A weekly podcast with the latest e-commerce news and events. Episode 209 is an interview with Moosejaw CEO, Eoin Comerford live from Etail West in Palm Desert.
In this interview with Eoin we discuss Moosejaw’s unique positioning as “The most fun outdoor retailer on the planet” and some of the innovative marketing campaigns Moosejaw has developed. We also explore their omni-channel strategy, rewards program, owned products, and some of the systemic headwinds facing the apparel industry.
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Episode 209 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded live from the Etail West tradeshow in Palm Desert on Tuesday, February 25th, 2020.
Google Automated Transcription of the show
[0:24] Welcome to the Jason and Scott show this is episode 209 being recorded live from the Ito West trade show in Sunny Palm Desert,
on Tuesday February 25th 2020 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg
and unfortunately Scott was unable to join us this week so you get twice the Json for half the usual price
but as always when Scott ditches me we make up for it by having a particularly awesome guest so I’m thrilled to welcome to the show Owen Comfort who’s the CEO of Moose Jaw.
[1:01] Thank you thank you for having me.
[1:03] I’m super excited to have you I feel like I’m somewhat familiar with Moose Jaw and we can maybe get into that later but the for our audience that isn’t familiar can you give us the snapshot on who most joyous.
[1:17] Sure Musha is the most fun outdoor retailer on the planet,
according to our moms we have actually been around for almost 30 years started in brick-and-mortar retail but now we’re one of the top online players and outdoor retail so hiking camping apparel equipment all that great stuff,
we have it we sell it and we actually still a brick-and-mortar retail we’re in four states 11 soon-to-be 12 stores and we were purchased by Walmart a few years ago to help them grow their online presence when we’re not calm.
[1:46] That’s awesome and so I would assume that in addition to being the world’s most fun outdoor retailer you’re also the most fun Walmart that’s I.
[1:53] Oh by far yes in fact there is if you if I look at the zoom meetings the number of Moose Jaw bumper stickers versus even Walmart bumper stickers I see on laptops is huge.
[2:06] That is awesome you’re dominating the spark.
[2:09] Dominating this park.
[2:10] Okay and you guys started in Michigan so all my in-laws are from Michigan so they like they grew up as a multi-generational Moose Jaw family.
[2:19] Awesome thank you for their business.
[2:20] And then yeah and then we moved to Chicago and you were accommodating enough to then open a store.
[2:28] We we follow you wherever you go.
[2:30] And so if I put in a move I’ll let you know I’ll try not to do Hawaii or something super expensive.
[2:35] Maybe I.
maybe I take that back and before we jump in with any more listeners always like to know a little bit about the background of our guests like how did you come to be the CEO of the world’s funniest outdoor retailer.
[2:50] Well I’ve been in e-commerce for about 20 years which I just realized which is.
[2:55] So you started when you’re like 5 years old.
[2:57] Examine oh it is I was yes I was amazing as a five-year-old but no it’s been it’s been a wild ride actually I started out as a mechanical engineer which makes total sense because
we’re all about numbers in this business I that’s what I love about this business it’s absolutely a numbers game but now I get into Consulting and then
I got into an incubator a new business incubator at Ford Motor Company in beautiful Detroit started a company there so that got into Moosejaw,
really my background is more in marketing and Tech and then took over the CEO gig about 8 years ago.
[3:34] Very cool so you’re literally off probation now even.
[3:36] Yeah I think so I hope so.
[3:38] That’s awesome and I feel like Moosejaw is particularly well known for their Innovative marketing campaigns and you came up through the marketing organization basically.
[3:48] Yes absolutely it’s definitely my first love I mean it’s what we’re all about it’s what sets us apart it’s part of what makes this the most fun retailer so yeah we just get to you know that,
we get to do things that other other retailers don’t information to do quite frankly just because of who we are and we did we just have fun with it.
[4:09] Instead of give listeners an idea I’d love to hear some of your favorite campaigns but I remember you opening a new store at one point and I want to say you hired a shepherd with a flock of sheep.
