Q : What is your name and role with Mountain Gear?
Jill Yotz, aka "Jungle Yogi" Hardgoods buyer for climbing, backpacking/camping, and performance footwear. Sometimes verbose (you've been warned).
Q : What sort of buying patterns are you noticing from consumers these days?
To keep it relatively succinct: I'm seeing an overall increase in the buying power of the millennial consumer, and their values are having a growing impact on retail sales. There have been several studies over the past few years showing that millennials prefer to buy “experiences” over “things”. The outdoor industry- and packs in particular!- is uniquely suited to this trend: the products we offer are in the position to support the experiences that customers seek. My favorite part of working in retail sales is getting to help a customer prepare for a life-changing experience, whether it’s backpacking through Europe, scaling Denali, or going on their first camping trip.
In a bit more depth: This same buying group seems particularly interested in durability and versatility. With their growing buying power, it feels more important than ever to understand that the millennial consumer entered the job market around the time of a financial recession; they were in the midst of the rise of social media and ecommerce, and are facing the potential of serious environmental breakdown during their lifetime. It isn't surprising when these factors contribute purchasing patterns, nor is it a surprise that durability and versatility are recurring characteristics that customers ask of their gear. We’ll always have gearheads who want the latest niche products (which is one of the fun aspects to my job, so thank you!), but I’m seeing far more interest in products that can support a variety of experiences, have a story and meaning in a disconnected world, and won’t end up in a landfill after a couple of uses.
Q : Have you seen a lot of growth coming from the travel categories of the business?
I have definitely seen an increase in organic sales and assortment proportion for this category at Mountain Gear and in the industry as a whole.
Over the past few decades, travel has become in some ways easier (more access) and in some ways more of a pain (TSA lines, luggage restrictions, etc.). The traditional luggage industry appears to be experiencing some shake-ups itself, and we’re seeing new players enter the arena whose goals are to make air travel easier. I believe there is a lot of opportunity for adventure travel gear to grow in market share, since it has years of experience in making the process of transporting our stuff easier.
Q : What's the most frequently asked question pack questions that you receive from customers and how do you address it?
“I’m looking for the perfect pack: a backpack that is lightweight, durable, versatile, and not expensive. I want to use it for work/school, traveling through Europe, and on a multiday hike.”
The runner-up question might be: “why is that backpack so expensive?”
How I address most questions pertaining to outdoor gear: Education and excellent customer service! I’ve long believed that the greatest value of a local gear shop is the people who work there. They can take a customer on an in-depth tour of complex gear and help refine the customer’s priorities so that they find the REAL “perfect” pack. During this process, the customer often changes their outlook on cost from "expensive" to "investment".
Q : What made you pick Osprey travel packs to add to your pack wall?
Osprey specializes in helping people transport their stuff efficiently and comfortably for nearly every task in nearly all conditions. I trust the brand for its details, durability, and fit. The quality of the product makes it clear that Osprey invests as much time and attention into their travel bags as they do for their technical packs. I can’t walk through an airport or bus terminal without seeing the Osprey logo. It only makes sense to build my travel category around Osprey product.
Q : Any other Osprey models even outside of the travel category that you stock that you find works well for Mountain Gear?
Our best-selling models are the Aether/Ariel and the Atmos/Aura. We’re a backpacking and mountaineering company at heart, and those packs speak to our core values. Of course, nothing sells quite as fast as a sub-$100 black daypack!
Q : Any upcoming or past adventures that you're particularly stoked about?
I was lucky last year: in the fall I had the opportunity to explore and ski several active(!) Chilean volcanoes with my father. I also managed to get in some solid ice and mixed climbing laps beside some premier climbers (shout-out to the buyers who joined me there!) in my first "foray to Ouray" last winter.
This year I'm hoping to attend either the Michigan or Mt. Washington ice fests since I haven't been to either one yet. If you haven't been to an ice fest, I suggest dropping everything and attending one immediately. The atmosphere and the people are amazing.
A few other plans in the works:
-One of my best friends and I are working on "SUP'ing All Year", and have had some beautiful, chilly paddles so far.
- My sister is getting married in Kona in January, and I'm hoping the weather works out so that I can bring skis to hike/ski Mauna Kea. I'm sure she's rolling her eyes if she's reading this.
- I'm in my first year of ski patrolling. I work in a cubicle most of the time and am pretty stoked that I get to help people in tandem with being outside and sliding on snow!