Great Outdoor Provision Co.

With seven stores that average around 10,000 square feet in size, Great Outdoor Provision Co. has plenty of space to carry all of the products its customers desire, whether that’s a kayak or a pair of sturdy hiking boots. The chain turns 40 this year, and they’ll be celebrating in a fashion that best describes the company: Fun. “We’ve always believed if we’re not having fun, then we’re not doing it right,” says Travis Zarins, vice president of merchandising.

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With seven stores that average around 10,000 square feet in size, Great Outdoor Provision Co. has plenty of space to carry all of the products its customers desire, whether that’s a kayak or a pair of sturdy hiking boots. The chain turns 40 this year, and they’ll be celebrating in a fashion that best describes the company: Fun. “We’ve always believed if we’re not having fun, then we’re not doing it right,” says Travis Zarins, vice president of merchandising. “If a customer’s preparing for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail or simply day hiking at a local park, we help them have fun on their journey.”

Top-selling brands and styles: Day hikers and casual styles are always strong for our shops. Merrell has been been a consistent top-performing brand, and Toms shoes, Ugg boots, OluKai sandals, Vibram FiveFingers and Brooks running shoes have all been strong in our market.

What was the best-selling brand in 2011? Merrell. We carry lifestyle, technical and barefoot styles from them, and all have performed well this year. What were the most popular colors this fall? Brown still leads the way in men’s, but we’re seeing some nice movement in gray and black as well. We’ve seen women gravitate toward bright, bold colors, and reds have been particularly strong.

Best new footwear brand added to the mix this year: We’ve added Oboz footwear to our technical selection and Stem footwear to our barefoot selection. Both have performed very well.

Best-selling accessories in 2011: Smartwool socks were far and away our best-selling accessory; they make a great product. Superfeet insoles have also been strong. What is your fastest-growing customer segment?

Although we reach a very broad customer base, young adults have been the fastest-growing segment. Brands like Toms and Vibram have introduced new customers to our shop. What was the biggest surprise—good or bad— related to your business last year? The fact that our footwear sales have remained very strong this past year was a bit of a surprise. It’s nice to have customers that continue to appreciate the service and quality product we offer.

In what ways has your customer changed as a result of the economy? Our customer doesn’t mind purchasing a high-quality product that will last. They see the long-term value in good footwear.

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