While getting out into nature is highly recommended as a way to boost one’s physical health and mental state, it can be an expensive hobby. For simple, short hikes in temperate weather, of course, all one needs is a light jacket and a reasonably comfortable pair of shoes. But when exploring out in the elements, there is the necessity for slightly more advanced gear. At the average outdoors store, a name-brand, high-quality parka can start at $300 and can top out well over $1,000.
“One deterrent against taking up outdoor activity is definitely the price,” Jamie Clarke, the founder of outerwear company Live Out There, told Fast Company. Apart from his entrepreneurial work, Clarke is also an adventurer who has climbed Mount Everest twice, and so he knows something about the importance of having the right gear.
He also knows a few things about the difficult world of selling high-end outdoor gear. Clarke’s previous venture was as the owner of a Calgary-based retail store called The Out There Adventure Center. He closed his shop down about two years ago – much to the lament of the locals, among whom it was popular – because he just couldn’t keep up with the pricing problems in his industry.
In other words, his costs were too high, and online retailers were eating him up.
“If it costs $100 to make a jacket, the brand will sell it to me, the retailer, for $200,” Clarke explained. “I would then mark it up to $400. But the real value of that product was $100, and the consumer is increasingly aware of this.”
Moreover, he noted, when the jacket starts at $400, a vast number of consumers won’t even consider the product, as the price point is just too high. The goal, for Clarke, was to offer a comparably quality product that wouldn’t immediately break the bank, particularly for a customer who is new to the outdoorsy life and is not looking to spend an entire paycheck to get started.
And so Clarke turned to the direct-to-consumer (DTC) model. After extensive research of the outerwear supply, he found that he could work with the same expert Chinese manufacturers as brands like The North Face and Patagonia, and end up with a product that he could sell for 30 percent less, simply by cutting out the brand middleman. Moreover, his company offers a price breakdown on their goods, so consumers can get an idea of the cost of production and what they are paying as a mark-up.
It is a trend that is appearing all over retail and particularly in apparel – but has been slow to come to outdoor goods.
Clarke believes it is only a matter of time before the same forces that have been changing the shape of retail begin to push outdoor gear in a similar direction. With pricing as transparent as it is, he noted, consumers won’t agree to overpay when they know they have other, equally high-quality options.
“In time, retailers are going to be crushed,” Clarke predicted. “I decided I wanted to be part of the solution.”