The end of elite

Anecdotally, the message is resonating with its target audience. “It’s difficult to track sales specifically from our DEI efforts,” he says. “What I do know is that the brand is growing and we have a clear mission. We know who we are, we love our ambassadors, and we will continue to tell stories about interesting people living interesting lives in the outdoors.”

Lifestyle is a much bigger component of the industry than technical is. And maybe by viewing it that way—lifestyle first—it’s easier to understand how and where the industry needs to position itself to grow.

By wearing Patagonia[20], you can align yourself with the brand’s political and environmental work, even if you’ve never set foot in Utah, caught a wave in California, or fly-fished a day in your life. Black Diamond jackets bestow the aura of elite upon their wearers—even on the sidelines at soccer practice. YETI coolers are a potent status symbol, whether you’re on the river or at a tailgate party.

Even without technical context, these things signify a certain value placed on outdoor experiences, a scrapper’s mindset for problem solving, and a view of the earth as something to be enjoyed and perhaps, protected. When it comes down to it, that’s not so different from what I felt all those years ago on the “secret” trails of Sun Valley, and what I still feel to this day.

That’s certainly one argument for adopting an industry stance around inclusion rather than the exclusion that elitism implies. And that brings this whole thing back around to Walmart.

The millions of people who visit are potentially millions of untapped outdoor users. And we need users, says Steve Barker, the founder of Eagle Creek and current Outdoor Foundation board member, to protect the outdoors and the environment. Though OIA’s statistics show an increase in overall outdoor participation, they also reveal a “leaky bucket.” While 10.6 million Americans returned to or started participating in one or more of the outdoor activities measured, 8.6 million stopped. That equates to a net gain of 2 million total participants and a churn rate of 8.3 percent.

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