On the ascent W
hen you talk to outdoor retailers and industry peers it can sometimes be a challenge to get a handle on what exactly encompasses the term ‘outdoor’; whilst there is a strong consensus in favour of core activities like walking, trekking and camping, activities at the extreme end of the spectrum like climbing or mountaineering have the potential to divide opinion.
For outdoor retailers this in itself presents an interesting talking point; how important is the climbing market? And are they doing enough to capitalise on the sales opportunities it presents?
Research conducted by Sport England suggests that in the 12-month period up to January this year, an estimated 68,800 people in the UK were involved in some form of climbing or mountaineering. This should certainly pique the interest of retailers, especially when information from the BMC – British Mountaineering Council - is taken into account. At last estimate the BMC had a membership of 75,000, suggesting the actual number of climbers in the UK has the potential to be significantly larger than current research would indicate.
Paul Craven, UK sales manager for German brand Edelrid, said this poses a direct question of outdoor retailers. As climbing products can be more specialist and technical, requiring a different sales approach, do they have the skills and knowledge needed to close a climbing equipment sale?
He said: “It is quite different, as by their very nature climbing products are very technical; in fact certain elements such as ropes, harnesses and hardware are actually certified as safety equipment.
“That said there is a tacit in-built advantage to stocking climbing gear as climbing is a gear- driven sport. Part driven by innovation and part
Simon Brown discusses the importance of the climbing market to outdoor retailers, and how German brand Edelrid is working to leverage its position.
by the desire of participants to derive maximum performance, climbers on average spend a lot of money on gear. Knowledge is critical; a lot of what you’re dealing with is personal protective equipment, and staff and customers have to have a thorough understanding of the technicality, risks and implications of different gear and activities.”
Craven said suppliers and brands can do their part in educating the market. “I can only speak for Edelrid, but we are constantly looking for ways to help drive sell-through.
“For 2012 we have recognised an increasing need for training. We know that if our retailers are armed with the proper knowledge and enthusiasm then this gives everyone the best chance of success.”
This growth in training has gone hand-in-hand with a growth in brand recognition for Edelrid. It went through a brand refresh a few years ago and, although having been present in the UK market for nearly five decades, Craven says this has allowed the company to reach a new audience. “Presently we have a large number of climbers who are just discovering Edelrid for the first time. We went through a major rebrand a couple of years ago and that has done wonders for giving Edelrid a new drive and sense of purpose amongst everyone involved.
“The present positioning has Edelrid growing overall market share but maintaining something of an air of exclusivity. Edelrid is not over- exposed; we have a good base of national accounts and we work hard to develop that. “Compared to competitor products there is still a great deal of growth potential in the Edelrid brand as increasingly we’ve found that consumers are purchasing Edelrid because the proposition is totally fresh; it goes against the feeling of status
quo that has existed for a long time in the UK.” Craven said this provides retailers with an opportunity to work alongside Edelrid to develop this market, although he notes that it is careful about which retail partners it chooses to work with.
“We feel it is representative of a great opportunity. We are very careful in our retailer selection, as it is not in our interest to flood the market with products that dilute Edelrid’s competitive advantage and is unfair on retail partners as it makes sell-through much more of a challenge.
“By avoiding price-driven sales strategies but ensuring fair intake margins we aim to build lasting retailer relationships that benefit all of us.”
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