Nearly 50 percent of the American population engages in outdoor activities each year, which amounts to 137.9 million people, according to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). People don’t have to live in a particular area to enjoy the outdoors – cities from the east (Burlington, Vt.) to west (Portland, Ore.) and north (Minneapolis) to south (Asheville, N.C.) are popular for their range of outdoor activities, and residents of rural areas enjoy a close proximity to the open American landscape. Additionally, outdoor activities can be as low-tech or high-tech as people care to make them. Whether a person is a full-fledged enthusiast or newcomer to outdoor activities, Sportsman’s Warehouse is proud to be “America’s premier outfitter” by supplying whatever is necessary for their full enjoyment.
Based in Utah, Sportsman’s Warehouse operates more than 30 locations throughout the West, Southwest and Southeast, as well as Alaska and Iowa. In each of its stores, Sportsman’s Warehouse strives to provide consumers with the right equipment for their particular activities and does this through a combination of brand-name products, a friendly and low-key shopping environment, great prices and knowledgeable staff, according to Chief Marketing Officer Karen Seaman.
“Our stores and our e-commerce site have one clear mission – to provide a great shopping experience,” she says. “We offer the brands they want and use our expertise to enhance their outdoor experience and make it memorable.”
Sportsman’s Warehouse serves people interested in nearly any outdoor activity, including hunting, fishing, camping, backpacking and shooting. Seaman explains the “very high user base among our employees” helps to enhance the customer experience with activity and product advice, and the stores’ footprints – averaging 48,000 square feet, they are relatively smaller than many other outfitters – helps customers to find what they need quickly and easily.
“We carry the national brands so our customers know they will get what they want and the brands that they trust,” Seaman says. “But the passion of our employees really drives our success. We get an impressive amount of positive customer feedback about our employees, and we appreciate all they do.”
‘A Lot of Trust’
Sportsman’s Warehouse tends to open three or four new brick-and-mortar locations each year, and while it intends to maintain this rate of growth while expanding west and additionally east, the company also is focused on adding to the offerings of its e-commerce site. The company’s site launched in fall 2010, Seaman explains, and the company continues to improve its design, contents and usability. It recently enhanced the site with a one-page checkout and a ship-to-store option, for example. The goal, she says, is to complement its brick-and-mortar locations and broaden the reach of Sportsman’s Warehouse.
“Last fall we ramped up the SEO side of the online business as well as PPC and retargeting, and we continue to focus on improving the content,” she says. “First, we will continue adding to the products we offer online with corresponding multiple image views and enhanced descriptions. Then we will launch dynamic recommendations and reviews.
“With our user base and the activities we supply, there is a lot of trust, so recommendations and reviews are very important.”
Eventually, Sportsman’s Warehouse plans to enhance the site with how-to videos and increased social interaction with blogs, she notes. Although it will not be selling guns online, the company is creating a library of guns and safes on the site to aid in consumer research and to help customers know what’s available in the brick-and-mortar stores. It also plans to equip the site with enhanced reporting tools, enabling it to serve customers better by knowing their purchase and location details.
“We will do hands-on testing in the stores soon so we can see how people use the site,” Seaman explains. “The site is still in its infancy compared to the physical stores, but we are working to get the word out. We market the site in our stores and we sponsor five or six TV national programs, and the site is prominent in those promotion materials. We advertise in national publications such as Outdoor Life and Field and Stream, and we have QR codes on all of our ads. In areas where our stores aren’t located, we use promotional offers to entice people to try the site.”
Flexible and Responsive
Sportsman’s Warehouse already has opened new locations in Redding, Calif., and Las Vegas this year, and the company is on track to open a store in Roanoke, Va., in April.
“We always go into areas that have a record of having a good user base,” Seaman says. “We always analyze a new market if we see an opportunity, and in addition to a large user base, we look for areas with available real estate and access to land, lakes, camp grounds and other outdoor activities.”
With its state-of-the-art systems in its stores, she notes, Sportsman’s Warehouse remains flexible and reactive to customers’ immediate needs, as well as proactive to upcoming seasons. It’s also structured to get inventory to stores quickly.
“This year, there wasn’t much of a winter in most places, so we saw a big pick-up in camping and had to adjust our inventory in most stores,” she says. “Alaska, however, had a bad winter, so we moved much of our cold-weather merchandise from the lower 48 states to Alaska.
“Across the board, we’ve seen a big pickup in fishing, primarily because of the slow economy,” she adds. “That has a low barrier to entry and it’s an easy way to enjoy an outdoor activity with little expense.”
To help customers enhance their skills in different outdoor interests or learn about activities that are new to them, Sportsman’s Warehouse locations offer a number of events, classes, seminars and presentations. In Alaska, for example, some locations are hosting an “Easter Egg Extravaganza,” a “Basics of Rainwear” presentation and a “Bear Baiting Certification Class.” In California, upcoming classes cover deep-frying turkeys, hunter safety education and Dutch oven cooking, as well as a “Pistol Reloading Seminar.”
However, it’s the company’s employees, Seaman stresses, who ensure customers are equipped with the products and knowledge that enable them to best enjoy their activities.
“When we go into a new market, we look for employees who like to participate in outdoor activities because we want them to relate to our customers,” she says. “Our employees are very passionate and they are important to the growth of our business. Our associates live what we sell, which is some of the best advertising we have.”