We talk about trade shows, what’s working, how they facilitate buying and selling, and what we can improve with Matt Dobrowolski from Envoy B2B, Rumpl‘s Patrick O’Neil, buyer Jill Jacobson from Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus, and Michael Stevens from sales agency True North.
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Jill Jacobson from Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus
Patrick O’Neil from Rumpl
Mike Stevens from True North
Matt Dobrowolski from Envoy B2B
What are the most impactful shows for your business?
Mike Stevens: It seems it always fluctuates. I find that they’re all important in different facets. My end goal is to show up and have the best representation for our brand partners. But also meet our buyers and the owners and where they need to be seen and where it’s the best opportunity currently, what’s leading for us is the regional trade shows.
Patrick O’Neil: We view it in a couple of different ways. Big national trade shows as a small brand entering the outdoor industry have been crucial to getting our footing and making connections, whether with, maybe potential hires, sales agencies, retail partnerships, other brand partnerships at Rumpl. We do a lot of brand collaborations, so shows like OR have been absolutely vital and our ability to create those connections.
Looking forward we see what Mike sees. There’s more business, actual transactions of dollars happening at the regional shows. And it’s more focused and we can have those one-on-one conversations and spend more time.
Jill Jacobson: As a buyer, I completely agree. The regional shows are where we are working. It’s a working show and it’s appointment after appointment. It’s where we’re looking at everything where we’re deciding everything. Also, we do have some in-store and there are some showrooms here. We’re fortunate, there are a lot of people who in our territory are pretty low key are located very close to where we are so we can do a lot in-house just going to their showroom or going to their house, or they rent a hotel room.
We go to the national shows. It’s important for us, for me anyway, that’s where I find something that’s a little more unusual or different than regional shows,
Matt Dobrowolski: I agree with everyone here in the sense of, the impact of these shows is quantifiable in all aspects. I definitely see, for myself, the national trade shows are the places where I’m going to see the new and up-and-coming brands. The relevance of the A-type brands is less, I think more and more as we’re moving forward on these national shows. Their marketing presence is already so strong that, we’re seeing less of an impact of them on the trade show floor.
I think on the business end of it, though, the shows that are truly quantifying themselves, as far as, the retailers investing to go, the brands investing today is exactly what both Mike and Jill are talking about. It’s working shows where we’re actually writing orders. We’re actually going to merchandise. Those are the places where business is being made.
What would you like to see for the future of trade shows?
Jill Jacobson: I think for us as buyers, the biggest problem we have is, like I said before, scheduling. One shows at one time, one show is at another time. I’ve got two days I have to be in one state, and then two days later I gotta be in another state. The scheduling of it is very frustrating as a buyer. I don’t know how to fix that though.
Patrick O’Neil: I think the biggest thing to me as far as improvement as we’re coming out of COVID, and this is me speaking personally. This is not a brand statement. I was really pretty upset with the way OR handled COVID. I thought it was extremely poorly done. It’s one of the reasons we did not attend. The fact that they did not require masks with Delta surging was extremely irresponsive. It really upset me. We actually ended up attending a show in New York that is outside of the outdoor industry because they required masks for everyone regardless of vaccination status.
And so I think that needs to be taken more seriously. Even as we’re going into winter OR, the safety of all of our employees, the safety of our industry, and our friends needs to be paramount. And that needs to be the first thing that’s being looked at. And so that is the main thing is we’re coming out of this.
It’s changing so fast. It needs to be planned better for the safety of everyone first and then business, and then whatever the order is that you put after that. But really we need to put safety first.
Mike Stevens: Oh man. I really enjoy all the different trade show shows there are now. So as a brand representative, as someone that’s connecting with retailers, I don’t know, I don’t think there’s anything from my side that I necessarily need to be fixed other than the fact that, safety is first.
So at True North, we haven’t been to a regional show or to Outdoor Retailer since COVID started. And we’ve found other ways to represent our brands and meet our customer’s needs. So we’re excited as a team to get back in person. It’s all about people, right? That’s why we do this. It’s the outdoor industry, but it’s all about the people and it’s such a great community. Let’s just make it be safe and let’s get rolling again.