[4:21] That sounds like something that we would do yes we’ve done all sorts of things we’ve had fortune tellers at breakdancers was a personal favorite,
yes a little retro but retro cool I would like to thank yeah we do all kinds of crazy stunts and stuff one of my favorites was the most real breakup service,
which we did a number of years ago where we actually we said to Consumers hey we know that a lot of you are chickens out there,
and maybe in relationships you don’t want to be in so just send us your your Lover’s cell phone number and your name their name why you’re breaking up and then three nice things about them so we can cushion the blow.
And so we sent this out,
and we got hundreds of responses back and some and we did we called all these people now some of them are gags you know friends gagging friends,
but a number of them quite a few of them were real and awkwardly so actually if you go on YouTube and search on mr. breakup service you’ll see some of the videos of those calls and it’s pretty funny.
[5:23] Wow I wonder if there was an opportunity for a spin-off business that you missed apparently there’s pent-up demand.
[5:30] Well you know we’ve actually had a couple of those we were there was talk at one point we were going to do an app called spot a hottie.
Okay and basically what this was was it was you would take a picture and like it see you around town in a city or whatever and so you take a picture of a hottie and then.
Basically then you as a consumer can see like a graph of the haughty factors around the city so here’s a hottie hotspot etcetera and ran into some legal issues with that one so it never came to fruition but that was,
an example of the kinds of stupid things we do.
[6:04] Wow it suddenly Dawns on me knowing the campaigns that you actually did do it somewhat frightening to think of the ones that you weren’t allowed.
[6:13] We actually actually today in catalog ones and it was going to be called so we were maybe a you know we were a little bit more about being naked back when that was cool it’s not cool to be naked anymore I don’t know if you know that.
[6:26] My wife has mentioned that to me.
[6:29] Mine too so but but so we had so we had done the no-pants catalog which was a raging success and so then.
You got to take it to the next level so we did naked plain naked yet and so so the story was we were it was supposed to be you know everything was going so well that we just were riding around in Jets right,
I’m just totally totally stupid and I happen to know a guy who was a pilot for some rich people who had a Jet right and they said yeah hey it’s in the hangar you know go use it for this photo shoot so we go to the photo shoot I.
Proofs of who the first day I’m like oh we can’t do this week.
I just I just I just can’t take that phone call from the head of name the outdoor brand so they said okay we’ll have to go back and do a bit of a reshoot,
meanwhile the jet gets taken away somebody does need it to fly to Aspen so oh crap so now we shot the rest of the shoes in the hangar empty and so the whole cattle was called morass was that catalog because it was a complete disaster.
[7:35] That’s that so somewhere in an Indiana Jones Warehouse is a pallet of those.
[7:41] Louisa we sent out the catalog.
[7:43] And I won you did do that I used to use as a demo all the time you had this x-ray concept,
so you publish a great catalog with lots of beautiful photography of people doing adventurous things in outerwear,
and then you add one of the first virtual reality or augmented reality apps and you aim the augmented reality camera at the catalog and suddenly you see all the models in their underwear.
[8:15] That is correct yes.
[8:16] And I would just like to point out I used it as a demo because it was early good execution of a are not because I’m a perv that likes to look at people in their underwear,
that’s also true but that wasn’t the primary.
[8:28] In fairness we were equal opportunity it was both men and women in their underwear
that was a really fun one and it I think it that one actually touched a nerve we get so much media about that I’ve been in million-plus downloads back when that was a lot
yeah hundreds of views of the video about the app know it was that was crazy I think it touched a nerve back to like the X-ray specs from the back of Comedy screwing over something but it was it was really fun.
[8:55] Yeah so.
[8:56] And nothing to do with selling clothes in fact you would use the app to not see the clothes that we sold.
[9:01] Yes ironically to make the clothes go away.
Um but that does bring up a great point so you like I feel like your whole brand is based on these sort of clever fun things that people love to put on YouTube and talk about.
Is it a foregone conclusion to you that that translates into brand loyalty and customer value is that like I mean,
like it feels like that’s a big part of your differentiation from other outdoor retailers.
