Pack Rat Outdoor Center: The Secrets to Success
The Northwest Arkansas region where Pack Rat Outdoor Center is located has such an abundance of natural resources that the once under the radar scene is becoming more and more of an outdoor destination. When it comes to outdoor retail, the secret is already out about Pack Rat Outdoor Center. The Fayetteville, AR-based shop is known not only for its great merch and knowledgable staff, but also for its robust event schedule, a commitment to its community, elevated sustainability efforts and much more.
“We want to be a resource. Obviously we need to sell stuff to stay in business,” store manager Chally Sims says of the store’s philosophy, “but we work really hard to be a hub for the community.”
The store runs several major events throughout the year and generally hosts at least one smaller event per week — on Wednesday nights — it could be a clinic for anything from paddling to backpacking to bushcraft. “Most of what we offer is free education,” says Sims. “All that our community members have to do is call and register and let us know they want to be a part of it.”
The retailer also hosts Pint Nights with vendor partner contributions. The Pint Nights are focused on fundraising for local non-profits.
Another big event Pack Rat hosts is the Brewha Bushwhack and Boondoggle, which is a race of sorts, but not a race in the traditional sense. Teams use items such as a bush knife, compass, para-cord, duct tape and a fire steel to complete challenges as they navigate the course. It is not a beat-down obstacle race. While there are physical challenges, the goal is to push the limit of the teams’ diversity of skills and what can be accomplished together. The key tool is the brain, and the best asset is teamwork. The Boondoggle aspect of this event includes clinics, product demos, games and giveaways going on from vendor partners such as The North Face, MSR, Sea to Summit, ENO and Grand Trunk Hammocks, Hults Bruk Axes, Hydro Flask and Klean Kanteen, Big Agnes and others. It also includes, beer, barbeque and live music.
The store has a dedicated staffer to handle events — Libby Young, the community events coordinator.
Pack Rat also hosts a Rugrat Adventure Day for kids, as well as the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and a rock climbing event, Climber’s Rendezvous, that includes clinics, demos, presentations, raffles and more.
Of the events, Sims says, “We create relationships, that’s the best part. Relationships and word of mouth — those are the best ways to build your business authentically. You can not put a dollar amount on it.”
As far as the merch mix in the store, backpacking and hiking products top the list, and paddlesports and climbing are also key categories. “The natural resources here are amazing,” says Sims, admitting half-jokingly that sometimes she wouldn’t mind keeping it a secret so it doesn’t get too popular. “A lot of people do not realize the quality of rock we have here. It’s mostly single pitch, but we have a lot of bouldering. And it is beautiful, the settings are amazing.”
Sustainability is taken seriously at the store, thanks in part to the dedication of Faebyan Whittle, a staffer who was originally hired as a sales associate, but whose passion for eco-consciousness has helped the store evolve its sustainability efforts and seen her grow into a role leading the store’s sustainability initiatives. The store realized it could do a better job with waste reduction and recycling and now upwards of 85 percent of its waste is diverted from going to a landfill. The efforts have led to other businesses in the area following Pack Rat’s lead and have helped create new relationships with surrounding businesses, says Sims.