Follow up with our Guests
Matt Dobrowolski – email@example.com
Patrick O’Neil – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Jacobson – Jill@billandpauls.com
Mike Stevens – email@example.com
06:31 – 06:55 What are the most impactful shows for your business? Mike Stevens
12:57 – 13:11 Will you take more people to the regional show and fewer people to the national show? Patrick O’Neil
09:35 – 09:47 What’s working for you? Jill Jacobson
Trade Shows, Plenty Of Good Things Happening And Opportunities To Improve With Matt Dobrowolski, Patrick O’Neil, Jill Jacobson And Michael Stevens
This is going to be an exciting episode. I’m happy to chat with all of you about Trade Shows. This is going to be a fun conversation. There’s a lot of hot-button topics around these things. A lot of some new shows, some old shows. All of them have room for improvement as everything has room for improvement. We’ll chat about a lot of stuff and share our thoughts with everybody. Let’s start with the two-minute version of how you were introduced to the outdoors and what are you doing in your current role? Jill, do you want to kick us off?
I’ve been working for an outdoor store called Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus for many years now, which is a little crazy but I have done everything from sales and merchandising. I am a buyer for both stores. We have opened up a new store and I started buying specifically only for that store.
How did you get introduced in the outdoors? When you were a kid, what was your first outdoor experience that got you hooked? An outdoor lifestyle like hiking, skiing or whatever.
Probably through skiing. I grew up skiing with my dad. When I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, this was the ski shop. We spent a lot of time in their buying skis or whatever, so we got to know the family. They’ve been in business since 1961 and the original owner of the store was the best skier ever.
That’s a great experience. I’ll bet. Patrick, how about you?
I grew up in Southern Oregon, but my dad is from Northern California. It’s a big Irish family. My grandfather was an avid backpacker. Their family would do backpacking trips in the Sierra every summer. We continued that with our extended family. We would go on these large family backpack trips every summer in the Sierras. A lot of times in Kings canyon. It was a great intro to the outdoors. It was fun and I learned from someone who knew a lot about it. Now, I work at Rumpl. Rumpl makes blankets. We are founded in outdoor space.
Our product can be used in any scenario, whether you’re going to go into the park, your patio or camping, backpacking, or wherever you come out of. Our love is in the outdoors. I used to oversee all of our operations. Now, I oversee all of our revenue at Rumpl. All of our revenue channels. I used to stay at operations but now it’s our revenue-driving functions.
Is that a new role?
It is a new role. I’ve been working overseeing our sales team in 2020 but we did a little restructuring. We brought on a great operation. I’ve moved up to oversee all of our direct consumer channel and wholesale channel then we released some NFL licensed blankets that we distribute as well as some custom products we did.
I have one of your blankets. Thank you. Those are pretty cool. Little comfy things. Mike tells your story. How about you?
When I think back, I was first introduced to the outdoors when my mom would kick me out of the house in the summer and say, “Come back in ten hours.” You had to figure it out and found a passion for being outside. I was a trail runner growing up. I’ve been able to take that and that passion and bring it to my everyday work life.
What’s your everyday work life? What are you doing these days?
Years ago, I founded True North. It’s a sales and consulting firm up here in the Northwest, out of the Seattle area. We represent a number of the great grand park. It all started selling one pair of shoes at a time on Nordstrom’s floor. I’d been in the footwear industry for 26 years, then jumped into the outdoor industry about a few years ago. It’s been a lot of fun since then.
I don’t think I knew you were a Nordstrom’s guy. We got to work together for about five minutes when I was with the Mt Lab and we were doing Fonda bags. I think, wasn’t it? Matt, what’s your story?
Big national trade shows are crucial for small brands entering the outdoor industry to make connections.
Like any young ski bomb, I was completely influenced by one of the Warren Miller movies and stories. I graduated from high school, decided to take the trip out West and moved to Lake Tahoe, California. O followed my dream of being that epic ski bomb. I lived out there for a few years and that spawned my love and passion for everything outdoors. That’s what got me going in the industry. I started at a ski shop out there and did that whole thing. In turn, it kept my life moving forward as an outdoor industry of aficionado. I’ve been involved in the outdoor industry since I was nineteen, which brings me to my current role as the Sales Manager here for Envoy B2B.
