Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 41
Most of It
RMU sees past the challenges of social distancing
to grow community and go carbon neutral.
by Berne Broudy
Courtesy Rocky Mountain Underground
INTHE PASTYEAR, ROCKYMOUNTAIN UNDERGOUND'S BRECKENRIDGE,
Colorado, and Whistler, British Columbia, stores were both the best and
worst positioned to weather COVID-19. While bike and backcountry ski
gear sales soared, the manufacturer also had to figure out how to keep
bar and restaurant staff employed at its two concept shops in the midst
of shutdowns and constantly changing rules and regulations.
" COVID-19 created enough turmoil and shift that we were able
to move forward, or maybe sideways, and get through it, " says RMU
President Mike Waesche. Due to tourist economy turmoil, RMU was
able to buy real estate that otherwise would have been prohibitively
expensive, including a new location for its Breckenridge restaurant,
bar, and gear shop, which increased its retail space from 1,700 to 6,000
square feet, including a rooftop dining patio.
Since March, RMU has kept staff on the payroll by being nimble,
shifting from to-go food and curbside gear pickup to limited customers in the store and restaurant, and back. " Every week we reorganize the
business, " says Waesche. " We're constantly changing the layout, as well
as who is doing what. It's frustrating when you're trying to come up with
a long-term plan, but it's also been humbling in a positive way. "
Though RMU's Whistler location had only been open three months
when COVID-19 shut down ski towns, Waesche says, " the number of
people who came out to support us was insane. " To help the store stay
afloat, customers were paying for skis in May that weren't even in stock.
The food business boomed because of goodwill.
RMU also gave back, livestreaming concerts to raise money for
out-of-work musicians. And the success of that project was the biggest
" aha " moment of the pandemic for Waesche and his team. " We saw how
powerful a live channel is, which changed how we use social media, " he
says. " There is a captive audience there. They want to be
engaged with the brand. "
RMU HAS BRANCHED OUTFROM MUSICTO LIVE GEARTALKS, INCLUDING
interviews with athletes on snow safety and plans to continue the live
channel programming. The correlation to sales isn't clear. Across the industry, backcountry gear sales are skyrocketing. " But people are always
online, " says Waesche. " Social media time is on the rise, whether people
are stuck at home or not. "
As much as it is selling product, RMU is selling mountain culture, which
is why its ski shop/bike shop/coffee shop/bar-restaurant model works.
" Our stores are a channel for positive impact, " says Waesche. " We do a
ton of fundraising and education, and we connect people to the mountains and mountainlifestyle. Many visitors to tourist destinations
like Breckenridge and Whistler won't ever
go skiing. But they can come to our shop and,
with a $5 beer in their hand, they can high-five
an athlete, shoot the breeze with a local legend, take a wine and wax clinic, and be part of
the skiing and mountain-lifestyle experience. "
Building community is a top priority for
RMU. Another is going carbon neutral by 2025.
" We're always looking at other locations, but we have no desire to grow
the company unless we can do it for the right reasons, " says Waesche.
" Being carbon neutral is everything right now. If we can use the brand to
help people understand climate, that's the only thing we should focus on. "
RMU's concept shops are raising awareness with their Meatless
Mondays and a dedicated Protect Our Winters tap.
" We're a small company that depends on snow and mountains, " says
Waesche, who gave up meat six months ago to reduce his own carbon
footprint. " Many people have heard of carbon footprint but need to understand what they can do. If we're not demonstrating that reducing
your carbon footprint can be done, then what are we doing? " O.R.
Underground's shops in
Colorado and British
Columbia have served as
more than strore fronts for
the brand-they are
rallying spots for the
community. During the
pandemic, the retailer
found the perfect pivot.
February 2021 / OUTDOOR RETAILER 41
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Outdoor Retailer - February 2021
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021
THE WEEKLY CHAT
OUTDOOR RETAILER WINTER ONLINE
BREAD + BUTTER
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - Outdoor Retailer - February 2021
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - Cover2
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 3
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - CONTENTS
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 5
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 6
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - THE PULSE
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - HEADLINES
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 9
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 10
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 11
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - BIG PICTURE
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 13
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - CASE STUDY
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 15
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - IDEAS
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - THOUGHT LEADER
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - THE WEEKLY CHAT
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - OUTDOOR RETAILER WINTER ONLINE
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 20
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 21
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - SIZE MATTERS
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 23
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 24
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 25
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - BREAD + BUTTER
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 27
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - GEAR GALLERY
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 29
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 30
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 31
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - HOT PICKS
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 33
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 34
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - COUNTER CULTURE
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - THE VIEW
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 37
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 38
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - 39
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - FIELD NOTES
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - #SHOPLIFE
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - BACKSTORY
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - Cover3
Outdoor Retailer - February 2021 - Cover4