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Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
Economy & gear purchases on 10/19/2008 19:00:57 MDT Print View

I saw this question somewhere else but with the ecomony slowing down (understatement) how are the smaller speciality cottage gear companies doing? What about BPL's store?

I ask because it's been the small creative true ultralight person or few that has brought innovation and some fantastic lightweight products to the market so it would be a shame to see them a victim of reduced consumer spending.

Are the larger manu's having a hard time as well? BPL has brought neat products to market and hopefully can continue to do so?

Does anyone have first hand or antedodal information on how the lightweight gear market is doing as I undertand web sales are down in general.

Thanks,

Hikelite

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/19/2008 19:15:38 MDT Print View

Not being in the business, I have zero firsthand knowledge. However, reading the news, it seems like manufacturers of most all "discretionary goods" -- from big cars to small toys are all suffering from reduced demand. This Christmas is probably going to be a cold one for retailers.

Reading my Chinese newspapers... with their best customers (Europe, US, Japan) all facing economic hard times -- orders are way down. Many factories that should be humming along to meet Christmas delivery are now shuttered -- with thousands thrown out of work.

We all know our consumption binge has to end -- but it still doesn't make it any easier.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/19/2008 19:51:39 MDT Print View

The Outdoor Industry is really going to feel this one.

As for BPL, we are fortunate enough to have diverse sources of revenue and are not as dependent on gear sales as some of the other manufacturers/retailers out there.

I expect to facilitate some serious change here at BPL in the coming weeks to brace for the recession. I do not expect to dilute our focus, mission, or desire to serve our niche market.

Our core product, and core customer, is our online subscriber. You can do your part to help us through it by renewing your online subscription!

And yes, we have lots of new products in the queue:

1. Lightweight Merino Hoody. To be delivered in November. I wore the final production prototype on the WT3 course and loved it. Combined with either a wind shirt or rain jacket, it allowed me to pretty much make no layering adjustments across the very wide gamut of conditions we faced.

2. Cocoon '09. New insulation - this time our own. Higher clo/oz than PL, PG, or CS. We're pretty stoked about this one. Skurka and I wore prototypes on the WT3 course, and I used one of the new quilts. Amazing stuff.

3. Oh and bivies are coming back just after the first of the year in completely retooled style: side zip, a sub-1-oz/yd2 silicone-nylon floor (no more crinkly spinnaker or poorly durable cuben fiber!), and an even lighter top breathable top fabric.

4. We're in the early phases of some great UL full-zip, rain jackets ... sub-1-oz/yd2 silnylon tarp shelters (again: no crinkly spinnaker, no poorly durable cuben) ... and ... a line of UL packs. These products should see the light of day in mid-09 with full prototypes and perhaps an early test run for you uber-enthusiasts...

5. We are launching a Wiki and a brand new site Search Engine in the next several weeks, retooling the website, and the big '09 initiative: redoing the forums. Lots of change on the forefront at BPL.com.

6. A more focused WT school, with the introduction of WT2 to the program in summer '09.

Ending the consumption binge is necessary if we as customers are going to focus our spending on what we want/need the most. And what we want/need the most are those things that contribute to our life satisfaction. Backpacking is pretty cheap entertainment even if the gear can sometimes be expensive. Remaining engaged in an internet community of enthusiasts, going out and enjoying the woods year-round, and being extremely fastidious about where you spend your gear dollars: there's a lot of joy in that.

The GREAT thing about a tanking economy is that it allows a business like us to refocus and return to our core customers rather than chase after the mass revenues being sliced and diced by the bigger companies. There is mutual loyalty here, a great community, and at some point, that has to be enough, no?

-- Ryan

Edited by ryan on 10/19/2008 19:52:06 MDT.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
aussie dollar on 10/19/2008 19:51:46 MDT Print View

The stronger US dollar isn't helping either. The aussie dollar has lost 30% of its value against the greenback since July, so it's now 30% more expensive to buy gear from the US!! =-(

Edited by ashleyb on 10/19/2008 19:53:19 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/19/2008 19:53:38 MDT Print View

Great post, Ryan -- looking forward to the goodies and programs you mentioned!