Welcome. Good to have you on again. You’ve done a few of these. Let’s kick it off with trade show formats of whatnot. We’ve all been attending many different formats of shows over the years. Some of us they’ve changed more of. What are the most impactful shows for your business? National Shows, Outdoor Retailer, Big Gear Show, Buying Group Shows, or Regional Trade Shows. Mike, do you want to kick that off as a sales rep? I won’t speculate on what your answer is.
It always fluctuates. I find that they’re all important in different facets of that. My end goal is to show up and have the best representation for our brand partners. Also, meet our buyers and the owners in where they need to be seen and where the best opportunity is to put the plan together. What’s leading for us is the Regional Trade Shows. They’ve come on strong over the last few years and have been a great place to be able to work it and work the plan. National Trade Shows are a lot of fun and can be a great time to recap and strategize, but I feel like the nitty-gritty work is done at the regional. There’s also a lot of store visits and showroom as well, which can be an impactful way to meet the customer.
Is the value from the regional show the fact that it’s less busy?
I wouldn’t say less busy because it’s more busy but it’s more focused.
Patrick, how about you?
We view it in a couple of different ways. Big National Trade Shows as a small brand entering the outdoor industry have been crucial to getting our foot and making connections, whether with maybe potential hires, sales agencies, retail partnerships, or other brand partnerships. At Rumpl, we do a lot of brand collaborations. Shows like OR have been vital in our ability to create those connections. What we’re looking forward to is we see what Mike sees.
There’s more business, actual transactions of dollars happening at the Regional Shows. It’s more focused. We can have those one-on-one conversations, spend more time with our retail partners, understand their needs, have those in-depth conversations and see how we can work to grow our business together with those National Shows. We were having a conversation internally about how do we approach OR and other large shows in the future.
The conclusion that I came to in that discussion was if and when we go back to OR because we want to treat our employee’s safety first through COVID, we will treat it from a marketing side that our marketing team is going there to make brand connections, or maybe have a side interview if we’re recruiting people, etc. It is not from the sales side. We’ll have our new product there. We’ll have the opportunity to make those retail connections, but those Regional Shows are where we’re probably going to put more investment and more time to make sure we’re present. It’s easier for people to get to, we can talk business and have those more intimate conversations.
As a buyer, I completely agree. Regional shows are where we are working. It’s a working show and it’s appointment after appointment. It’s where we’re looking at everything, where we’re deciding everything, truly. Also, we do have some in-store and there are some showrooms here. We’re fortunate there are a lot of people who, for our territory, are located a bit close to where we are, so we can do a lot of in-house going to their showroom even to their house. If they rent a hotel room, we go. The National Shows is important for us. That’s where I find something that’s a little more unusual or different.
In Regional Shows, I’m going to go to the same people that I go to every year, same rep, same everything. Maybe see the thing new, but not a lot. I need the big National Shows that I find new stuff. I don’t want to fail and I don’t want the starting to become stale. The nationals are not as working. I agree. It’s more marketing and it’s more finding new stuff.
Matt, what are your thoughts on that?
It’s interesting because my current role as a sales manager with Envoy is definitely different from my past. Previously, I was a buyer and a sales rep. I’ve done a little bit of all of that. I agree with everyone here. In the sense of the impact of these shows are quantifiable in all aspects. I see, for myself, the National Trade Shows are the places where I’m going to see similar, new and up-and-coming brands. The relevance of the A-type brands is less. I think more as we’re moving forward on these National Shows, either marketing presence is already so strong that we’re seeing less of an impact of them on a trade show floor. Coming from an outdoor retailer this summer, what I was seeing is brands that I did not know existed. I’ve never seen them before, both.
It’s interesting and there are other reasons for that. It’s also talking with a lot of buyers. It was a cool place to see stuff that they didn’t know existed. Similar to myself. On the business end of it, though, the shows are truly quantifying themselves as far as other retailers investing to go the brands investing. It’s what both Mike and Jill are talking about. It’s working shows where we’re writing orders. We’re going to merchandise. Those are the places where the business is being made.
In turn, that’s where I see the best direction investment. I think with my position now, it’s how do we facilitate the balance of that so we can bring in marketing assets and showcase that’s on our digital platform. Also, have a functioning and working for truly the most important person in this conversation. That’s, to me, the retailer. They keep us afloat and keep the industry alive. Again, that’s where these smaller format shows with more true eyeing focus are pivotal to especially in the here and now with the pandemic and all of that.
