the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011 trade show Aug. 3-7 in Salt Lake City, where manufacturers displayed next year’s gear for retail buyers.

The Western Adventure Goes Soft and Rugged

Seven a.m. came three hours too early. I did my best to rally, though, and slipped into the Outdoor Retailer Industry breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Shhhh.

The event kicked off the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011 trade show Aug. 3-7 in Salt Lake City, where manufacturers displayed next year’s gear for retail buyers.

I’m so stoked that I didn’t blow it off. Marian Salzman from Trendspotting gave quite the lecture on the state of Americans and how the outdoor industry can get their attention.

She’s one of the top trend forecasters in the country, so when she speaks, ears perk up. She told retailers they need to market to the inactivity of America, or what she calls the Beached White Male (BMW). She said they (we) need to show them how to get outdoors . . . Outdoors for Dummies.

Next year, the outdoor retailers’ marketing target could be the “Beached White Male.” Photo by Jill Adler.

Next year, the outdoor retailers’ marketing target could be the “Beached White Male.” Photo by Jill Adler.

Consumers don’t want to be hardcore extremists. They want soft, rugged adventures, where they can play safely outside. This is the pilates and yoga crowd as well as the angry white man who sits at a desk 24/7 pushing pixels.

We all know guys like that. They feel disappointed and disenfranchised by all the broken promises in politics, business, the economy. We can give them a place to go and something to do on a Saturday. Show them the way, Grasshoppers.

Another cool thing she said is that “outdoors” does not mean “cut off”. No longer are people looking for some great escape, where they can unplug from the world.

We want to connect even in the outdoors, so you’ll see a whole lot more products in the marketplace next year and beyond, addressing connectivity: GPS watches, solar chargers for iPhones and MP3s, websites like FB for outdoorsy folk, etc.

Look for even more gadgets in the near future to aid connectivity while outdoors. Photo by Jill Adler.

Look for even more gadgets in the near future to aid connectivity while outdoors. Photo by Jill Adler.

And here was my favorite point: “No answer” means a missed opportunity. When someone calls you for something, YOU CALL THEM BACK.

It’s too easy now for them to call someone else or go somewhere else if you don’t respond. You want to keep customers (and friends), you return phone calls, you put contact information in easy-to-find places or your website, and you respond promptly when you get a question.

Finally, she said expensive things have lost their chic. It’s about having the highest functional product, not the most expensive.

We aren’t going to spend more than we need to. You will see an explosion in “gritty chic” over the next few years, where functionality is fashionable and stuff lasts more than a season.

That’s good news for Cordura. They announced at the show that they are going beyond backpacks and luggage and will make tough but comfortable apparel fabrics.

Already Timberland, Wrangler, and Levi’s are using the Cordura denim, which makes jeans last four times longer. Now they’ve got fabrics for all types of outdoor clothing.

Jill Adler is a full-time freelancer and broadcaster. To find more of her work, visit her website.

About Jill Adler

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