It’s been dilemma time again. Outdoor at Friedrichshafen is on and I’m not going. Again.
I’ve spent the past few weeks fielding invitations for meetings and functions and I’ve had to make my excuses and decline.
I’m busy with work, and I have to be honest, as much fun as it might be, spending the money on the trip just doesn’t make sense. A lot of the product launches that would interest me are of stuff that’s been known in the trade for months and this is just the “allowed to talk about it” point, the few real secrets will be available to see in the UK in a couple of weeks and anything else interesting doesn’t have a UK distributor.
But there’s a wealth of stuff could do with getting picked up for the UK and you just have to hope that the right distributorial (?) people see it and are in the right frame of mind to see the possibilities.

The quality of gear we get here really does hang by a thread. I was looking over some very expensive market research on UK outdoor retail and it occurs to me the whole thing was a waste of time. All it is, is a report card on how well the products specified by chain-store buyers have performed. Did they fly off the shelves or end up in a sale? The influence these reports exert is frightening and the already limited imagination of the store buyers is reduced further when they see the results and then what you get is the extreme dullness of product and colour choice now available.
The manufacturers make samples of wonderful kit in a rainbow of colours and it never makes the UK stores. But imaginations dominated by dog-walking kit in dull colours, reading reports that enforce that point of view make sure that only Europeans get it. It’s an infinite, self-perpetuating circle of despair.

What I propose is that everybody gets the manufacturers workbooks for the coming season and pre-orders the styles and colours of their choice through the retailer of their choice.
Let’s see what the buying habits are when folk are given real choice…

40 thoughts on “Outdoor”

  1. Well said that man!!

    I have no doubt that the outdoor industry would listen to what the buyers want more if it wasn’t for the bulk buying of mediocre kit.

    Just don’t get me started on the wummins specific stuff though……………..

  2. Same thing, stores won’t order it because they haven’t stocked it to get market research on it to see if it sells… then the manufacturers give up and stop making samples.

  3. Yes I remeber my email discussion with Montane over whether they would do Terra zip offs in wummin specific and was told there was no market!!

    That then leaves TNF with the monopoly in the shops for zip offs hence putting their sales up and skewing the research data

  4. I agree, choice of womens stuff ain’t that great! (lets start a campaign!! :o) ) But there are a few nice wee bits out there.
    Went searchig for shorts at the weekend and only came across TNF ones in beige – yuck! Took delivery of a nice pair of black Montane Terra Stretch ones yesterday… (and of course this now means it’s going to rain from now until winter!) we’ll see how they go.

  5. I’d be happy if it rained, I’ve had enough of the hotness!

    Oh, apart from Glen Affric, I really need clear skies… for this fourth attempt…

  6. Yeh sometimes ignorance is bliss and the old addage of what you don’t know about you won’t miss!!

  7. well said!!

    i had the same discussion with montane about ladies terra zip offs for our lass but again they said there is no market.

    in the end she ended up with a pair of rohan ones and a pair of TNF ones (funnily enough)

    i mainly have a problem with shoes, i know i’ve mentioned it on here a few times now, more manufacturers are making big sizes but shops/distributers dont want to sell them or bring them into the uk and that really winds me up.

  8. I do find it frustrating that some companies are happy playing the safe option of only making/buying what they know will sell rather than being innovative and making/buying functional good looking kit.

    I know ATM with the recession etc that times are very hard for a lot of gear companies and independant retailers but there are people still wanting to buy kit though most of us wont as we don’t want to settle for something that doesn’t quite do the job.

    Aye let me loose with a few designers and distributers!!

  9. Ooh, I quite fancy participating in a mass tantrum! :))

    Which branch of Cotswold did you have in mind?

    (Maybe we could hit multiple branches simultaneously…. in a Torchwood-esque stylee ;O)

  10. As the Cotswold in the Cotswolds is my local store (at least geographically) I do have to say they have always got hold of any weird items I’ve ordered (at a price!).

    I’d still happily join in though, but can it wait until I’m allowed out…

    …swine flu isn’t the best of fun!!

