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fred johnson

Should BSA use distributors instead of their own scout shops

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I was reading about Canfield's closing and comments about them losing income due to their BSA distributorship ending.

http://www.omaha.com/money/canfield-s-sporting-goods-to-close-after-years-in-business/article_24f5e53c-daa0-11e7-868b-d3258181146a.html

I remember when I was a kid that our local five and dime had a scout corner / section for stuff.  I think that scout shelf marketed BSA to the moms that shopped there every week and helped show to those mom's that scouting was part of a normal childhood.  When it was removed, it separated BSA from where moms shopped weekly.  Now you only see scout shirts if you are in a scout shop or at a scout event.  Now, you have to drive out of your way to a specific store to get scout stuff (or go online).  The key is now you have to be decided to be in scouts before you see the materials.  Before, you saw the materials before you decided to introduce scouts to your son.  Heck, imagine three and four year olds walking with their moms seeing those scout uniforms.  I think it would also help create interest in them too.  I really wonder if we should return to the old model.

Should BSA use established stores as distributors of BSA goods?  Maybe Cub Scout uniforms and crafts at craft stores such as JoAnne Fabrics, Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  Boy scout stuff at Cabelas, Dick's Sporting Goods and enough others to get a good presence.   BSA would save on the physical stores and staff.  BSA would gain huge visibility.  BSA would still have their on-line presence.  I just question the cost effectiveness of the stores.  

BSA has made several huge mistakes because of the weight and value they put behind the "BSA" brand.  I think it was a huge mistake to make the BSA materials less visible in the community.  If anything, you want the opposite.  Get it out there far and wide.  

Edited by fred johnson
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A fair point. Let the brick and mortar boys take the risk. I can see a win-win if BSA could resist undermining them with online business. It would really have to be a retailer with a national presence wouldn't it? Like a Walmart (I can see a downside with that as well).

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We got our uniforms at the local independent department store. In the men's department, not children's (good marketing psychology?!) Gear was in sporting goods. This was the same town as council headquarters, but no Scout shop.

When I was in the market for a dutch oven, did I go to the Scout shop? No! BassPro. Where I was surprised to discover Lodge brand, BSA logo'ed ovens and skillets. Too bad BSA didn't ask Johnny Morris for some more advice. Who knows where it would have gotten them.

I think you're right about the emphasis on branding over experience. They probably concluded it was more 'cost effective' and 'consistent' to pump the brand themselves. I quoted those only because both goals have failed.

 

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This post brought back some memories of poking around the Scout stuff at J.C.Penney's when I was a little fellow. When I finally joined a Troop, it was there that I or my Mom purchased everything I needed to participate. They had it all. I didn't set foot in a Council "Scout Shop" until many years later as an adult. 

We still have one locally owned clothing store out in the suburbs of our Metro area that carries uniforms, books and many other items. They are pretty proud about the fact that they have a long history as a Scout stuff distributor. I have no clue as to the nature of their arrangement with BSA to carry the brand, but it works and it's a go-to place for many Scout families in the area.

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15 hours ago, Tampa Turtle said:

A fair point. Let the brick and mortar boys take the risk. I can see a win-win if BSA could resist undermining them with online business. It would really have to be a retailer with a national presence wouldn't it? Like a Walmart (I can see a downside with that as well).

Sure, let the fast-fading brick-and-mortar hawk BSA brands.

The Targets/Wallmarts, etc ... Might be a good fit, except they would insist on price points that would all but lock in manufacture by their favorite Bengali peasant.

Now here's a thought: Game Stop and The Exchange stores! Place those uniforms where boys want to go. Especially,  these guys have a business model that includes buy-back of gently used merch.

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I am lucky as I have two scout shops within 15 miles of my house, so access is not a problem. They were also recently renovated and pretty swanky...in fact, needlessly so. Sure the mom & pop shop down the road was closer but usually didn't have exactly what I needed. At least now I know I can get what I need...assuming it is in stock. And with scoutstuff.org I can always order it.

I get the distributor-ship concept, but with Amazon Prime as an example, how many of us complaining about "buy local" also have been guilty of online shopping? 

My BIGGEST issues with BSA's supply is 1) price, 2) quality, and 3) sizing. IMHO, BSA should be offering far more cost-effective clothing for their members. $50 for a pair of switchbacks for an 11 year-old is insane. As others have noted, the quality of many items is suspect at best. I have a shirt that says, "B y Sc uts o  merica"...and that happened after the first washing!!! Some international friends thought I got the shirt in Wales. Others thought it was just the Texas spelling of the group name. Lastly, SIZING. The Venturing switchbacks were designed by someone with no knowledge of the human body. The "large" is a size 38" waist. The "medium" is a 31". So you are out of luck if you are a (svelte) 32". Your thighs won't fit the medium and the large is cavernous!!!