[9:31] Absolutely and you know I see all of the feedback that we get into Mister out through our feedback emails and we constantly getting most people just say I love what you do or I read your order confirmation email,
and I just laughed off the chair and now I read every email that you send me so I think I think it just engages the customer more so that we can communicate and it’s not viewed as intrusive,
and there are definitely people who will buy from us you know I just got an email I talked about in my presentation in August from a guy who sent an email saying I’m sorry I cheated on you I bought from somebody else I’m sorry it won’t happen again
I mean most retailers don’t get those emails so I think it does Drive loyalty I think I also had gives us,
permission to you know that even if we do occasionally mess up that you know we’re very authentic and we apologize and we make it right,
and I’m actually have seen some great loyalty from that I think it shows our net promoter score we’re over 80% regularly and,
underscore 88% most recently or Q4 so we really do focus on it and building that customer engagement.
[10:47] I may have to have you think up some campaigns for the podcast because I feel like we could use that.
[10:52] We’ll see what we can do sure hey no problem.
[10:53] Yeah just a side hustle for you no big deal and speaking of loyalty I feel like you also have a very vibrant Rich Affinity program.
[11:05] Yes mr. towards yeah and that’s changed a little bit over the years so going in the way back it was more of a point Space Program,
and you would save up your points and then you could only use them on this separate website and you couldn’t combine points with dollars so it could take you a while to get enough points to buy anything of real value right,
because you get 10% back in points,
and so over time we’ve transitioned that to be a little bit more user-friendly to where it’s moves to a dollars and you can actually apply those dollars against any order on moocchile.com so I think it’s easier to use,
but you know it’s not quite as different as it used to be I would say.
[11:48] Okay but like in general Affinity programs are interesting to me because I feel like it’s one of those things there’s not a clear answer like we can point to retailers where the Affinity program is,
cord to the business and killing it I think 95% of all the revenue from Sephora is from beauty insiders for example right,
but there’s also like all these independent studies though I know everyone has Affinity fatigue and they’re you know there’s too many cards in their wallet and,
like it just it just attracts though I bottom-feeding value seeking customers and and it isn’t really it’s ironically not really creating loyalty so I’m curious you guys had a program for a long time,
the fact that you are a brand that tends to have stronger engagement with your customers does that give you sort of permission to have a loyalty program that kind of acts as a,
Catalyst for that and accelerates it is like.
[12:52] I think so also what it comes down to is with Moose Jaw it we’re selling you know outdoor equipment and apparel generally speaking you know the average time between purchase isn’t you know weeks and days like in the grocery business.
It’s months or years potentially I mean if you buy a tent are the last thing you need is another tent,
so where the where it tends to work best is with,
our core customers that the real outdoor users who once this evening bag and the backpack and the and the end so for them it’s critical,
but I think for more the flyby Shoppers it just doesn’t resonate right if you’re looking for you know a great price on a North Face jacket okay great but.
You’re a fly by right so it was interesting we just did a we do big we do a certain customer surveys it three times a year and it’s actually tied into a little promo so 10 bucks take a survey we’ll get,
forty fifty thousand responses to these surveys and we change the subject all the time,
but most recently we really used it to help us drive where we want to spend our time prioritization so the big question was okay of these nine things,
Force rank them for us which is actually tough to ask people to do but they did it and you know.
[14:12] Not to bury the lead here but price was number one shocking I know right but somewhat disappointingly for us loyalty program was.
By far the lowest on the list say it was behind fast and free shipping behind,
side speed product info did it I mean you name it returns policy it was it was the very bottom of the list,
which is funny because we felt that we had a rather differentiated offer there and then we asked people okay if these are all of the top things and how they’re ordered how does Moose Jaw Stack Up versus the competition.
And really what we got was and you know we were it was generally good on a scale of you know one to five we were kind of in the fours but but our loyalty program which is industry-leading.
Was a 4.2 people just didn’t really so you know I think ultimately what people are saying is hey I don’t want to jump through hoops.
Give me the best possible deal and get it to me as quickly as possible not you know when you put on your customer had it makes sense.
[15:19] Sure sure and in a way like,
often people talk about loyalty programs and what they actually mean is like a frequency program because I would argue,
like some other things elements of your brand are as much or more important to that building of loyalty very early on you guys started giving customers the summit Flags,
and so to me that’s a like in this was this sort of hard to acquire Moose Jaw branded item that customers coveted and frequently shared photos of on social media again,
like generally from the tops of mountains and pretty crazy places.
