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Ask Capacity: What Is the Biggest Fulfillment Challenge Facing Outdoor Brands?

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When questions combine the idea of an order fulfillment challenge mixed with outdoor and adventure brands, there's one man we always turn to... 

As an avid climber and outdoor sports enthusiast, Capacity CSO and co-founder Thom Campbell knows how much equipment is needed for a successful trip into - and, preferably, safely back from - the wilderness. Of course, after almost two decades in order fulfillment, he also knows what it takes to get products of all shapes and sizes into stores and out to our homes.

Mountain range great outdoors

The Outdoor Brand Fulfillment Challenge

When asking him about the biggest fulfillment challenge facing outdoor brands, it becomes clear that an unrelated adage rings true: size matters. In his travels as an advocate for Capacity's fulfillment solutions, Thom often attends the Outdoor Retailer winter exhibition. One such trip two years ago found him fortunate enough to visit the operational hub of Backcountry.com in Salt Lake City, UT.

His visit provided vivid confirmation of just how much space is needed by a retailer supplying rugged gear for activities like camping, skiing, snowboarding, and other outdoor pursuits.  

The facility in Salt Lake City is one of two fulfillment centers that the company operates. It comprises a substantial warehouse as the main facility, with a compact retail store out front to showcase the many product lines carried by the company.

Campbell recalls the space requirements for a brand that employs thousands of people and handles equipment of varying shapes and sizes:

"I would guess the total size was nearly 300,000 square feet and around 30 feet clear in height.

The biggest challenge they face is pretty obvious as soon as you set foot in the door.The range of product type, value and size is pretty staggering. I know it would be my number one concern if ever trying to win a business like theirs.

Take the lines of kayaks, which have somehow been slotted into pallet racks, or the custom-built bays for snowboards; these are not standard things that you would see in your normal third party fulfillment provider’s warehouse."

In the same year that Campbell visited, a controlling stake in Backcountry.com was bought by TSG Consumer Partners. Thankfully, he can report that the beloved brand seems to have held onto much if not all of the original culture that made it such a success, including employees who have a true zeal for outdoor activities. As a loyal customer for many years, Thom hasn't noticed any interruption to that outstanding service and experience he's used to.

Another insight offered about the broader sector is that much of the outdoor sporting goods retail business is not really that conducive to outsourced fulfillment. For the most part, the tight margins and extremely complex handling characteristics make order fulfillment for adventure brands a job for the internal specialists.

Is this your experience with the fulfillment challenges facing outdoor brands? If you have a different perspective or have questions about fulfillment for your business, we'd love to hear from you!