Retail Hot Topics: 8 Specialty retailers weigh in on Key Issues
What’s Working Now? What’s Not? And What’s Next?
Outdoor Retailers Share Insight on What They’ve Learned and Where They’re Headed as We Emerge from the Pandemic’s Wild Ride.

By Bob McGee and Cara Griffin

Each year in Outdoor Insight’s annual Great 8 issue we highlight eight different outdoor retailers — all great in their own way. Over the years we have had a variety of themes, and have focused in on the stories behind the stores.

This year, each of the stores we spoke to faced common challenges and succeeded in their own way. The Great 8 for 2021 talked to us about what’s working now, what’s not and what’s next. We believe they offer great insight on where the industry is headed. Read their stories above.

8 Hot Topics

In our conversations with the Great 8 retailers, some key issues popped up across the board. Here are some items of interest shared by the retailers.

It’s True, Participation Is Up. All of the data tells us more people went hiking, walking and car camping last year. Retailers assure us they’ve seen it, too.

Supply Chain Issues Are Real… and Enormous. Every single retailer we spoke to told us that they are seeing strong consumer demand, but that getting their hands on products — from footwear to tents and kayaks — is very difficult. Vendors just can’t fulfill a lot of the orders.

Employment Challenges. From minimum wage pressures to a lack of qualified applicants, a few retailers told us employing qualified staff was an issue for them.

Employee Appreciation. Several retailers told us that the way their staff stepped up this past year with dedication and innovative ideas was the best silver lining of the pandemic.

The Return of Travel. With consumers getting back to more frequent vacationing and travel, outdoor retailers anticipate an uptick in apparel and gear in the travel category.

Brand Shuffle. The past year-plus of pandemic impacted business has seen many retailers reshuffle their brand offerings slightly. Those who can fill orders in the in-demand categories right now are rising to the top.

The DTC Evolution. Brands and retailers alike have faced their own unique challenges in surviving a wild year-plus of uncertainty. How brands intend to balance DTC and retail partnerships going forward is a hot topic of conversation.

E-comm Rising. Whether it’s partnering with Locally or just ramping up curbside or local delivery, retailers who may have shied away from operating an online business in the past have become more fluent in the e-comm language this past year.