This week has been rife with controversy, political ... and in the outdoor industry.
After Walmart.com announced its new Premium Outdoor Store – curated by Moosejaw (which Walmart purchased for $51 million last year) and a direct effort to complete with Amazon – several high-profile brands asked to be removed from the site. Among them: Black Diamond, Leki, Deuter, Therm-a-Rest & Katadyn.
“We launched, and then all hell broke loose a little bit within the outdoor industry,” said Moosejaw Chief Executive Eoin Comerford, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I didn’t expect the reaction to be quite so vehement.”
For all of us over at Garage Grown Gear HQ, this has lead to some very interesting conversations. Since our ultimate goal is to connect more people to interesting small brands, Walmart does represent a HUGE potential audience for many of our companies. For a small business (or any sized business really), a contract with Walmart could mean moving out of the basement, hiring a new set of hands, and adding the distribution to effectively scale to a new level. It also means more people using their products to experience the outdoors.
That being said... getting into bed with Walmart also comes with some HUGE question marks. Many outdoor brands have environmental and social missions attached to their business. Can those missions really be viewed as genuine while selling through Walmart? While this collection of brands is being labeled as "premium," does it hurt your branding to be positioned in a store that has built itself on affordability over quality?
What do you think? Do you agree with, Wes Allen, independent specialty retailer and former president of the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, that “associating your premium brand with Walmart makes it not premium anymore."
Or, do you share the perspective of Eoin Comerford that that viewpoint is "dated thinking," because shoppers from all demographics shop on Walmart.com – and that the Walmart.com Premium Outdoor Store self-proclaims to promote gender and racial inclusivity in an industry that "remains predominantly male and remarkably white."
Here are the best articles from around the web on the controversy:
Wall Street Journal: Walmart Just Wanted to Sell Pricey Outdoor Gear. Then ‘All Hell Broke Loose.’