  11. Wummin’s colours… bought a harness today. The bloke in Up & Under offered me a thing called ‘Primrose’ to begin with. He did apologise at both its name and its girly colour, then admitted that the girly coloured harnesses were the most popular with girlies. Though he did confess that quite a few male climbers insisted on buying rock shoes that matched their harnesses. I ended up with an orange harness, and a PURPLE belay device :-)

  12. New kit is nice for sure. New places and hills to walk up is better. I wish we had more postings on walks and trips done than kit and especially stoves on outdoor blogs. Then we all like kit. Your point is good.

    Moving on I got Trail in the post yesterday and your in it a lot. Well done that man. I see the tent Lightwave make did OK with the other chap who’s name I forgot. You had a bad time in the snow if I recall with it. He got on well with it. Any other thoughts on it?. I like the look of that large porch. Don’t forget to make time for family and walking during all that work.

  13. I think we shouild go to the one in Keswick, it’s asking for it.

    More-On, you got swine-fever? Good grief man. Chocolate buttons and re-runs of The Prisoner on ITV3 (or 4?) twice daily and you’ll be fine.

    Kate, if a man offered me “Primrose” I don’t know what my reaction would be. So, is there some ropework in the offing?

    Martin, you’ve hit another of my dilemmas head-on: The world of kit test and review.
    As long as I’m throwing test kit in my pack or pulling it on when I’m heading to the hills with it I’m very happy, if I start fannying about at home and in the garden with kit, I want one of you guys to come and smack in the head.

    I’m busy, but I’ve been making time. I’ve been hanging out with the girls, Phil and I squeezed in that run up Ben Lomond and I managed lunch with pals yesterday. It’s all good.

    I haven’t got my Trail yet, I’ll see what the score is with the Lightwave soon enough. Memory tells me that it was well made with a great big porch and was like balloon on a string in the wind!

  14. Have recently started going to the climbing wall with the SARDA guys (the human members, not the dogs), and have just signed up for my Intro to Climbing course, so thought I’d buy some kit rather than hire it every time at the centre. Haven’t done any climbing since I left school in ’83! But it means that if we get another day like that one at Kinlochleven last year (god forbit!) I won’t have to warm benches all day at the Ice Factor!

  15. PTC*, Chunky Kit Kats, the Tour de France and the Ashes have just about got me (and my wife) back on my (our) feet – it’s worrying about my little ones that keeps me awake! Anyway, the youngest has had it and appears OK, just waiting on his big sister.

    PTC*/Moggy, assuming I have recovered I was planning to walk the Old County Tops in August. I’ll be in Keswick on the afternoon of Saturday 8 August – do we all wear flowers in our button holes?!

    Kate, I’m please to see I’m not the only one returning to climbing! I haven’t quite got round to booking a course, but with a trip to the Alps planned for September I had better hurry I think! Hope it goes well – I was unable to move my arms for a day or so when I went on a climbing wall for only 15 minutes a few months ago!!

    PTC*/Martin, I’m saying nothing about my Lightwave until I’ve tried my additional pegging points out in a strong wind ;-)

  16. Good luck with the swine flu More-On and hope that you recover enough for your Lakes trip

    I’m off to Italy tomorrow where I have been assured there will be opportunity for gear fondling so will report back on what the shopping experience is like.

  17. You definitely have a point there moggy. Now if I could only make it as far as the wardrobe I would look something out :-(

  18. “PTC*/Martin, I’m saying nothing about my Lightwave until I’ve tried my additional pegging points out in a strong wind ;-)”

    More-on spill the beans there. Is it good? Did PTC have a one off bad hair day with his test model :). Do the Velcro straps used to hold the inner to the outer tent make the difference? It looks such a good tent. The chap in Trail (still cant remember his name)Liked it and said in high winds it was good.

  19. So the shops don’t stock it, their loss welcome to internet shopping :o) Plenty of good online retailers will take your money and send you the goods! The only way to get Millet over here for example.

  20. Or your friendly independent of course :)

    Tempting as it is picket the high street stores with placards like ‘let rugged Q’s live’ its probably a bit futile. We’re just not their target market.