I'd be fine if these issues were fixed and could only order online. If BSA outsourced their "pick and pack" to a third party, they could fulfill like Amazon. Heck, they could even offer their gear via Amazon...but that would take some innovation and we know how BSA is on that topic.

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37 minutes ago, Col. Flagg said:

BSA should be offering far more cost-effective clothing for their members. $50 for a pair of switchbacks for an 11 year-old is insane.

Amen brother, amen. 

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Growing up, you had to order from JC Penny. But a local department store chain, Maison Blanche, was the primary distributor. I remember getting some stuff from them, with a discount, since my brother was an employee. When they went out of business, it was either the council distributor, or a then new army surplus store. while the council distributor had a good bit of stuff, they didn't have the hardcore camping gear, not the discounts and sales, that the army surplus store had. The jungle boots, medium ALICE pack, and other gear I needed for Canada came from them.

Then the council turned over the council store to national supply. 95+% of what was in the national catalog was available. Naturally I went there for my official gear.  Plus A) the office moved to 1.8 miles from the house and B) I started working there part-time in college. However, when there was camping gear I couldn't get from the shop, I went to the army surplus store.

Funny story, that nearly cost me my job. Again I was a part timer in college working for national supply. The surplus store would have "Scout Night" once a year. They had deep discounts, games, and door prizes. It started before my Troop meeting did, so I go there in my 'volunteer" uniform. My DE, whom I worked summer camp with and knew I had a big mouth :) , dragged me over and got me announcing stuff over that store's PA system. Eventually I left for me meeting. Monday afternoon, I get called into the manager office and questioned about the "Scout Night" Only thing saving me was A) I was NOT in my employee uniform, and B) the DEs defended me saying it was their idea, that I did protest, and that they said they would take the heat for me. And they did.

 

Sadly my area's distributorship closed shop. It's now an hour one way drive get get anything. Thankfully a council distributorship is in the same city I work in. That helps, but not always.

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41 minutes ago, Col. Flagg said:

I am lucky as I have two scout shops within 15 miles of my house, so access is not a problem.  ... I get the distributor-ship concept, but with Amazon Prime as an example, ...

I'm not sure we connected on the idea, etc.  It's not about access or 3rd party on-line distributors.  It's about visibility in stores people visit anyway.  It's about putting BSA stuff in stores that parents visit so they see BSA uniforms and stuff BEFORE deciding to have their kids in scouts.  Right now, parents have to decide for their kids to be in scouts before they see scouting merchandise. 

It's also partially about asking what is the profit level of our council stores.  I see them very busy in September with new cubs.  But if you remove the patches and advancements from the equation (which could be done online or differently), I suspect the stores are barely breaking even.  I'd really like to know the numbers.

Edited by fred johnson
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Regarding sizes, I remember the 'Made in the USA" merchandise was sized properly. The shorts and pants with elastic were sized with the elastic fully expanded. So the Scouts, and some Scouters ;) , could buy a size or two bigger and have room to grow into. Last time I bought new pants, ok the son bought them with his Christmas money, it took several tries to get the right ones for my son. And when national put the Gen 1 switchbacks on sale, I heard they were sized too big. That wasn't a joke. I took the risk and bought XLs and Ls. XLs were HUGE, and thankfully I was able to sell them to someone. The Ls I still have, and they are a little big. I should have gotten the Mediums.

Regarding the quality, my son's pants  were so shoddy, they wore out in the buttocks within 6 months. Got a replacement pair free, thank you warranty, and they too wore out within 6 months. By that point, we saw a pair of the old red pocket piping pants. THOSE SUCKERS WERE INDESTRECUTABLE! Only reason he doesn't have them still is he outgrew them. Now he's using a pair of ODL shorts, and they are holding up extremely well. 

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1 hour ago, fred johnson said:

I'm not sure we connected on the idea, etc.  It's not about access or 3rd party on-line distributors.  It's about visibility in stores people visit anyway.  It's about putting BSA stuff in stores that parents visit so they see BSA uniforms and stuff BEFORE deciding to have their kids in scouts.  Right now, parents have to decide for their kids to be in scouts before they see scouting merchandise. 

It's also partially about asking what is the profit level of our council stores.  I see them very busy in September with new cubs.  But if you remove the patches and advancements from the equation (which could be done online or differently), I suspect the stores are barely breaking even.  I'd really like to know the numbers.