We still go to the National Trade Shows. Patrick, maybe you can kick this one off. Do you have a smaller footprint at a National Show than you will at a Regional Show? For the rest of you, will you take more people to the regional show and less people to the national show? Let’s take that angle.
I don’t think we’ll have a smaller footprint on the National Show than a regional show. We’ll work with our agency partners and our rep partners on the Regional Shows and come to life with them there is a brand. I don’t think that saying it’s more marketing focus makes it less of a presence. It’s entering the show. What is our intent? What is our planning? How are we talking about our products? Who attends? Things like that, so probably it’s a smaller sales footprint but a larger partnership and marketing and general business footprint. The stories we’re telling will be less product-focused and more brand-focused. We don’t have an answer here.
Jill, from a buying perspective, you don’t have an army of buyers, I don’t think, but will you take less folks to a national show and you’re going to walk around and look for new products than you would have regional? Do you take more people to the regional to get the work done?
We did when we went out that small, but we do have a shoe buyer and foot buyer. We have several buyers, but yes, we would take less people depending on which show it is nationally and what it is focused on. I’m more clothing, soft goods, that thing, the fluffy part, shall we say. If it’s a more equipment-based thing, I’m probably not going to go to national. If the guys want to skip the clothing stuff, they’ll skip that. We would bring fewer. We’re also small enough.
We need the manpower in our store. It depends on the dates, too. We have a regional show that’s in December. It’s the worst because that’s a busy time. It’s Christmas. If you have a store, you can’t do it. We’ll have people go to the regional show for one day in December. They’re there literally from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM, non-stop, no lunch because we can only afford to get rid of them for one day. It depends. I would say fewer for national, more for regional because it’s easier and we can do it in a day. We can go back and forth easier.
Matt, your thoughts on that.
Obviously, it’s a little different from my perspective and a big one for Envoy and my current role. On the national show, it’s my face time. It’s face time with getting to say hello to our current clients, shake hands, all of that. There’s a lot of difference when we’re not working face-to-face as a software company as you would see from a true clothing or hard goods vendor. Having that FaceTime in a national show is very important for me. The other one that I personally don’t see as much on the regional level is that pulse on the industry.
Everybody is so heading down focus and workbooks or digital workbooks are out. At the national show, you definitely get more of a Polton vibe on what’s happening in the industry and what are people saying? What are the big key terms or technology? It’s more in your face. Again, that goes back to those being a little bit more marketing-focused. People again are less heads down in the books, truly working. It’s very different from my perspective at this point in time than as a buyer or as a sales rep. They each have their place. It’s an interesting one moving forward. What’s going to be the best for everyone.
Mike, how about you? You probably have to go to all of them.
We do, but we don’t always send everyone to every show. It comes down to efficiency and making sure we have the right coverage. There are times when an ORs happening that we can cover with less people and someone else can be at home, on the road, and making an impact. It fluctuates and we do what we feel gives the best show and best opportunity. When I think about the differences, Matt, you talked about heads down at the Regional Shows. I find Regional Shows is a great opportunity to hoop and holler and get a lot of high fives as well.
What are the shows doing, do you think now? What is OR doing? What is the Big Gear Show or Regional Shows doing? What’s working for all these shows? Mike, do you want to kick us off on that.
On the regional show, what’s working or what they’re doing, I think about Cami at WWSRA and how she reaches out to the collaborative groups and gets a finger on the pulse of when we need the show to be. A production calendar is always changing. With the additional supply chain issues, we need to be aware of that. For us, making sure that these shows happen at a time where we cannot stress our retailers out and say, “We need your order tomorrow,” but also make it where it works for Jill. It’s tricky as a retailer and with staffing issues and you name it. The Regional Show allows that a little bit more flexibility of potentially to adjust, so that’s what’s working for me there.
Patrick, how about you?
You need the manpower in your store.
We haven’t been to a show now since 2020, outside of Regional Shows. I can’t speak to the large shows as far as what they’re doing. I agree with Mike, where the smaller Regional Shows that closer pulse and understanding of the needs of all the parties that they’re serving and reaching out and understanding that as very good in this very dynamic and fluid situation. I think that is great. I believe I could speak to the things that I feel it could be done better, but I’ll hold off if we get to that future question. Trade Shows can be very energizing. We can see people interact with the brand. When that happens, that is a well-run Trade Show. Seeing that impact, seeing the excitement around the brand and the industry, etc., is impactful.
