Moosejaw CEO defends Premium Outdoor Store as brands jump ship
Outdoor retailer Moosejaw’s CEO Eoin Comerford has responded to the sandstorm kicked up by the recent opening of its Premium Outdoor Store on Walmart’s e-commerce platform, defending the initiative as a number of brands pull out of the storefront, citing concerns that being associated with a low-cost retailer may undermine the premium status of their products.
“In the outdoor industry we like to talk about inclusivity,” begins Cornerford in his open letter. “And yet the industry remains predominantly male and remarkably white. If we're going to grow this industry beyond its exclusionary, historical norms, we need to reach new audiences... younger, more female, more diverse.”
“Walmart.com's huge traffic offered the ability to expose outdoor brands, activities and products to a massive audience of new and long-term outdoor enthusiasts, including the very groups that are underrepresented in our industry today,” he goes on to explain.
Problems started for Moosejaw the day after the launch of the Premium Outdoor Store on Monday, August 27, when adventure sport brand Black Diamond issued a cease and desist order to Walmart, accompanied by a press release in which the company’s president John Walbrecht stated “We did not see or approve the statement which Walmart released Monday, and have never sold to Walmart.”
Over the next few days, brands such as Deuter, Therm-a-Rest and Leki followed suit, pulling out of the Premium Outdoor Store and triggering an exodus which, according to Business Insider, has left the storefront carrying only around two thirds of the brands present in its initial offering. President of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Rich Hill, cited by OutsideOnline.com, highlighted that many of the brands had expressed disappointment with the fact that the Premium Outdoor Store did not have a significantly different aesthetic from the rest of the Walmart site, a choice which they felt associated them too closely with the low-end retailer.
The pushback has not just come from the brands themselves, however, with many speculating that a number of the labels jumping ship were actually responding to pressure from specialty outdoor retailers. Cornerford acknowledges as much in his open letter, saying “I wasn't naive enough to think that all outdoor retailers would welcome the Premium Outdoor Store with open arms, but I am surprised by the vehemence of the attacks by some of our industry’s leading retailers and the threats to drop brands that participated.”
If for Moosejaw opening a storefront on the Walmart e-commerce platform represented an opportunity to gain visibility and open the industry to new, underserved markets, for the global retail giant it was a chance to diversify its outdoor offering with higher-end products and better compete with rival Amazon in the segment.
It’s this battle of the titans which seems to be the main culprit for specialty retailers’ jumpy nerves, with concerns abounding that competition between the global retail giants would inevitably drive prices and brand prestige down, both undercutting and discrediting specialty outdoor stores’ premium offering.
In the face of these doubts, it remains to be seen whether Comerford’s call for inclusivity can tempt any of the defecting brands back on board, but the Moosejaw CEO has already made one thing very clear with the conclusion of his open letter: “For our part,” he said, “Moosejaw will continue to push for growth and inclusion.”
Comerford’s “Open Letter to the Outdoor Industry” can be read in full on his LinkedIn profile.
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