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/19/2008 19:54:40 MDT Print View

Ooooh, exciting to hear that the wiki is about to come online. It's been in the works a while and I'm sure it will prove to be very useful!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Economy and gear purchases on 10/19/2008 20:49:44 MDT Print View

I'm concerned, too. Gossamer Gear and Mountain Laurel Designs already went through a lean period not being able to sell a number of their products because of the spinnaker fabric shortage. GG still doesn't have any shelters in stock, including their popular "The One" (I'm waiting for a Squall Classic).

I'm also wondering about some other products that have been "Out of Stock" for a long time. Two examples that I want to buy are Titanium Goat's Adjustable Goat Poles and the BPL store's Firelite 550 UL pot. I'm waiting to buy a few other items from the BPL store until the pot is in stock, in order to save on shipping cost. I just hope the other items haven't disappeared by the time (if ever) the pot is available!

Right now the problem is the availability of credit. It may be that our friends at these small firms have been able to get along without a lot of borrowing--I hope so! But as more people are out of work, retail sales are going to slow down--they already have because people are anticipating being out of work.

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/19/2008 20:51:45 MDT.

Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
Economy on 10/19/2008 21:03:24 MDT Print View

"You can do your part to help us through it by renewing your online subscription!" - Ryan, very effective soft close:) I just renewed, I have been thinking of it for awhile but just didn't take time to do it.

Benjamin T, I ran across the following quote from a Chinese newspaper today regarding toy factory closings: "The official Xinhua News Agency reported this week that 3,631 toy exporters — 52.7 percent of the industry's enterprises — went out of business in 2008." Most sales have gone to US & Europe. 2009 could be as difficult.

As for US, the American consumer always pulled us out of past downturns but after mortgage/banking disaster it may not happen for some time.

I think consumerism has been out of control and needed to be knocked down. At risk of being a hypocrite I am excited about the new gear selections Ryan mentioned as well as the stuff at the at the Summer 2008 Outdoor Retail show.

I think high quality thoughtful gear will still sell but hopefully small mom & pop shops can keep costs down in light of fewer sales to remain around.

Hikelite

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Economy on 10/19/2008 21:06:51 MDT Print View

I haven't worried about the economy, because ours has been great. But now that the price of oil is crashing, our local economy will go in the toilet.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
RE: Economy & gear purchases on 10/19/2008 21:46:43 MDT Print View

So far, I haven't personally been hurt by the economic collapse, but have been watching my gear purchases a bit more closely due to some family situations. I've actually got my gear kit dialed in fairly well right now, thanks mainly to cottage manufacturer's including Nunatak, Hennessey Hammock, Tarptent, and BPL, as well as one of Doug McCoy's stoves and a can from Foster's beer.

Future purchases will likely be infrequent, but will mainly be from cutting edge cottage manufacturer's instead of the mainstream manufacturer. In the past I spent a lot on various outdoor clothing, some of which was okay and some of which wasn't. I believe I will be buying less quantity and more quality, which actually saves money over the long run.

Those BPL packs are sounding good, and I've been thinking about a tarp and bivy...

I can always cut back on restaurant meals, combine trips to save gas, use last years work wardrobe, and take the grandkids to the playground instead of Wal-Mart in order to buy a cool new piece of gear. I'll get a lot more enjoyment out of that in the long run. And the grandkids will too...

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Discretionary? on 10/19/2008 23:55:30 MDT Print View

Discretionary? An addict will always find a way!

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
"Economy & gear purchases" on 10/20/2008 06:28:41 MDT Print View

I believe that small companies that focus on high quality, fair pricing and customer orientated service will do just fine (that is if they can continue to get the materials needed from suppliers).

M G
(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
economic refocus on 10/20/2008 06:41:04 MDT Print View

This forum allows us to find high quality gear for which I suspect there is always a high demand. After that it comes down to self control and living within your means.

Jeremy Greene
(tippymcstagger) - F

Locale: North Texas
Re: economic refocus on 10/20/2008 06:51:03 MDT Print View

Good point drown,

Educated consumers have a positive effect on product quality.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/20/2008 09:19:46 MDT Print View

I can say we have felt it - the good thing is that we have little overhead/no employees to pay. If I don't earn anything, so be it - the real money is my husband's job anyways.

But yeah, there was a screeching slowdown to orders right about the time the banks started going under/stock market.

The good news is that I am getting back up to normal after a couple painful weeks with orders.

Life will go on - but I can say this.....I am glad I decided to not invest into Ti gear for my site. Right now I am selling a lot of lower priced gear (a big duh). I feel that for many spending $25-30 on some gear is ok, but spending $50-75 on one pot is not.