That’s what’s energizing for me about these Trade Shows is the gathering of the community. It is fantastic. Jill, how about you? What’s working for you?
The Regional Shows, as I said before, is very efficient as a buyer to knock off a lot in a short period of time. I can get a lot of appointments done and see a lot of stuff. It gets a little overwhelming at times, but that’s okay. It’s very efficient. With me, I haven’t been to a big show in a while. I’m looking forward to hopefully going to one shortly here. Fingers crossed that it all still goes. As I said before, that’s where I see new stuff and meet new people in the industry.
At the Regional Shows, I know all those people I’ve known for years, which is great. It’s familiar and wonderful but the big shows it’s fun to see and interesting to learn more of what’s out there outside of your own region and what’s going on nationally and globally because it’s turned more global. There are companies from all over the place there.
My response to that is truly everything that all of us are saying here. It’s a big picture. It’s the unity of the industry when all of us unite in a place if it’s national, regional, whatever. The polls are ramped up. Everybody is excited. We leave that show ready to go and ready to be excited about the outdoor industry. I think coming through the pandemic is the biggest thing. All of us are missing it if you’re in the outdoor industry or not. It’s that personal interaction. Seeing that, all my friends that went to the Big Gear Show, coming even from the small Regional Shows.
They leave those shows and there’s a stoke level. There’s an excitement being united with their colleagues. That’s where the winds are happening now and that’s what’s continuing to drive the industry forward. That’s one of the most important aspects of this. Rick might have us all by a few years, but I’ve been around long enough to say. The old school presence of the outdoor industry was unified with one another. We all did a little bit more of a build each other up and work together for the true passion here. We’re all in this because we love the outdoors not because we’re billionaires.
That’s true. Let’s talk about what improvements you would like to see at the Trade Shows or what would you like to see for the future of Trade Shows? How would you like to see those things morph? Jill, can you kick us off with that one.
For us as buyers, the biggest problem we have is scheduling. I know one shows at one time, one shows at another time. I’ve got two weekdays. I have to be in one state and two days later, I got to be in another state. The scheduling of it is very frustrating as a buyer. I don’t know how to fix that, though. They all depend. They’re all doing their own thing but I feel that to me is where I’d like to see the most improvement. I can get to them and be efficient when I’m there, I guess, is what I like to say.
Mike, how about you?
I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what Patrick has to say.
Do you want to switch to Patrick? You get to go then.
This is me speaking personally. This is not a brand. The biggest thing to me, as far as improvement as we’re coming out of COVID, is I was upset with the way OR handled COVID. I thought it was extremely poorly done. It’s one of the reasons we did not attend. The fact that they did not require masks with Delta surging was extremely irresponsible. We ended up attending a show in New York that is outside of the outdoor industry because they required masks regardless of vaccination status.
That needs to be taken more seriously, even as we’re going into OR. The safety of all of our employees, our industry and our friends need to be paramount. That needs to be the first thing that’s being looked at. That is the main thing as we’re coming out of this. We don’t know because it’s changing so fast. It needs to be planned better for the safety of everyone first and then business or whatever the order is that you put after that, but we need to put safety first.
I thought that was extremely irresponsible. That’s the main thing I would say on improvement as far as industry going forward outside of that. It’s interesting that some of the things that are trying to be done with digital tools, obviously we have Matt here from Envoy. I don’t love the idea of saying, “This is the platform we’re using as a show. Get on this platform, or this is the platform we’re using as an industry.”
I get the idea from the vendor side of saying, “We’re going to have to sign this agreement. It’s going to help us get more people on board.” As a brand integrating technology, it’s extremely expensive and time-consuming. It’s one of the biggest investments we make. The idea that we’re going to Institute a platform that you use to order from the show only helps the brands that are already on that platform. It’s not conducive to creating a better ordering experience. I’m not on the buying side.
Maybe Jill has a different perspective on that, but I know there are tons of platforms that buyers need to log into. That idea of trying to centralize a buying system or centralized a digital platform, that’s another tool we need to spend up. Another 4 to 5 months of investment in time and money that we need to put into to spin up those specific platforms that are being pushed based on a different show.
