Outdoor Retailer - June 2021 - 21

Feature .01
seven days a week. For the past 12 months,
Johnson Outdoor employees have worked six
to seven days a week, even with increased production
staff and hours.
RETAIL RESTLESSNESS
" I just want my preseasons, " says Darren Bush,
owner of Wisconsin's Rutabaga Paddlesports
and a 30-plus-year veteran of the industry. " I'd
be fine if I got those. But manufacturers are
telling me to cut 10% of next year's order now. "
Bush's strategy is to place as many preseasons as
possible, which he's sometimes doing without
having next year's prices. He's also aggressively
opening up new vendors.
" We're forcing orders on some vendors, even
ones I don't carry yet, " says Bush. " I'm not talking
to sales guys anymore. I am calling CEOs
and asking, can you make as many boats next
year and the year after as you did this year, and
can you order more? I'm demanding delivery
in February. We're forcing manufacturers who
are in crisis mode and dealing with day-to-day
to think long term. We want long-term relationships.
" But if you can't ship me product, I need
to go down the block. "
To keep Rutabaga filled, Bush is stockpiling
redundancies in his inventory, like ABS plastic
boats, which he's now buying from all the vendors
who make them. He's also building a bigger
store with more storage. He's also preselling
boats. When a truck with 100 boats pulls
into the Rutabaga's parking lot, likely 40 are
already sold.
" I'm taking risks; I'm taking stuff early; and
I'm paying in advance at this year's prices where
I can, so I don't have to pay higher prices next
year, " says Bush.
Bush says his customers are understanding
and patient. And Rutabaga is selling the boats
it can source in markets from Texas to Florida.
KEEP THE STOKE ALIVE
During COVID-19, the world rediscovered paddlesports,
but engagement and growth won't continue
without support-it's up to the industry to
keep the momentum going.
" We should all be spending a lot of time helping
people who got into paddling during COVID-19
develop a love and commitment to the sport,
helping newcomers and paddlers who rediscovered
boating have fun and be safe, " says Turner.
" Over time, that will translate into gear upgrades.
Double down on your customer service and diversify
your marketing efforts to be more inclusive. "
" COVID-19 was the ultimate in putting
butts in boats, " says Bush. " Now we have to do
something with that. Now we have to take the
enthusiast or emerging enthusiast and move
them into better product as it becomes available.
We've got to keep that person engaged, so
when you have the specific paddle the customer
wants, call them and they'll likely come buy it. If
a consumer is willing to give you their info, take
it, and, when you can, get them what they want. "
year that it will continue because they add value
to the customer experience. Those include
appointments for boat pickups and concierge
service. " It's fun, " says Bush. " It makes people
feel important. "
PADDLE ON
As brands deepen their supply chain relationships,
in a time when production can't meet demand,
they're also strengthening bonds with
key retailers. Both for their own good and in the
interest of brand partnerships, Holley counsels
retailers to look at their digital presence. " By the
time a consumer walks into a store, they are so
well informed. Moving forward, the dealers we
see as being critical strategic partners will have
invested in social media, web presence, and online
customer support, which will make them a
best-in-class retailer. "
Holley believes that by July, the supply chain
should catch up, but others aren't so optimistic.
" The guidance we're giving retailers is that you
need to know what you want even though we
may still be under an allocation model. You'll
have visibility into allocations and the amounts
" I'M TAKING RISKS; I'M TAKING STUFF EARLY; AND
I'M PAYING IN ADVANCE AT THIS YEAR'S PRICES
WHERE I CAN, SO I DON'T HAVE TO PAY HIGHER PRICES
NEXT YEAR. " -DARREN BUSH, RUTABAGA PADDLESPORTS
" We're ordering nine months out, " says Bush.
" I wish I had done it last year. We lit a fire under
people, and they're gonna keep paddling;
they're going to continue to upgrade their boats
and gear. I am confident that the spike in paddlesports
will continue. "
Bush isn't just paying lip service to the growth
in popularity of paddling. That new shop he is
building will be at least 50 % bigger.
Part of Bush's confidence that Rutabaga will
ride the wave of paddlesports popularity into
the future is the infectious excitement of his
staff, which gets customers dreaming, and the
personal connection he makes with anyone
who buys from Rutabaga.
" I still write thank-you cards and stick them
in every order, and people like that, " says Bush.
" Paddling isn't a commodity for us. We are paddlers.
We care about the people who buy from
us. I love getting people into boats. "
Bush says Rutabaga did a lot of things this
we can deliver so that customers will have a
timeframe, " says Baab.
Johnson Outdoors is working with consultants
to find production efficiencies. It's investing
in overseas partner factories to improve
capacity. It's paying to expedite shipments.
" We're very willing to invest to satisfy the demand
for as long as we need to, " says.
The big unknown is how long the boom in
paddlesports will last. But everyone agrees on
one thing: It's a trend, not a fad.
" Instead of a special order, if you want a boat
sooner rather than later, you might have to settle
for what retailers have on their shelves, " says
Bush. " If you find what you want, buy it. If you
come back tomorrow or next week, it'll likely
be gone. "
" We have looked at all processes for efficiency
gains, " says Kueper. " I would open again for
2021 orders if I could find the capacity and
could still deliver this season. We've hired a
June 2021 / OUTDOOR RETAILER 21
Scott Martin X2
http:// https://www.rutabagashop.com/

Outdoor Retailer - June 2021

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