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What climbing gear do you expect an outdoor sports store to stock?

Original Post
Forrest Carver · · Edgecomb, ME · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 85

Let’s say you work at a sporting goods store and have convinced the manager to branch into climbing. They agree under the condition that you have very limited money for the initial investment. What would you consider to be the essentials to stock in your mini climbing department?

Answer with a $2000, $5000, and $10,000 budget if you have time for details

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

Low Budget: Harness, chalk bag, chalk, belay device, simple locking biner, shoes. (gear to climb in a gym)

Mid Budget: Add quickdraws, rope (gear to do top rope / sport)

High Budget: Add trad protection, slings etc (trad gear)

Ancent · · Reno, NV · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 34

add helmet, tape, and relevant guidebooks (technique and local areas) as high priorities. You're aiming to be that "I forgot that one thing, let me grab it from the nearest place" not "I'm going to start trad climbing today" stores, especially if you're starting with a relatively small inventory. Also, whatever can get someone started in a climbing gym (harness, shoes, chalk(bag), locker, ATC).

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

Tape and guidebooks for local areas are good, helmet I would wait for high budget because most people don't use them. Could also add bouldering pads on high budget as well if you have bouldering areas around you.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,734

TC Pros, bi-pattern 9.2 Sterling ropes, BD Double Cabana, GriGri + and Totem Cams.  Nothing less.

t.farrell · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 60

Walk into an REI, and see what they stock (carabiners, atcs, generic/basic stuff) . They carry generic stuff that turns pretty quickly. If you focus on specialty stuff, you probably won't liquidate your inventory fast enough for it to be viable. Use the budgets to build up inventory.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

Fine tune items for local climbing - if no trad, cams not a priority. Ditto for bouldering.

Shoes are definitely high end investment - need huge inventory to cover combination of different sizes and foot shapes. 

Add stick clips if sport climbing is prevalent. 

What are clients - are they seasoned climbers who forgot a piece of gear, or are is the shop trying to cater to fresh people?

J W · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535

$2k- wouldn't bother. 

$5k- probably still wouldn't bother. 

$10k- maybe stock a couple pairs of shoes, men's and women's, single size run, plus the bd momentum harness package. Throw in a couple guides and some chalk. 

Retail isn't cheap- even a tiny stock is way more than you might think. You really couldn't even consider stocking a climbing section for less than $20k- especially if you wanted it to make money. 

If your store has a significant inventory and runs on pre-seasons, you'd need to hit an even higher number. 

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 161

I have no idea what shoes cost wholesale, but lets assume that you stock some low end shoes (~$100) and get a 200% mark up on them.  So a single pair of shoes is $33.  Stocking 1/2 sizes from 6 to 12 in mens and 4 to 10 in womens needs 28 pairs of shoes, at $33 each, that is $1,000 right there, and that is with no back-up stock for when a dude comes in to wanting the pair of size 10s you just sold.  Shoes would be out.

You are probably better off stocking supplies that might get sold to general outdoor folks as well.  Biners are a good option, and you can stock a few different ones for only a few bucks per.  Slings and webbing would also work, folks can always use them for hammocks.  A solid basic harness would be easy to stock since you are only looking at 5 to 6 sizes per sex, so at that ~$30 cost point, that is only $800 for 2 of each size.

After that, what do the folks in your area need?  Is there a gym?  Stock gym ropes, belay devices, chalk bags, locking biners...  Are there local crags?  Are there guidebooks?  Books on climbing basics are good.  Is your crag set up for top ropes?  Maybe sell a bundle of stuff for the beginning top roper, a 10.2mm rope and top anchor set up.  Do you have a sport climbing crag?  Bundle a 9.8mm rope with however many draws are needed, plus an anchor set up, maybe stock some PAS options...  If you have a trad community, probably don't bother, since there are probably better stocked stores in the area.

Bill Kirby · · Baltimore Maryland · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 480

Dogs, personal speakers, hammocks, baby carriers, beanies and free wag bags

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 210

Not sure about how it would work with the price range, but a good selection of shoes in different sizes is what draws me away from online purchases.  Being able to try on shoes before buying and getting the right size is worth paying a little more over buying online on a gamble, but if they don’t have my size I’ll usually just jump on Backcountry and cross my fingers.  Moose Jaw has a retail store here and they will actually order shoes in for customers to try on, which is why I buy most of my shoes through them.

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

I expect it to stock whatever I need whenever I enter the store, at a price that is agreeable to me.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 430

I wouldn't recommend to a general sporting goods store to get into climbing retail unless they are the only game in town and a significant climbing area is nearby.

Brick and Mortar storefronts selling climbing gear have to be fiercely competitive and provide "ambiance and expertise" to get dirtbag dollars....Customer Service (expertise) is the only way they can compete with the never ending cycle of online sales, imo.