I do think technology will play a role but I hope it is a more flexible role. It’s done in a way that brands can bring to life, whatever their platform they’re using to do that. There is a future to integrate technology more. Maybe it’s the scheduling side like Jill alluded to. The excitement of being in person is incredible like we’ve talked about, but safety needs to be first.
That’s well said. You clearly articulated that. Mike, now it’s your turn.
I enjoy all the different Trade Shows there are now. As a brand representative side, as someone that’s connecting with retailers, I don’t think there’s anything from my side that I necessarily need to fix other than the fact that safety is the first. At True North, we haven’t been to a regional show or to an outdoor retailer since COVID started. We’ve found other ways to represent our brands and meet our customer’s needs. We’re excited as a team to get back in person. It’s all about people. That’s why we do this. It’s the outdoor industry, but it’s all about the people. It’s such a great community. Let’s make it be safe and let’s get rolling again.
It is about the community at the end of the day. We get a lot of business down there, but I think you are right on a lot of fronts. What drives this whole industry is the community and all the long-term friends and new friends. It’s fantastic. Let’s stay on the COVID theme a bit here. Matt, how do you think COVID is going to impact the future of Show Attendance in the next years, at least.
It’s a reality that’s set in for all of us. We have acknowledged it since 2020. Not a lot of changes happen, which we’ve all adopted across the board. What’s going to come into play is continuing to tighten the hybrid model. Being able to work through, obviously using a digital platform. Make that as efficient as possible for the reps and the retail buyers, but also be able to heighten the sense that we still need to touch in the field. We’ve acknowledged. When the pandemic started off, we were like, “We can do this perfectly from a digital perspective.”
The quick realization is that buyers and reps still need to show you that color in person. They need you to touch that super soft buzzy fleece, as Jill was mentioning. I think continuing to adapt and make the hybrid model of digital and in-person even more impactful and more efficient, which in term from the top end down, it’s a more cost-effective system of this. The other one is focusing on when we do have these trade shows being smart about them.
As Patrick mentioned, we need to take the people that are attending into consideration. We can maturely facilitate these trade shows, but we need to be smart about it. We do see how their shows quantified business for everyone attending, but we got to be conscious here. Strategizing all of the tools we have developed since 2020 and in working with all of them, and that’s going to be the best benefit of how we move forward through COVID.
Mike, how about you? Any more thoughts on COVID moving forward? Do you think it’s going to be with us for a while? What things on the safety side did you see that you’ll light or if you didn’t go to shows then?
I have a daughter who’s not vaccinated. She’s nine years old. For me, that’s a huge concern of what I surround myself with and what I can bring home. My half glass half full attitude is that a coat will move away from COVID and around “new normal” or whatever. We’ll be back to that stoked feeling. We’ll all go back to the shows. I think what people have realized is we do not need to necessarily spend a lot of money to show up at a big show because we’ve been able to drive business.
The outdoor industry is booming. People are getting outside, hiking, camping and backpacking. We haven’t been attending and spending those big dollars. I could see a shift in that and how we spend our dollars to meet Jill and our buyers and our retailers. I still think there’s a place for all the different buckets that we’ve been talking about.
Embrace digital technology in the way you approach things.
Jill, do you get any thoughts on that one?
For us, it’s interesting because every brand is different in how they act or how they have dealt with COVID. I know in my files, I have purchased ordered. I have 85 different vendors at the last count. They all do something differently. One guy, I’m meeting on the back deck of his house because of COVID. We want to be outside. Another guy is inside with his nose hanging out of his mask and spitting all over it. It’s never going to be the same across the board or dealing with all different companies, attitudes, everything. My husband is compromised, so it makes me nervous.
I don’t particularly like going into a big stuffy convention center room but I also have to buy for the store. I have no choice. I have to do it. Hopefully, in 2022, I will say it’s good, but I have to touch it and feel it. Some company has been buying for forever. I don’t have to necessarily see it because I already know, but I do need to stay in it. Anything new, I absolutely have to see it in person. As I said, everyone is handling it differently. As a buyer, it is a little frustrating because we don’t know what you’re walking into until you walk in as far as safety. I went down to Chicago. It was supposed to be all masked up. I walked in and no one would have a mask on. I’m like, “Are you kidding?”