[15:58] Or their weddings in some cases yes no.
[16:02] Their wedding on top of a mountain yeah.
[16:05] Yeah and so what we’ve been thinking back on it too in terms of probably the most.
Successful loyalty programs would be Airline logic programs right I mean it as a frequent traveler which I’m sure you are as I am right I mean,
it gets to like a maniacal stage in terms of like you know you’re but it to me you know it’s less about the points and way more about the perks right and so,
we’re trying to think more in that term in terms of okay,
what makes it special so for example now if you’re we call it the high-altitude program if you’re part of the high outside you program you get a custom T-shirt every year that’s only for you,
nobody else can have it special special customer support on and on and on right those are the things that we really feel will set it apart and make it special.
[16:57] Yeah and obviously other Moose Jaw loyalists recognize that item and they know that you’re also cool or have too much discretionary income.
[17:05] Yes exactly.
[17:06] Because you mentioned frequency of purchase in outdoor apparel can be a challenge I grew up in Southern California and I’m I think the irony is,
I’m convinced that like 95% of all the Expedition where that was like design to survive the top of K2 is actually owned by housewives in Southern California.
And I think they buy a new jacket every year.
[17:29] That is quite possible yes.
[17:31] So yeah so those things are all super interesting you mentioned that you have a is it 11 stores now.
[17:43] Eleven City B12.
[17:44] Okay what’s tell us about the 12th store.
[17:47] So you know.
As retail changes right experience and the draw of that experience becomes more and more important for brick-and-mortar right you know I think it’s never become harder to get people’s ass off the couch,
right so you have to give people a reason to come and so the R12 store actually is in partnership with the Climbing Gym
so this is the kind of main gym in the Kansas City area that we had partnered with Allah Justin events and other things great bunch of guys and so they said a word,
we’re building a new Climbing Gym the best gym in the world please be part of it so it’s opening in a litha Kansas next month and,
amazing Climbing Gym there’s also be an amazing coffee shop that also serves alcohol and food and then a beautiful news toaster.
[18:34] And so it is sort of that Affinity frequency model right bringing those people back obviously there’ll be a membership program between us and the,
Us in the gym but really it’s getting those enthusiasts into a place where where they want to come on a regular basis because you know I think one of the things we,
we went through a time of opening stores in 2012,
where the thought process is more well let’s let’s go after where the traffic is right so so will pay for Premium Retail will go after the you know it’s a higher rents but higher reward,
and really at the end of the day it didn’t work because there was a lot of traffic but just not qualified traffic there’s there’s only a certain number of people that want to spend,
$400 for a shell or $300 for a two-man tent okay and you know those people that are walking by a store in a high-traffic mall not so much so it’s really more about destination and bringing people in and bringing,
those enthusiasts into the space.
[19:37] I do feel like one downside of opening with the climbing gym is your stores all have this highly regarded pull-up contest.
And so you can be the King of the Hill and be the record holder for pull-ups and I’m going to assume that the climbing gym store is going to be a high record.
[19:56] I think that’s fair that’s fair what.
[19:58] Going to be even harder for me to finally get I’ve been I’ve set a goal to get on that list yeah and I started my goal was to be able to do to pull ups and I’m not halfway there yet so I have I have a little weird.
[20:13] Okay well you know I will dream dream Ma.
[20:16] It’s important to have a dream but when I go to the store or something like as far as I remember you were one of the first retailers to have a mobile point-of-sale,
and so Associates were out on the floor helping customers and I feel like you guys have always had this great 360 degree,
view of the customer so you buy ski boots online one season and you come in the next season and you want that same size like the person in the store knows what size,
I bought online last year I feel like those things are starting to be requirements and all retail but you guys are really had them for a long time.
