Hello there GGGers!
Over the past week, there has been a ton of conversation around the actions of Backcountry.com. While we work with several brands that use the term “Backcountry” in either their company name or in their product titles, to our knowledge, none of our companies have been affected or targeted by Backcountry.com’s legal actions. For that we (and they) are grateful.
In reaction to Backcountry.com’s legal actions against companies using the term “Backcountry,” there has been an overwhelming amount of reinvigorated enthusiasm for supporting small, specialty, and local outdoor shops. You know the types of shops I’m talking about: the places filled to the brim with gear, personality, and years of collective outdoor experience. These spaces are community centers, libraries of knowledge, and places that spark joy upon entry or reflection.
Much of this conversation has already been played out on message boards and comment sections across the internet, but I hope to add 2 quick points to the conversation. Full disclosure, given my role with GGG, obviously my perspective is riddled with bias.
While this seemingly rejuvenated energy for shopping local is incredible, given our humble position in the online market, I find it important to note that while Backcountry.com is one of the largest online details of outdoor gear, their business practices shouldn’t be allowed to define the online retail space. Many online retailers play key roles in our outdoor ecosystem, and these shops hire real people, with real experience, who have real passion, and do really great and empowering things within our community. Being online doesn’t inherently make the people behind the company less human, less ethical, or less real!
While there are certainly online retailers with questionable business practices (we wouldn’t be having this conversation if there weren’t), there is nothing inherently evil or malicious about online shops. It’s not the medium, it’s the people and their practices, and just because a store is online, doesn’t mean it’s some giant soulless monstrosity. As online retail only becomes more prominent, hopefully, the exposure of Backcountry.com’s ethics only helps hold the medium more accountable to the outdoor community.
- Having followed the conversation around Backcountry.com closely, there seems to be a missing piece of the conversation which to me appears obvious. For me, it’s taking the conversation from the topic of “where you buy” to the topic of “what you buy.” While I don’t have an organized vendetta against big box brands (some make really great gear), buying Mountain Hardware or Marmot on Backcountry.com, REI or at your local brick and mortar shop still supports some relatively nameless and faceless multi-billion dollar company that most likely only cares tangentially about you as a customer or your business. Sure that might sound a bit melodramatic, but the reality is that they probably don’t care or even take note of your individual purchase (or your existence). By supporting small brands you are quite literally playing an active role in helping a small business owners aspirations and inventions come to life. Most of these brands can also be found exclusively on online platforms.
Is a big company evil because it is big? Is a small brand inherently better because it’s small? Of course not, but if your desire is to spend your money as intentionally and purposefully as possible, spend those hard-earned dollars on small brands that align with your values.
While I’m by no means under the impression that either of these points are particularly revolutionary or even original (they are certainly iterations of things I’ve been soapboxing for years), I think both are important to ponder when framing and processing the conversation around Backcountry.com
In an attempt to avoid too much needless preaching to the choir, I’ll end this message with one final thought. As you have conversations with others about the controversy surrounding Backcountry.com, encourage your family and friends to not only question where they buy, but also question what they are buying. Yes, encourage them to shop at their local store, but if they are really looking to support the little guy, continue to direct them towards your favorite small, startup and cottage brands. It makes a difference.