Jill, would it help if Matt and Envoy came out with a screen technology where if there was a fuzzy fleece so you could touch the screen and feel to the softness?
That would be amazing.
We’re working on it now. Don’t worry.
You’re on the spot.
I do have a couple of companies. They were sending fabric swatches. That’s a lot of work though for the reps. I’m sure it was costly for them to do it and difficult to get the fabrics in that way. I had a few to do that. That was good.
I think, too, COVID is still relatively new for us. We talk about COVID and all the vaccines, no vaccines and masks and no mask. We all have been dealing since 2020. The flu has been around for years. We finally look at the flu and go, “Let’s get a shot and move on or stay home and move on.” Hopefully, in our lifetime, we will get to that with COVID. Sooner rather than later, with some of the medical technology, but who knows? Patrick, any thoughts on that? Anything COVID is going to impact.
With what Jill was saying, there was a show that the mask was supposed to be worn but Jill and Mike both mentioned their family. It does go beyond the individuals we’re talking about that we’re meeting with. If those things are followed and are enforced, I hope we can be back in-person. The stuff I read, the science I’m seeing as masks work and vaccines if they’re used. If we can be in person in that way, it’s probably a few less beers or coffees but then we can still be back pretty soon here in-person.
The hybrid that Matt mentioned as well of using digital tools, I’m hoping that on the retail side, people start getting in-person more for all our retail partners. People are getting outside more, which is helping our industry. I hope people realize the benefits of being outside and that it continues to grow. More people enjoy the outdoors, but I hope they can go and visit our retail shops as well and experience the product in person as they purchase that.
This is a question I’m going to add to wrap us up here, probably more to you, Patrick, Mike and maybe Matt. When this thing first came on, one of the things as a photographer and I’d shoot a little bit of video that struck me was, I thought it was going to be an immediate flip for reps and brands to create a lot of sales, videos and training videos. Things that they could send A) To the rep force and B) To the retailer so that they could do this digitally. Have you guys embraced any of those types of technologies yet? Do you have plans to? Patrick, can you go for that?
We embrace a lot of digital technology in the way we approach things. On our direct-to-consumer site on Rumpl.com, we have videos there that talk about how to use the product. We’re using another platform endeavor that allows training. We upload videos there for store staff to go in and understand that watch videos. It also allows us to send people on a merchandising mission, “We’ll pay you $20 if you can take a picture of our display, our fixture now, and what it looks like.” Go in, remerchandise it, send us a picture of what it looks like afterward. It’s connected to Venmo. It directly pays simply. It’s pretty cool. We can reward staff as long as the retailer is okay with it. We can send those out.
We’re testing it on now. We’re paying $20 to merchandise our section in the store. We can do the same thing with an inventory count. Using these tools, if we can’t get in all the time. Through the stores, we can’t have those in-person meetings or ways to do that. We definitely are embracing it as far as like video and training. A number of our partners and agencies created videos. One of our reps in the Southeast is Spencer Cooke at Effort made an awesome video where he got the box, unloaded it, his kids are playing with the blankets, unload and shows everything. He sent that out to all his accounts. It’s very personalized and people are embracing it in different ways.
Mike, how are you guys?
Our brand partners definitely jumped on Quik and built some phenomenal tools for virtual videos and so forth. What I’ve found though is that Zoom fatigue and video fatigue came on pretty quick as well. For me, we did a lot of virtual showings. A lot of virtual meetings, but when we think back to this industry, it is about a community. I personally used that time to connect with that buyer and owner for myself because I needed it. We all needed that. A lot of us, not everyone, are a people person with people or also have long histories with each other. There was definitely a blend of using those tools but also finding these this virtual time to continue to work on the relationships.
Jill, did you see some things come from brands and reps on your side of the world? Did you get inundated with videos?
It was interesting to see who was doing it and who wasn’t comfortable with it. Prior to COVID, as far as digital catalogs, all that. That was already starting for environmental because to say that on paper. We’re already starting a lot of that. As old as I am, I was still fine with that and that was good. Zoom or the videos were the only addition as far as digital. It was interesting to see. I prefer, as a buyer, the same thing.
I want to connect with the rep, talk to them myself and ask some questions, so Zoom was better than a video. However, the videos were nice because I could go back if I thought something like as I’m writing my orders, “Let me look back to that. Let me see what that looks like. Let me see what they were doing.” There were benefits to all of them. As I said, everyone had their different flair on how they did it. It’s not consistent across the board by any means.
