Natick Outdoor Store
Months shy of its 75th anniversary year, this one-time wholesaler of surplus military camping and outdoor supplies that had three locations at one time, is seeing new outdoor participants and new customers help propel its business forward. Located 25 miles west of Boston in downtown Natick Center, the Natick Outdoor Store occupies a 20,000-sq. ft. former grocery store, a space it has been in since 1978. The business, which utilizes 25 percent of its location for warehouse and office space, is owned by principal Henry Kanner.
Natick Outdoor Store has seen a new customer base coming in, eager to buy products for their newfound outdoor activities. But obtaining inventory, not new consumers is a concern.
“Customers are back shopping and activities are picking up, but inventory has become a huge issue” Greg Stabile, buyer for Natick Outdoor Store, tells us. “We are having trouble getting products for multiple categories, especially kayaks and canoes.”
Stabile is optimistic about a growing customer and participation base. “We are hoping that a lot more people who got introduced to outdoor activities last summer, like camping and fishing, will turn those into lifelong hobbies,” he says. “If a one-year blip turns into a whole new customer base, we are well positioned to see growth.”
Over the past year, the shop worked on revamping its website and has done more online business as well as implementing curbside pick-up options that Stabile says are “here to stay.”
“We have positive relationships with our vendors and customers that helped us through a really tough time.”
Overall sales were positive for the store, says Stabile, noting that watersports, fishing and hunting all had banner years. Clothing, shoes and team sports all had big struggles, he says.
Stabile says the importance of relationships over this past year has been more evident than ever. “We have positive relationships with our vendors and customers that helped us through a really tough time,” he says.
Of the store’s vendor relationships, he notes, “The biggest strain on any relationship with vendors is due to inventory shortages. Vendors don’t always have clarity on when product will arrive which makes things had to manage on our end. We know that this isn’t in any way bad faith. We do our best to work with vendors to figure things out. We haven’t really changed our mix of brands. We certainly pumped more money into some brands like Old Town and Wilderness because they are selling so well.”
Going forward, Stabile highlights product availability as a key issue. “Getting product in is a challenge,” he says. “We are looking at multiple categories being down over last year because we don’t have anything to sell. We have had long-term stock outages in big categories that do not show signs of alleviating any time soon.”