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Walmart Outdoor Manager Pens Open Letter to Outdoor Industry

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Last week, Walmart launched its Premium Outdoor Store curated by Moosejaw, a small outdoor retailer it purchased last year. In response, several brands withdrew their sales from Walmart. Moosejaw’s CEO replies in this letter.

Editor’s note: Below is the unedited letter from Eoin Comerford, general manager of outdoor at Walmart eCommerce and CEO of Moosejaw. For more background about the issue, read “Walmart Opens ‘Premium Outdoor Store’ to Sell High-End Gear” and “Walmart ‘Outdoor Store’ Loses Two More Brands With Deuter, Katadyn Exit.”

Below is Comerford’s open letter in full.

Open Letter to Outdoor Industry by Eoin Comerford, Moosejaw CEO

Eoin Comerford
Eoin Comerford

In the outdoor industry we like to talk about inclusivity. We recognize the relatively low participation by women and minorities in outdoor activities, so we create slick marketing campaigns and trumpet our moderate successes. And yet the industry remains predominantly male and remarkably white. If we’re going to grow this industry beyond its exclusionary, historical norms, we need to reach new audiences… younger, more female, more diverse.

Moosejaw has always been about inclusion. One of our core mantras is “never take yourself too seriously,” so we welcome beginning backpackers and climbers that are intimidated by other outdoor retailers that greeted them with sighs and eye rolls. It’s part of the reason that Moosejaw’s customers are the youngest of any major outdoor retailer.

At Moosejaw, I have focused on integrity and respect. We treat our brands as partners, working together to build a business based on straightforward and honest communication. Our goal is to do what we say and say what we do.

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We developed the Premium Outdoor Store on Walmart with all of these thoughts in mind. Walmart.com’s huge traffic offered the ability to expose outdoor brands, activities and products to a massive audience of new and long-term outdoor enthusiasts, including the very groups that are underrepresented in our industry today. We didn’t want to be just another marketplace focusing on sterile transactions and price shopping. Instead, we built a destination where we could partner with brands to tell their story through their own images, technologies and product families. We built a destination where the brands could list their product to the highest of their standards.

I wasn’t naive enough to think that all outdoor retailers would welcome the Premium Outdoor Store with open arms, but I am surprised by the vehemence of the attacks by some of our industry’s leading retailers and the threats to drop brands that participated.

walmart store

At the end of the day, the question becomes, “what industry do we want to be?” A small, exclusionary, slow-growing industry dominated by one or two large retailers that dictate everything from distribution and promotional calendars, or a large, inclusive, fast-growing industry embraced by a growing customer base and populated by many innovative and inspiring outdoor brands.

For our part, Moosejaw will continue to push for growth and inclusion.

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