    Interesting interview with the Black’s boss in the Guardian today – “a lot of people just want a nice looking waterproof jacket, not a technical sale”. Commendably honest I suppose.

    Mind you he is also apparently encouraging TNF/Berghaus to produce more tailored designs (not hard!) in brighter colours. So maybe not all bad :)

  21. I’d like to say that my climbing hraness is both purple and seems to be designed for someone slimmer…

    More-On, wellness upon you!

    Lighwave, I’ve skimmed the bit about it (Simon Ingram), it’s the luck of the draw. I did get a diagram with it showing me how to pitch it into the wind direction, however the wind went sideways in the 3am blizzard. I shan’t forget it…
    I’ve got the regular wee-porch version here, I’ll try it again and update my point of reference.

    The shopping points? Aye, things are they way they are because that’s the way they are. Blacks has been losing money for years, ten or more years ago they sold technical kit and were expanding…

    Bless the independants!

  22. Bless you sir.

    Things are looking up though – I’ve made it down stairs!

    Do let me know how you get on with the ‘normal’ Lightwave i.e. non Hindenburg version.

    Martin – all I can say is that I really like mine, but as PTC* discovered the one time a year you get hit broadside on by a significant wind you’ll know all about it. It won’t take off, but you won’t get any sleep. The velcro works and makes it pitch at once. The problem is the lack of pegging points at the pole ends in ‘production mode’ – I’ve added some and hope it stops it behaving like a lilo in a bad swell when the wind comes at you sideways. Other than that it is a cracking tent. If the wind hits the back straight in it’s rock solid. I keep looking at others but cannot foresake the space of the T0.

  23. i heard a rumour that tog 24 shops were set to start selling berghaus and tnf gear – not sure if its true or not but seems like a strange move to me.

    you can’t beat independent shops for most stuff especially product knowledge, im not saying it applies to all of them as there are some useless ones out there but they generally know enough about the products they sell in order to give you valued advice ;o)

  24. Downstairs? Good lad!

    Moggy, you never know. One major chain store has dropped Berghaus and another is reducing the profile of TNF and Berghaus and pumping the likes of ME and Haglofs.

    I’m less likely to get into an ignorance-fueled argument in an independant shop :o)

  25. Oh, wow. Seriously, don’t get me started. I had a massive argument about this sort of stuff with a chap from TNF a while back, sitting in the pub in Nant Peris. I castigated his company for producing crap like the Downpour jacket, the boxiest, heaviest, ugliest, shittiest Pro Shell ever made – a really blatant attempt to take the Old British Traditional Hillwalking Market away from Berghaus. Designed in collaboration with Brighams, to my shame.

    His response was, predictably, “but that’s the market for it”…didn’t get much further: my response was “But you are TNF! You’re the biggest! You have so much market influence! You could rip off the Haglofs Spitz (a young, fun jacket), market it as your old people jacket – and they’d all buy it! And the rest of the market would have to change! Imagine how cool that would be!”

    Didn’t really get a response. TNF are a particularly frustrating, as they do do some quite nice innovative kit buried in with the tripe – unlike Berghaus, who just look like total shit to me right now. IMO the Berghaus bubble has already burst, and the TNF one is just about to pop. This is really going to hit Blacks hard. Last year they apparently made a profit of 300k from 150 stores. Poor devils, that’s just not worth the candle, is it?

    Brighams, where I work, isn’t exposed at all to a Berghaus bubble going pop, but they will be hit badly by a decline in TNF sales. As the scores of unsold TNF Paclites and Hyvent jackets sitting on the rails of my store is testament too (Haglofs have sold quite nicely this summer for me, though. Despite the Budgie Green. And Marmot, another company doing some lovely kit right now). I suspect we’ll be forced to cut down on TNF stock pretty rapidly. Certainly hope so. Looking at an REI store recently in Boston, I was struck by how well they had diversified their lower price-point stuff: it was well spread out between marmot, Patagonia, TNF, and their own brand kit, with MH and Arc’teryx being the higher end.

