Monday, June 22, 2009

Competition is heating up in the outdoor industry in Texas

A decade ago there was really only one place to shop for outdoor gear and apparel under one roof in Central Texas – Whole Earth Provision Company. Yes there were a few fishing or outdoor stores that carried one-off products and maybe even some climbing gear, however, they were short lived and rarely had everything you needed in one go.

Fast forward to 2009 and Austin alone has nearly a dozen stores that carry a decent variety of quality apparel including Whole Earth Provision Company, REI, St. Bernard’s, Backwoods, Patagonia and others. Each have their attributes and none carry a decent selection of climbing shoes. Whole Earth still has one of the more comprehensive apparel selections even over the three local REI stores, which I found surprising since the retail space is so drastically different.

One factor that makes this growth even more interesting is the increasing use of online mega-stores like and It’s a good sign that there’s still a place for physical stores. It shows that each is creating a niche that is working for them and exceeds the experience of shopping online – since it’s nearly impossible to beat the deals you can find throughout the options provided online.

Myself, I still need to know it’s going to really fit. I want to try it out. Hold it in my hands. And, perusing the grounds of an outdoor store can actually be a stress reliever as compared to some of the other places we are forced to shop throughout our lives. It’s almost like you are feeding that itch to be out climbing or looking to inspire yourself to take a trip – can be a good break from the monotony of the work day.

It will be interesting to see how these companies stay competitive and how they position themselves to emerge as leaders in their own niches. They all have great potential.


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