[20:52] Yeah I mean really going back to as long as I’ve been with Moosejaw such as an age,
and really it’s a core tenet of what we do at moves to raise the is that you got to be customer driven I know that stright and people say it but it’s amazing how many times we actually don’t follow it in retailgeek,
rise and so from us it’s like you know put on your customer hat,
if you walk into a store you expect it to be exactly the same as the experience online if I bought it online yeah of course I have to be able to return it in the store right if I saw a price online,
yeah I expect to pay the same price in the store it’s not rocket science right it’s what people expect and so we really set up our it infrastructure to support that,
from the very GetGo and then more omni-channel stuff big part of it is is endless aisle so we’ve been doing endless aisle,
endlessly I mean four years it’s 20% of some of our stores volume is actually a product that they don’t stock,
but that we will ship to you for free in two days and you know it’s you know it’s obviously a more consultative sales process if you’re buying a tent or a backpack so,
you know our stores are 4,000 square feet we’re not going to have all the tents but we can show you the two men and then send you the format.
So all fabulous stuff I do want to it’s not all unicorns and rainbows we on this show talk a lot about,
sort of distressed apparel retailers right and so obviously there’s all these department stores that predominantly rely on apparel sales that are kind of sucking wind,
there’s a bunch of retailers that are ma based apparel retailers mostly that have a at the beginning of their name and and they all seem to be struggling and one of the hypothesis is that,
people just aren’t spending as much on their closet as they once did so,
people are more into experiences they have fewer wardrobes at home and you know good clothes are,
like less expensive to acquire than they once did in your category I could imagine it’s almost worse because.
Intrinsically your customers do like experiences like so it is that a trend you guys see an outdoor like are people spending Less on apparel.
[23:21] Actually no I think I think where we kind of bucked the trend because of the fact that our apparel is built for experiences and for supporting those experiences most of the apparel that we sell is,
it certainly isn’t this poseable apparel right it’s actually product that is built to last almost every.
Apparel brand that we sell has a warranty program where they will fix that product for you rather than replace it I just,
I just got had my Arc’teryx jacket fixed you know I could obviously get Arc’teryx jackets all the time but I send it away they fixed my zipper and we’re back in business with.
[23:58] I feel like they should have a dude that comes to your office and fixes it for you.
[24:01] You would think but not afraid not but actually but Osprey I mean you name all these brands most of them have lifetime guarantees and so,
the trend actually plays to us in that especially with younger folks they are looking to.
Invest in apparel right invest in product and,
we have investment grade stuff and it is about experiences and supporting those experiences as well.
[24:29] Interesting is there like do the products continue to I mean I know there’s a lot of like it’s a more technical category of apparel to I are there,
did does the technical Innovation help your buying cycle like is there better you know water repellent attributes this year than last year and therefore I need a new jacket even though my old one is working perfectly.
[24:53] Sure I mean attack is a huge.
Driver within the outdoor space more so I would say in the gear category then in apparel but it’s still a big deal you know there there are always people that want to have the latest and greatest North Face just came out with a new tech,
call Future life that’s all about a very flexible rainproof outer material so there’s constant Tech,
and that’s that’s driving the business and driving you know what people want to do so they can have a higher,
higher performance experience and a better experience at doors.
[25:29] God shaped I feel like a product Innovation we need is a reminder feature in the apparel so you mentioned how long the apparel Lass,
every time I visit my in-laws in Detroit I forget to bring a hat,
so I feel like I go to the Gross Point Moose Jaw on Kercheval every single time I visit my mother in law to buy a new hat.
[25:51] With that that’s working for us why would you want to remind you to bring the Hedge.
[25:55] Yeah see I feel like because you’re the funnest most customer-centric retailgeek.
[26:01] That is fair okay you got me there.
[26:04] Okay just just something to think about so,
I’m always curious you’ve been in the space a long time you guys have been on the Forefront of a lot of experiences if we if you and I and there’s a visual I know you’ve been craving if you and I get in the hot tub time machine together.
Yeah and zip forward 5 or 10 years is the outdoor apparel.
Shopping experience will likely to be the same as it is now is there just well the coffee just have CBD in it and that’s the gist of it or like how do you think how would you like to see that that shopping experience evolve.
[26:48] So you know I think online obviously the big pushes towards customer convenience right I mean for us so the short term so if we just go forward you know a few months in the time machine we’re looking at.
[27:02] Taking Omni to the next level just to in terms of.