B Owens · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 60
Forrest Carver wrote:

Let’s say you work at a sporting goods store and have convinced the manager to branch into climbing. They agree under the condition that you have very limited money for the initial investment. What would you consider to be the essentials to stock in your mini climbing department?

Answer with a $2000, $5000, and $10,000 budget if you have time for details

The real prerequisite question is location and competition.  Are there several climbing gyms near you?  What do they carry in stock?  How closely located are you to outdoor climbing areas?  What kind of climbing?  Are there other outdoor sports nearby that might have some crossover items?  Does the store already sell secondary or tertiary climbing goods such as approach shoes, summit packs, etc?  

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 311
T G · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 51

The answer really ought to depend on your clientele and location, shouldn't it? What a 'sporting goods' store might carry in Boulder, Colorado is likely going to be different than in Maine not only because of the proximity to climbing, but the type of customers in each location. Seems kind of pointless to buy a bunch of random gear if you don't have a really good understanding of what people need and want in your area.

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Armchair Asshole · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 220

Whoever up-thread said something about 200% markup on shoes, you have no idea how retail works. Margins on softgoods are usually in the 40-50% area, hardgoods anywhere from 30-40%.

The shop I manage is definitely not a climbing specific shop,  but we do carry climbing equipment for those who forgot something coming to a quite isolated place in Wyoming. We carry cams, nuts, screws, draws, crampons, ice axes, harnesses, shoes, packs, ropes, etc. If you wanted to walk in and "get into climbing" you could as well, but that's hardly our focus. I won't give you an exact number, but I will say that we don't have more than 15k (wholesale) in product. You could definitely start a climbing department in a small to mid-sized shop for under 20k (again, that's wholesale dealer cost).

Kurt G. · · Reading, PA · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 150

something i havent seen in any of the answers (maybe i missed it) is competent staff.  as cliche as it sounds, a couple people who are friendly and knowledgeable will go a lot further than having the right gear in stock. again this all depends on a lot of missing info from the OP but a good salesperson can get someone to commit to an out of stock item. I dont know if the OP is going to run this hypothetical climbing department but assuming hes not then what ive mentioned is my recommendation.  

grubbers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 0

I don't mean to rain on your parade, but I wouldn't recommend branching into climbing gear if you don't have the market (destination climbing area nearby and/or strong local community of climbers) for it. The margins just aren't there for it to be a viable part of a business unless you are consistently selling product. If you have neither a destination crag or preexisting community of local climbers, catering to newer climbers is your best bet for making sales. Those customers are the ones most likely to visit a brick and mortar location to buy their gear. With slim margins, you need to focus on maximizing sales volume to make it worth your while.

Edit: Also be very smart about what size ranges you stock for shoes (if you go in that direction) as most of your budget will be tied up in footwear. Realize that you may be better off taking the risk of missing out on one or two sales than carrying a full size run and ending up with shoes that you will never be able to sell.

Forrest Carver · · Edgecomb, ME · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 85

Thanks for the responses so far!

We’re a bike/ski store in Maine but we dabble a bit in all sorts of stuff. Climbing is not particularly popular in this area…the closest well-known crag is 2+ hrs away (N.Conway, NH) and I believe the state only has a couple of climbing shops. For employees of the shop that are actually into climbing it’s just me (a know-nothing) and one other guy (minor enthusiast), so we would not have an in-house expert or anything close to it. That is probably the #1 issue with this plan. 

The hope in having a small climbing display is that a regular customer might swing by, see a rope or ATC hanging on the rack, and say “Hey, I didn’t know you guys can get climbing gear! Can you price match a pair of Cobras from Backcountry?” But it would also be cool for starting conversations and maybe introducing cyclists or skiers to the sport.

We probably have a quarter million dollars of 3+ year old mountain bikes in the store so inventory/opportunity cost is not as much of a factor as, say, REI. That said, we’d never consider bringing in something like shoes.

As sad as it makes me, it seems we’d achieve the desired goal by just having a single harness and chalk bag hanging from a Black Diamond POP display.

Of note, we have a pretty active online store and can ship internationally, so there are secondary avenues of sale beyond local. 

grubbers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 0
Forrest Carver wrote:

Of note, we have a pretty active online store and can ship internationally, so there are secondary avenues of sale beyond local. 

This changes things a bit.

If you're at the store/location that I'm thinking of, I'd say that it could be worth testing the waters with some climbing gear. I'd maybe even approach the gear selection from more of a general mountaineering/winter hiking perspective with the ski business. You don't necessarily need to stock mountain boots, but I'd imagine that ice axes and crampons could do well there.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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