Because we publish hiking guidebooks, whenever we enter an outdoor gear shop we notice if it carries guidebooks. If it does, we always take a few minutes to examine how the books are merchandised. We just visited Yeti, an outdoor gear shop in Montreal, Quebec. Yeti carries few guidebooks and displays them behind the sales counter where customers cannot reach them. Our intention here is not to criticize Yeti in particular. It’s an otherwise well-stocked gear shop. The salesperson we spoke with (regarding waterproof gloves) was knowledgeable and helpful. Our point is that how Yeti handles guidebooks is typical of nearly every outdoor shop we’ve ever visited. They seem to believe guidebooks are peripheral to their business and of scant interest to customers. With the exception of MEC*, the big chain stores are no different. For example, every REI store we’ve visited in the U.S. has only a small, token bookshelf virtually hidden where customer traffic is minimal. This is a mistake. Outdoor gear shops are overlooking the fact that hiking guidebooks ARE gear. Guidebooks are essential to hikers’ enjoyment and safety. Besides, guidebooks drive experience. Experience then drives interest in gear. If outdoor shops recognized this truth and acted on it by stocking more guidebooks and merchandising them more effectively, they’d boost clothing and equipment sales. (Case in point: us. We took interest in Yeti’s extensive selection of gloves because of our experiences hiking with wet, cold hands.) Outdoor gear shops, wake up! You’re ignoring a significant revenue stream. You’re failing to serve an important customer need. And you’re falling short of what must have been your original goal: help more people enjoy the outdoors.
*Mountain Equipment Co-op stores in Canada do a superior job of stocking and merchandising hiking guidebooks. Way to go MEC!