'All Hell Broke Loose' After Walmart Opened its New Premium Outdoor Store

Trends & Top 10Amy Hatch

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.’

Outside: How Retailers Rose Against Walmart’s Online Gear Shop

Gear Junkie: Walmart Outdoor Manager Pens Open Letter to Outdoor Industry

Forbes: Black Diamond Snafu Highlights Critical Gap In Walmart Strategy

SNEWS: Why brands quickly changed their minds about selling on Walmart.com

Trends & top 10

12 comments

Neil

Neil

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fully, except this paragraph presents fastidious understanding yet.
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SA Brotherton

SA Brotherton

As a consumer who has seen Wal-Mart come in and destroy all retailers in small towns by under cutting prices, driving them out of business and then jacking up the price once they have no competition…I do not support Wal-Mart nor anyone that deals w/them. Their business model is the epitome of making $$$ for Wal-Mart…period. I won’t even get into their poor track record in regards to how they treat their employees. Kudos to those companies who see the bigger picture beyond the money aspect, and opted out…I believe it is commonly referred to as ‘dealing with the devil’.

Kris

Kris

I think you need to be progressive in your thinking and not elitist. Many people are not able to enjoy the outdoors at premium prices. If Walmart allows more people that experience, then I am all on board.

Andy

Andy

Wal-Mart has owned Moose jaw for sometime now and these companys knew it but did not seem to have a problem with them selling there products until it became more public. Believe me, there are a lot of online cut throat companies that sell “Premium Brands”

Guy

Guy

Selling through Walmart devalues a product and associates the company with one of the worst of the worst with regard to social and fair economic practices. It’s good to see companies take a stand and disassociate their products and businesses from Walmart.

Jenn

Jenn

Walmart is associated with low end/ bargain quality. If you want to maintain your premium status, and not have people look at your product as inferior, stay independent.

Lloyd

Lloyd

Totally agree with so many of the sentiments being shared. To be 100% clear, we have zero desire to ever have our GGG brands in Walmart or to have ourselves (GGG) be associated with Walmart in any way. We simply found it to be an interesting discussion, and wanted to present some of the resources, media, and arguments that were buzzing around the interwebs. We pride ourselves in repping brands you won’t find in the big box retailers, and Walmart is about as big box as it gets!

Brett

Brett

I have checked out the Premium site, the brands and gear there are “more premium” than what Walmart typically sells, with brands like Slumberjack, Teton, and Klymit, but not much that’s inline with what most of us here would consider “premium”.

Kate

Kate

First off, ‘’highering a new set of hands?’’ The word is ‘’hiring.’’ Second, Walmart is the original corporate bad guy, and if you think getting your products in their store is a coup, then wait until they start forcing you to lower your prices. Amazon is now the bigger bad guy—both take profits away from the original manufacturers. I will never shop at Moosejaw, and I don’t shop at Walmart. Once this starts, all the small mountaineering and outdoor stores will begin going out of business. Many years ago in Anchorage, Alaska, Sam’s Club was selling Marmot tents. Actually, Marmot had a deal with Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking, who was to be their sole distributor in Anchorage, so when the tents appeared at Sam’s (which is WalMart, by the way), the owner of AMH went out and bought every one of the tents at Sam’s, then contacted Marmot to find out why they were selling the tents. The story from Marmot went something like this: ‘’Oh, we had a big order for over 400 tents, and when we got ready to ship the tents, the company had gone out of business, so Walmart ’agreed’ to buy the tents at a price lower than our profit margin. Apparently this is par for the course for Walmart—creating shell companies that demand products, only to vanish into thin air—and Walmart shows up to ‘save the day/salvage the manufacturer’s losses. Want to work with the Devil? Walmart will save you the trouble.

Josie

Josie

I would much prefer to buy from independent brands for many reasons. One is their expressed or presumed environmental awareness and low impact. However I have been impressed for a long time at the foresight of EDF which was criticized for jumping on with Wallmart years ago, but their relative impact of change has been so much larger because of the chain’s scale (and if we can’t change the big ones, what hope do we have): see https://www.edf.org/partnerships/walmart

Samuel Goss

Samuel Goss

Walmart and premium should not be used in the same sentence. It’s like the “columbia” clothes sold at Kohl’s are less quality than Columbia items sold at non discount retailers. I will continue to buy from GGG and their brands but not thru walmart.

Sam

Sam

Premium is in the manufacturing not marketing.

If Wally World pressures the vendors to drop the price point and quality and the vendors comply then the brand is not premium.

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