Christmas will happen for many companies - it just won't be huge like in past years.

But hey....one cool thing about lower price gear? You can always market yourself as an affordable vacation :-P

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/20/2008 09:46:40 MDT Print View

>But hey....one cool thing about lower price gear? You can always market yourself as an affordable vacation :-P

I've actually been thinking the same thing. Even though short term demand on all "discretionary" (depending on your level of addiction) goods will be down, surely a tighter economy will in the long term move people towards less expensive vacations - like hiking.

I see the realm of ultralight gear as operating within a specturum - on one side there are products that are prized because of their beautiful simplicity and economy (AL stoves made from recycled cans, Silnylon poncho/tarps, tyvek rainwear), and on the other, highly technical gear prized for its breathtaking statistics (think anything made of Cuben or E-vent). I think the immediate situation will push ultralighters towards the simple, inexpensive portion of the spectrum, and will make ultralight hiking more appealing to new, "normal" hikers that can go ultralight for less than buying conventional, heavy, expensive gear. Perhaps as things begin to turn around, those converts will also start to lick their chops over every new, if expensive, gram savings.

Ultimately, I think the slowing economy could be real boon for the simple enjoyment of the outdoors.

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
"Economy & gear purchases" on 10/20/2008 11:34:51 MDT Print View

I feel fortunate that I have stayed out of the market over the years. I gave all of my money to High Maintenance Women.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/20/2008 13:24:30 MDT Print View

Devin, you could be right on that - the 70's and 80's were great years for hiking/backpacking.
I do know that the local trails here (the foothills of the Cascades) are very busy - even with gas prices lowering they will stay busy as winter settles in - many of the trails you can take the bus practically to the trailhead - not a bad thing!

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Economy & gear purchases on 10/20/2008 14:33:50 MDT Print View

Yeah, the economy is slowing down.

But I look at it this way: If I lose my job, if my wife leaves me and take the child, our dog, and the house...the good news is that if I am going to be one of the best outfitted homeless guys you will see on the corner pan handling.

So purchasing high quality UL gear is an investment in my future as a homeless person.

Seriously, I think that there can be an upside to the slowing economy for the outdoors.

Just his past weekend, I tried to book a campsite in the S.F. Bay Area in the Marin Headlands and the ranger said that all of their campsites were booked up.

The Ranger said that with the price of gas going up, more local people were going camping vs. driving long distances.

Maybe people will a few hundred dollars on backpacking gear vs. spending $5k to take their families to Hawaii for vacation?

Given how passionate UL people are, I am sure that they will still find a way to buy gear and feed their addiction.

The trick for the UL manufactures is to offer a range of products with some attention to the budget/value conscience shopper.

Hope my thoughts turn out to be true....it would be tragic if the UL community lost any of these great cottage manufactures.

-Tony

George Andrews
(tinman) - F

Locale: Coastal NC
Economy and gear purchases on 11/06/2008 13:51:21 MST Print View

Tony,
First, UL gear means there will be a smaller volume and less weight to put in your shopping cart making it easier to push around the streets of S.F. Thus allowing you to pick up more aluminum cans. (For alcohol stoves, right?) Second, you can survive almost anything better with a sense of humor, a positive outlook, and the ability to make lemonade.

The economy is definitely slowing down but my sense is that the UL cottage industry is better suited to survive the worst to come - whatever your perception of 'the worst' may be. Mom 'n Pop shops usually aren't leveraged up to the keister and loaded with debt and can be more resilient. It is easier for a company like BPL, Gossamer Gear, AntiGravityGear, Trail Designs, and others to go into hibernation mode and recover later with minimal consequences than large companies. If things slow down too much, I'll just go on a long hike. SCORE!

Our international sales have slowed like Ashley said because of the stronger dollar...BUT the important thing is they haven't stopped. There has also been some slowing of domestic sales...BUT this happens every fall season. The difference from normal sales is noticeable but so far survivable.

Ryan is absolutely correct when he says, "The GREAT thing about a tanking economy is that it allows a business like us to refocus and return to our core customers rather than chase after the mass revenues being sliced and diced by the bigger companies. There is mutual loyalty here, a great community, and at some point, that has to be enough, no?"
We'll said, Ryan. Pass the lemonade!
George