The Weekly - July 30, 2020 - 11


accessible to all. In Burlington,
Vermont, Outdoor Gear Exchange
(OGE) has a consignment department that offers gently used gear
at a fraction of the original price.
"Our consignment department
lowers price barriers for people
who want to go outdoors," says
Mike Donohue, mission control at
OGE (and this author's husband).
"One of the foundational pieces of
our business is to make outdoors
affordable and approachable and
to create healthy lifelong habits
and passions."
Partnering to provide free gear
at state parks is another way OGE
has worked toward inclusion.
In 2018, the company teamed
up with Vermont State Parks on
the Happy Camper program.
With vendors-including Black
Diamond, Kelty, Mountainsmith,
and Primus-OGE donated tents,
sleeping pads, stoves, lanterns, and
tarps. The gear was assembled into
packages and loaned free of charge
to first-time campers and families
who hadn't camped in the last 10
years. Vermont Parks provided a
free campsite and firewood, staff
to both help campers set up and
to check in on them, and a website
full of information on how to set
up camp, cook, and more.
"Camping is a super-valuable
outdoor rec experience," says Craig
Whipple, Vermont's director of
state parks, who simultaneously
set up a Vermont State Park-based
fishing-gear loaner program, Reel
Fun. "Spending a night outside in
the woods creates valuable memories. But it takes equipment and
knowledge to get out there, which
can be barriers."
OGE, which won a 2020 Outdoor Retailer Inspiration Award
(see page 19), has donated to a long
list of local nonprofits through its
charitable grant fund. It outfits
new Americans who land summer
jobs trail building with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
(VYCC). It donates gear to local

Liv Cycling
encourages new

- Brook Hopper, Liv Cycling

schools and Vermont Refugee Resettlement. And, pre-coronavirus,
the store hosted frequent events
teaching participants how to go
backpacking, how to maintain and
fix a bike, and more.
"Nationally, there's an emphasis
on helping urban residents explore
nature," says Donohue. "In Vermont, where nature is easily accessible, we're prioritizing outreach to
less affluent and underserved rural
communities whenever possible."

Offer More Sizes
Cost is one notable barrier. Sizing is
another. Whether you're a manufacturer or a shop, if you don't make
or stock technical apparel to fit
outdoorists, you're closing the door.
"There are lots of people who are
just not built for most backpacks,"
says Rob Coughlin, Granite Gear
general manager. In 2012, Granite

Gear introduced a width-adjustable
pack frame that is being reintroduced for 2021, and three years
ago, the brand complemented that
with a modular pack waist belt that
expands from 26 to 42 inches.
EB's Huang says the brand has
the most complete extended size
portfolio in affordable performance
gear in the industry, including
petite and tall sizes.
At Velocio, Devin Cowens, director of events and engagement, is
advocating for the high-end cycling
brand to expand sizing up to 6XL,
which isn't currently available from
any mainstream cycling brand. "It's
not just about sales," says Cowens.
"It's about saying we see you, and we
want to ride with you."

Empower Enthusiasts
Women's bike brand Liv Cycling
has supported all levels of riders

since its inception. "We believe
creating community-both online
and on the ground-while also
providing tools to assist riders
with continued education and
skill-building is as important as
selling bikes," says Brook Hopper,
global marketing manager. Liv
has created 250 video guides-
from how-to's to maintenance,
and skills development to Liv
TV and Zwift virtual rides with
female athletes. Since the pandemic, this content has engaged
6,000 female riders.
Granite Gear's phones and
email servers are buzzing with
inquiries. Even the national sales
manager is fielding calls from customers asking how a pack should
fit and how to adjust load lifters.
OGE empowers enthusiasts
with support staff chosen for their
diverse skill sets and trained to
provide excellent guidance and
education to all customers. OGE
isn't commission-based because
the company wants every customer to get equal time regardless of purchase dollar amount.
"We consider it success if we sell
someone a repair part; that's
more important to us than selling someone new gear they don't
need," says Donohue.

Watch Your Language
"Build a relationship of authenticity," says Velocio's Cowens. "Don't
just write a check or hang a Black
Lives Matter sign. Make elevating
voices of those who have not been
served a priority. It takes time.
Whether you're a shop or a brand,
don't accept the status quo. Be willing to look critically at everything.
Ask questions. Let people know
who and what you are, and what
values you represent."
Marketing content is the face of
your brand, whether you're a manufacturer or a shop. EB's Huang says
that how you portray your brand
determines who your customers
are. "If you want a broader customer



The Weekly - July 30, 2020

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