Did you know that Wal-Mart is now North America's biggest retailer of camping gear? Nothing against affordable equipment -- here at Backpacker we applaud anything that makes our sport more accessible -- but in this era of super-mega sporting goods chains and giant discount retailers, it's getting harder and harder for specialty outdoor shops to survive. I'm talking about the stores that focus on backcountry, human-powered sports, like backpacking, mountaineering, climbing, fishing, and skiing. And the ones that still provide real expertise and focus on solid personal service. You know the shops I'm talking about.
And you know that they deserve all the support and recognition we can give them. Which is why Backpacker has launched its first Retailer of the Year contest: We want to celebrate the little local guys in all of our towns who treat each customer individually, who get involved in the community, and who are being creative in the fight to keep outdoor retail alive. In other words, the shops where you can still get a knowledgable take on pack selection and a pack-fitting from someone who's been trained to customize it to YOUR body.
You may have seen the contest announcement in the current (September) issue of the magazine, but I wanted to put a call out to this forum as well for nominations. Do you know a shop that deserves recognition? We've teamed up with SNEWS, the leading trade publication for the outdoor industry (and a company our owners bought last year) to collect nominations from across the United States. Once the nomination period closes (on September 1!), our panel of judges will conduct a bunch of interviews and anonymous in-store evaluations. We'll announce an overall winner, plus top performers in six sub-categories in the Gear Guide next March.
To nominate your favorite store, take three minutes to fill out the form.
Besides the grand prize, the sub-categories are Community Involvement, Youth Programs, Sustainability, Encouraging Outdoor Participation, Conservation, and Best Online Retailer.
Thanks in advance for your nominations.