US Outdoor Store has spent the past five decades thriving in it’s ever-expanding Portland, Oregon location. Nailing it’s role as the outdoor enthusiast’s dreamland, the store has been passed down through four generations of family, now resting squarely on the shoulders of Rob Solomon. A pioneer of taking retail to the internet, US Outdoor Store has boasted great success online, while remaining a staple of the Portland neighborhood where it was born. For those fans of snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, camping, hiking, biking, climbing, this one-stop shop is worth checking out.
TransWorld Business sat down with Solomon to get a look at US Outdoor’s 55 years of success, and cheers to 55 more.
How did US Outdoor get started?
I'm the fourth generation running the store, which began when my great grandfather opened an outdoor store catering to the needs of the northwest.
Was there a certain sport that the shop initially focused on?
In the early days it was primarily rugged clothing and camping. Over time Skiing and climbing were introduced, and then we were one of the first to bring Snowboarding and later Surfing into our market area.
Which department is your top performer?
Our Outerwear department, which also has the luxury of being a year round category in Oregon. But don't tell our Ski department and Snowboard department that their not the top performers, they would take exception…
Which brand tops the sales chart?
We've always had strong partnerships with The North Face, Patagonia, Burton, Arcteryx, Mountain Hardwear, K2, Salomon Sports, and Volkl Skis.
Which department has grown the most?
If you consider the Internet a department, I'd have to say www.usoutdoor.com.
You were one of the first retailers to take your business online- how did the website fare in those first few years?
Like any new venture there were mistakes and a learning curve in the beginning, but we were really surprised at how fast it took off. We're on our fifth updated look and functionality to the site, and are really pleased with the way it navigates for our customers.
What makes US Outdoor Store stand out amongst such a vast pool of outdoor and action sports lifestyle shops?
We're a fun place to shop. Our selection is amazing to our customers; we hire the best people around, and enjoy getting someone started in a sport as much as updating a veteran with new gear. The effort we put in to helping each customer shows and they come back for that personal service.
You've made multiple expansions within your Portland store, but did you ever consider opening up more locations?
At one time we did, but when the Internet came around we figured we could expand to a much larger audience over a shorter time.
Congrats on 55 years! What are your top 5 highlights from the birth of US Outdoor up till now?
Sales goals are always highlights. Our first million dollar year, our first 5 million dollar year, our first 10 million and so on. The first time we placed a million dollar order with a vendor (The North Face) back in the 1990's; out growing our original store and moving to our new and much larger location (over 25,000 sq. ft.); creating a Snowboard department unique and separate from any Ski influences, which until that time hadn't been done. It encompasses its own entire floor instead of being located in the ski department at the end of the rack. Also, being one of the original pioneers in the Internet. And the every day highlight of doing what you love, helping customers, when you're not doing what you love, using the stuff we sell. I know, cheesy, but true.
US Outdoor is still family owned- how has mixing business with family influenced how the store has grown?
Hard to say since its all I know. I was brought up in the industry by family who loved the mountains and so were my kids.
Looking to the future, what are you goals and hopes for US Outdoor Store in the next 5 years?
Our industry is at a real crossroads. Vendors have started selling products direct from their own websites. This will be the biggest challenge we will have to adjust to in planning our future growth. It will actually be a form of rebirth in many ways, since it will require moving forward with new lines. This will be retailers' only recourse to those vendors who choose to sell direct. Customers look to their local shops for what is the latest and greatest, and once that selection is limited to brands that are not available from vendor direct companies, you're going to see major changes in our industry. Our goals for the future are to continue being a leader in this industry. We've been successful for over 55 years, and plan on staying around another 55.