I think it came on so quickly. It was a shock to the system and everybody was scrambling a bit. Some of us had to, not only figure out what it is but then learn it. I’m a photographer. A still photographer. I do have cameras that shoot video. Now it’s like, “I guess I better learn how to turn this thing on and shoot some video.” I’m sure a lot of brands and reps had that issue, too. Matt, you got any thoughts on this?
I think from our perspective on Envoy is interesting as our focus going through this was exactly what both Mike and Jill are talking about. That’s the reality that the reps, the buyers, still need personal time. Our focus is going through this was, how can we make this as efficient as possible as you’re doing orders in-season replenishment or you’re going through the pre-line buy?
How can we make this as simple as efficient? In turn, you can give them more time to interact. What we’ve found through all of our research, all of our interactions with industry leaders, buyers, rep agencies, and in-house reps is the most important thing continues to be the time that they can spend with each other. The reality of that through the pandemic is it’s probably over a Zoom or a phone call.
If they’re struggling to get through an order because it’s too complex on the platform, it’s not efficient and it’s not going to be beneficial for the big picture. Our focus is going through this was how can we make it as easy as possible for the reps to create things like digital showrooms, a suggested order, how can we put on our best imagery as possible? We focus a lot of time in our photography department to develop good, clean aesthetics on the platform. It’s visually appealing creating 360 views of most products making not available. How can we make this as easy for everyone so you can have more time with each other because that’s what we see? That’s the most important thing.
I want to reiterate what Matt said. The tools that Envoy built as well were crucial for us during this time and will be going forward. That platform has streamlined our business incredibly. It saves us so much time on order entry, presenting lines, and everything. It does exactly what Matt said, which is, allows us to have those time for connections versus sitting at the keyboard, being anyway, entering orders all day long or struggling to put together an assortment that looks good. Screenshotting our workbook, throwing it into a presentation and putting it on an assortment is way easier in a platform that’s designed to do it. It’s been very helpful.
As we wrap up, let’s start out with anything else you would like to ask or say to our audience. Tell us about your next adventure. What are you doing outside? Jill, go for it.
I did get back from Iceland. This is what I would ask for anyone in the audience. Please get vaccinated, wear your mask so we can all get back together and do this. I will say they do it beautifully there. It’s wonderful. Everyone is distance, everyone is taken care of and being responsible for others. I wish that we would all do that, too, so we can all get back together again. Where’s my next adventure? I’m trying to go to Scotland because my daughter moved there for grad school in the Northern Scottish Isles. We’re going to try to go up there since she’s there, so that would be fun.
Mike, how about you?
My next adventure is I’m doing a rim-to-rim. OFKT attempt. Five dudes out for the day, having fun, taking pictures, and tackling some miles.
Be responsible and thoughtful of each other. Get vaccinated so we can all get back together and do trade shows.
Anything else you want to ask or say to our audience?
I’m excited to see all everyone together again at some point in the near future.
It’s exactly what everyone else is saying as soon as we can all get back together and more exciting for all of us. That’s the big picture goal even outside of the outdoor industry. If we can all be responsible and thoughtful of each other, that makes the world right there. My next adventure is I had on a ten-day fly-fishing trip to Iceland. I’m following Jill a few weeks after, but we’ll be headed there to literally do nothing but fish. I’ll be there. I cannot wait.
Patrick, how about you?
Nothing else to ask. Like everyone has said, I’m looking forward to hopefully getting back together in a more meaningful way soon safely. As far as my next adventure goes, I might move to Colorado. I’ve lived in either Oregon or California my whole life. I’m exploring a new outdoor playground in Colorado. I’m excited about that.
How can people follow up with you if they’d like to reach out?
Matt, how about you? How can they follow up with you?
Email Mike@TrueNorthNW.com or a snail mail. I like postcards, too.
Jill, how about you?
It’s been fun. Thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate this. As I said, I’ll follow up a bunch of times moving forward. I look forward to seeing you at the next Trade Show or when you’re down here in Sierra Plain, I’m in your neck of the woods. Have a great day.
Thanks so much, everybody. I appreciate it.
Thank you. Take care.
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