Rules for Retail Have Changed


COVID has changed everything. Into the garbage go my marketing books from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. In fact, most of the marketing books in my library are irrelevant because the old rules no longer apply. Creating a ‘buying experience’ through promotional activities to draw in customers will remain altered for years to come.

How to promote business while reducing customer congestion? How to grass root market without hosting events? How do our customers view ‘safety’? How do business owners stand up against restrictions placed on their businesses, when governmental rules (laws?) appear illogical?

Initially when Covid broke out, I experienced a mix of feelings. Relief that the cross country ski season ended with a successful, safe American Birkebeiner event which hosted nearly 12,000 skiers from young to old, yet concerned about the Gear West alpine business. By mid-March Gear West’s alpine store had to lock its doors and all spring downhill activity came to a screeching halt. At that time I had no idea that the bike business would be considered essential since the run business was not. To summarize, our single location retail business was like a tossed salad, some pieces worked, other parts could not operate. Staff shifted to accommodate Gear West needs and Gear West transitioned to meet staff health concerns. Product, such as triathlon bike shorts and triathlon wetsuits, ordered nearly a year earlier remained in boxes, unneeded, while Gear West kids and family bikes were sold out for the month of July.

The upside? Families have been reintroduced to the outdoors. Hiking, jogging, biking, swimming, and paddleboard rentals are all activities Gear West supports and can be enjoyed in our backyards.

Adventure can be created using good fitting equipment mixed with a dose of playful energy. I predict outdoor snow sports will shine in the winter as individuals continue to find safety and health benefits in being outside. Retail uncertainty is real, but Gear West is offering a mix of services: curbside, website, and a clean organized shopping environment to invite our customers to find out what works for them.

Adjustment is the key to handling Covid. I, as the owner, could sit in fear and wait for life to ‘return to normal’ and hope to survive or we can innovate and find outdoor solutions to our indoor threats. Bike touring, indoor cycling, winter fat biking, single track mountain biking, lake wetsuit swimming, trail/road running, power walking, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboading, and snowshoeing are all activities we know are good for the public’s health, especially when team sports are curtailed.

Gear West’s opportunity is to better present, inform and package these sports in a way that is inviting and motivating.

1786 Wayzata Boulevard
Long Lake, MN