Delivery timing promise States all of those things those those expectations have just changed so dramatically even in the last 12 months that if you’re not keeping up here to get left behind.
Customers you know in that priority ranking that we did that was number two.
Fasten free number to right so it’s the entree to the game and if the customer can get it for the same price and get it a day sooner,
they’re going to get it,
so that that I think is the Big Driver within the outdoor space I think what’s different is you know that consumers are very focused on the environment and the Environmental,
and so certainly things like,
there’s going to be a bigger push and it’s already starting into used right and refurbs and doing that not as a way to save money but as a way to save the environment and so I think we’re going to start to see more,
Patagonia is doing at the Warren where North Face is getting into this as well so I think we’re going to see a lot more with that and there’s still a role for retailgeek,
in those pieces but it’s not just a it’s not just a thrift store approach.
[28:19] Yeah I want to say I saw a Shark Tank Episode where there were some guys that like their business model was we singe your ski kit.
To the resort for you to rent so not the skis and boots that you typically can rent.
All the expensive outerwear that you need for your three young kids that outgrow it like right away.
[28:42] And that could certainly be part of the model to I think it really depends upon the,
just has specific and Specialty and item is you know I certainly in the ski industry obviously rental is a big part of the equation I don’t think I would rent base layer for example.
But but yeah a very very specialty piece of equipment for for climbing a mountain potentially yeah.
[29:07] Yeah I don’t know that’s another area where I might want to know that that Carabiner is at full strength.
[29:14] Yeah so there’s a reason why we don’t accept returns climbing equipment yeah it’s a safety issue.
[29:21] That seems fair a fascinating thing to me you mentioned the like speed of delivery a fascinating thing to me is the Ever Changing customer expectations so you’ll probably remember,
I remember Moose Jaw doing a really early pilot in like same day or next day delivery and at the time I thought oh this is super cool Nobody Does this,
and I remember talking to the the VIN CEO and him saying like yeah it like,
it really didn’t get big adoption like customers really didn’t leverage it and the fascinating thing was when we started offering next day delivery.
Customers opted into our two-day delivery much more often than they used to so is like the.
That it kind of created anchoring it made the two-day delivery seem like a better deal when you had this more expensive one day delivery but customers at that time didn’t necessarily crave one day whereas,
today when I can get my paper towels delivered in one day.
Yeah it or a cup of coffee in Shanghai and in 15 minutes it changes expectations for everything.
[30:34] It absolutely does you know I think the flip side though is interesting so for example Timberland is just coming out where they’re offering to to plant a tree.
If you accept slower delivery.
And so and it might be specific to the outdoor industry and the fact that we’re so eco-friendly but I think there is an element to that which is to say okay.
Yes we want it fast but is it really free when it’s free right and what is the what is the bigger environmental impact and,
maybe we maybe maybe there maybe there’s a bit of a trade-off maybe it isn’t hey I want it every you know I want to order the paper towels and then this and then that maybe there is some batching involved maybe there’s a way for us to.
Attack it in a slightly more eco-friendly way.
[31:23] Yeah that’s actually interesting because you know obviously there’s a number of retailers that have tried some like small Financial incentive to.
For more economical shipping and often that that Financial incentive isn’t persuasive enough.
[31:38] Write a dollar who.
[31:39] Yeah or a free video downloader something that maybe a few like you won’t use and so it’s not persuasive enough to change Behavior but the social Consciousness offer.
Could potentially out punch its weight in terms of persuading people to opt-in when they really don’t need that that’s super fast delivery so that’s pretty clever.
Well and I really enjoyed speaking with you but it has happened again we’ve used up all our allotted time so in the event that,
listeners had a burning question that we didn’t get to or have a comment about something we talked about on the show you’re welcome to jump onto our Facebook page or Twitter feed,
and we can continue the dialogue there as always if this was the show that finally put you over the edge we sure would appreciate it if you jump on iTunes,
and give us that five star review if you didn’t enjoy it today show we’d appreciate it if you just called though indirectly on his home not home line.
[32:41] But I really appreciate you taking time out of e-tail the speak with us really enjoyed it. Until next time happy commercing.