Building a Local Brand for the Long Haul.

It’s for good reason that Massey’s Outfitters in Louisiana has been in business for three generations. As a family-owned outdoor specialty retailer they have learned to reinvent their brand with the changing times. Today Massey’s is thriving with four independent brick and mortar stores and three on-line storefronts. This independently owned retailer has worked hard to become a leading dealer of all outdoor lifestyle goods from paddling, rock climbing, backpacking, camping, biking and even skiing (flatlanders like to ski too).

“Our job is to inspire people to get outside and enjoy an active lifestyle. Our competition isn’t necessarily other retail stores but all the other things that clog up our lives like sitting in front of a computer and other sedentary activities. I think we’ve been successful because we’ve learned to listen to our community. We try to always be present and involved in anything that inspires outdoor activity, from creating bike paths to trail and waterway clean ups,” states Mike Massey.

before and after of the New Orleans store

What does the overall winner of the 2011 SNEWS Retailer of the Year* (ROTY) award know that the rest of us might not? While the team at Massey’s understands that carrying the right brands and employing knowledgeable customer service superstars are a big part of running a successful retail store, they’ve also learned that building and integrating a strong brand within the community is imperative to their success. They have great relationships with strong brands (vendors) but know they must leverage these brands in order to differentiate themselves from other retailers and create their own local identity. In order to create consumer loyalty they focus on events and activities that get their customers outside. They use the web and social media to position themselves as experts and drive people into the stores to experience the outdoor community they’ve created. They know the main thing they’re selling is their knowledge and passion for an active lifestyle.  Their goal is to inspire consumers to live a life that includes outdoor activities.

Rules that add up to long-term success:

Share Inspiration + Experience:
Of course, the first key to this is an educated staff.  But for Massey’s this also comes from organizing and planning big trips, such as to Antarctica or more approachable trips like to the beach or a local paddle and camping adventure. They know it isn’t about WHERE you’re going, It’s just about GOING.  As a brand, they have positioned themselves as the go-to experts for all active and outdoor pursuits and have the experience and the tools (trip planning services) to be the local experts.

Plug Into Your Team:
Each Massey’s team member has a different set of experiences and passions. They listen to these passions and tap into them. Team members are brought into regular planning meetings and can find ownership and experience in the areas of the business that they’re interested in. This listening quality has allowed Massey’s to retain staff for a long period of time but also exposed them to new and relevant active and outdoor activities. For instance, listening to their college-aged employees has given Massey’s insights into what types of sports and brands are ‘up and coming’ and they have taken the opportunity to embrace these ideas.

Be Involved:
Massey’s Outfitter’s prides themselves on being an active and caring community member. They try to ‘mix it up’ and they know that being active means different things to different people. What defines ‘outdoor’ in urban areas differs from that in more rural areas. Similarly, the definition of ‘outdoor’ can also vary from a college-aged person to an experienced adventure seeker. As a business, Massey’s has embraced each local market differently and been involved in what’s happening in and around each store. For instance, the New Orleans store has more or an urban vibe that includes
skateboarding as an activity that makes sense for its customers. Listening to the consumer’s interests and getting involved in those interests has been a key part of maintaining a healthy business.

Listen, Change + Grow:
“We want to share our passion for outdoor activities and be a conduit for our active community to come together and enjoy activities and experiences. We try to support our community by being being present and active in many of the outdoor and marketing events happening locally. This allows us to listen versus just create and drive our own events, although, we do have some of our own events. Most importantly, we listen, keep an open mind and are willing to take chances,” says Mike Massey

before and after photos of the New Orleans store

* The ROTY award recognizes the outstanding contributions of a specialty outdoor retailer to his or her community and the outdoor industry. The recipient of the award is an integral part of the community that his or her business serves and is considered visionary in terms of leading the market rather than following it. Recipients are known for their community involvement, customer loyalty, employee training and retention, long-term commitments in the areas of supporting green and sustainable business practices and exceptional merchandising skills. The winner of this award embodies the true spirit of entrepreneurship, sustainable business models and community service and is recognized as a shining example of what every retailer should aspire to be in the specialty outdoor retail industry. Nominations for 2012 ROTY are being accepted now.