Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Retail Eulogy

Most outdoors enthusiasts have a favourite shop. That place where you can browse around even when you don't actually need anything. Where the staff know their products and back them up. Where they choose what to stock based on what they would want to use, not what provides the biggest profit margin. The place where you never make a bad purchase, but maybe one or two unnecessary ones!

In Wellington, Mainly Tramping played that part for many ardent campers and kayakers for 23 years. It was a family-run shop that carried a few trustworthy brands, and gave out a lot of excellent advice. They experimented with expansion, opening a store in Wanaka on the South Island, and a second location in Wellington. Perhaps that was their downfall in the end. For Mainly Tramping closed their doors last month.

The outdoors industry is increasingly competitive. There are more manufacturers and retailers trying to get a slice of the pie. Many chains are getting more 'vertically integrated' by selling their own lines of clothing, packs and other gear. Manufacturing has increasingly moved to China and other cheap labour markets.

Mainly Tramping's main store was located in a hub of outdoor retailers in central Wellington. Within one block there were 5 other outdoor gear shops. Add a couple more blocks and there were 7. How they all survived together for as long as they did is something of a mystery. Someone had to lose, and the first to go was Mainly Tramping. Who will follow next? Most of the other retailers are part of larger chains, which are more resilient to a slow season or an unpopular line of gear.

So I wanted to mark the passing of a local, high-quality retailer. They are fewer and fewer these days, especially the family-run shops. The world will be a poorer place when big-box chains are the only option. So long and thanks for the boots!

1 comment:

Blogger said...

eToro is the ultimate forex broker for rookie and professional traders.