    Ah, EB. Some such beautiful kit (even if sometimes a little overpriced). Some such utter trash. Ah well. I find it very easy to sell the good stuff, and the shit sits unsold. My own little private protest.

  26. Good stuff :o)

    The EB in Glasgow (my local) has got some great kit. Outside of Fooprints the city centre independant it’s the only shop in Glasgow I could happily kit myself out from head to toe. Staff can make or break a shop as well, especially for opinionated moany old sods like me :o)

    I must admit I like what’s happeneing to Berghaus, the utter arrogance of that Big Wall range, all the hype and promotion and folk still saw right through it.
    It also annoys the hello out of me that they’ve currently got a t-shirt out ther with a windswept looking Chis Bonington on it. Well the irony is that the photie they’ve based the design on was taken on a Karrimor sponsored 70’s expedition.

    But then again, Berghaus and TNF, what are they these days? Logos attached to Pentland and VF products. I wonder what we’d be seeing from them if they were still going as smaller independants?

  27. I have to be careful what I say here because they’re watching me but my local “independent” is a constant source of disappointment these days. It’s all Berghaus, Columbia and TNF with the occasional bit of Haglofs, Montane and Rab if you dig thru’ the racks.

    I couldnae even get something as basic as seam sealant for my Tarpotronic last time I was in.

    They’ll order stuff if I know what I’m looking for but I could do that myself.

    It’s all a bit pish really.

  28. Its funny when you consider the product ranges of the older bigger companies there are maybe a couple, at best, of their products you would consider using. When you look at say Haglofs, ME or Lowe their a loads you would consider. I think that its all about sales targets now and if they sell their gear to anyone fair enough, but their ranges are mostly aimed at fashionistas and not who they were originally producing kit for years ago i.e outdoorsy types. With rumours gear prices are going up by 30% then that will result in even more knit picking purchases by the savvy few.

  29. Brigham does seem intent on cutting his own throat. I’m a great believer in supporting local gear stores where you can see what you’re buying but every time I visit EB I end up wishing I’d not bothered.
    Last week I was in Manchester after a Golite item, newly featured in their catalogue. I needed to get my hands on it sufficiently urgently to swallow their 20% price hike over my usual online supplier.
    The assistant seemed well clued-up on lightweight gear & told me he’d been very impressed by the informative training Golite had given to EB staff. This came out in the 20 minutes it took for him to establish that Brighams actually had no stock of Golite gear & would have to order it, with no guarantee of when it would be available. (The Manchester store is a large 5-storey mill building & I understand that their national mail order warehouse is just down the road).
    The poor guy couldn’t believe it & was suitably embarrassed. I obviously walked & the extra cost of express delivery from my usual online source was still cheaper than the EB price.

  30. ah, golite. The prices on that are bloody crazy. The importers were desperate to sell it to somebody and the rumour mill tells me we got the stuff a very good price. I’ve not been massively impressed, to be honest. The sleeping bags we had were similar temperatures to the Mountain Hardwear Phantoms, as expensive, and heavier. So why not just Goliter and buy a Phantom? Which is probably better build quality?

    The backpacks carry OK, and are obviously very light for the capacity, but build quality…I just don’t know about GoLite. The problem is that they are very much a one trick pony, and if someone else is doing the tricks better, what’s the point?

    In that instance what probably happened is easy to imagine. They never buy much stock when they’re starting off with a new brand, as a rule, and wait until the second season to order bigger quantities. A bit wimpy, but understandable.

  31. A lot of good points. It really does look like the customer is totally divorced from the manufacturer.

    I wonder how much impact the ‘net is going to have on that. The clued up brands know where their people are and how to reach them, some just don’t give a shit (or just don’t know)and rely on agencies who are using ancient publicity methods and think the internet is a fad.

    The attitude of some brands is appaling as well. When I was doing my regular Trail column I’d try and check up on weights, or if something was still in the range or changed spec etc before I included it and the amount of folk who wouldn’t respond or went to look for the info and didn’t phone back.


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