Hi Fred. I guess I missed those points, so sorry.

I get the idea of having the gear in places people can see as maybe a catalyst for getting kids to join. But to be honest (and not trying to be offensive), that's a pretty expensive way to accomplish that task. Merchandise that just sits takes up valuable space and costs the owner of the merchandise (or "merch" as the kids call it these days) to keep it around. Once has to think that money could be better spent to hit that target market. With all the "free" media you get on social media these days, the cost of sending, storing and displaying that merchandise could likely fund several online campaigns. In my area the place that had Scout gear was a mom & pop hardware store. The only folks in there were guys over 60. Millennials were never in there. I spoke to the owner many times about his customer base (on an un-related matter to Scouting) and he noted his clientele was mostly 40-80.

Addressing profit level of BSA's supply is harder because it supposes that it is run like a successful retail outlet. I'm not sure their supply is designed to make a profit...at least, not like other outfitters are set up. We can likely agree that their gear is expensive and that cheaper alternatives can be found. Heck, I use Magellan grey switchbacks ($24) instead of the Venturing ones ($50+) and I have never had any issues. I would suspect you are right about the stores breaking even, but again, I don't think they are designed to...hence my post above. If they addressed those issues I think you might see more success in the stores' bottom line.

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I'd be surprised if the Scout Store is a successful financial model. Seems like a modest trickle of folks most times I have been there; even with 1 to 2 people if feels overstaffed. So I get that a retailer might look at how much revenue it will get per square foot and stay away. I do use mine as it is next to the Council HQ and it is convenient for the occasional field trip...ironically as Council does more and more communication electronically it must drive down foot traffic and impulse buys by Scouters. 

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1 hour ago, fred johnson said:

I'm not sure we connected on the idea, etc.  It's not about access or 3rd party on-line distributors.  It's about visibility in stores people visit anyway.  It's about putting BSA stuff in stores that parents visit so they see BSA uniforms and stuff BEFORE deciding to have their kids in scouts.  Right now, parents have to decide for their kids to be in scouts before they see scouting merchandise. 

So, what merchandise is so exciting that seeing it will have any effect. I remember going to Belk department store in the 80s as a scout to buy books and uniforms. It was a dinky section way in the back. If BSA got REI or Cabelas or Dicks or whatever as distributors, it would be the same. There isn't enough money there to get them to put up high profile displays in the stores and most of the gear isn't in and of itself cool.

If you want parents to see the uniforms and such as a recruitment tool then you need to be active in the community where they'll see it(which is part of the uniform method).  Have some cool posters and flyers at Scout Sunday and anywhere else you volunteer. Not my kids troop but our church's troop, marches every year in the neighborhood 4th of July parade with 2 12ft pioneering towers on casters. At the picnic afterwards they have the towers set up and a ~25ft bridge. Every kid who goes by gets enthusiastically asked if they want to climb the towers by a 13-14yo scout. You see toddlers and up going across the bridge... I wish our troop and all troops had something as visible, way more useful to get the uniform seen in public than  merchandising from national.

702c22-20160704-stanthony-park-4th-13.jp

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1 hour ago, Col. Flagg said:

Hi Fred. I guess I missed those points, so sorry.

I get the idea of having the gear in places people can see as maybe a catalyst for getting kids to join. But to be honest (and not trying to be offensive), that's a pretty expensive way to accomplish that task. Merchandise that just sits takes up valuable space and costs the owner of the merchandise (or "merch" as the kids call it these days) to keep it around. Once has to think that money could be better spent to hit that target market. With all the "free" media you get on social media these days, the cost of sending, storing and displaying that merchandise could likely fund several online campaigns. In my area the place that had Scout gear was a mom & pop hardware store. The only folks in there were guys over 60. Millennials were never in there. I spoke to the owner many times about his customer base (on an un-related matter to Scouting) and he noted his clientele was mostly 40-80.

Addressing profit level of BSA's supply is harder because it supposes that it is run like a successful retail outlet. I'm not sure their supply is designed to make a profit...at least, not like other outfitters are set up. We can likely agree that their gear is expensive and that cheaper alternatives can be found. Heck, I use Magellan grey switchbacks ($24) instead of the Venturing ones ($50+) and I have never had any issues. I would suspect you are right about the stores breaking even, but again, I don't think they are designed to...hence my post above. If they addressed those issues I think you might see more success in the stores' bottom line.

Yeah.  It's just a thought.  I remember our local five and dime store had a four foot section for scout stuff.  As a little boy, I remember looking at those things all the time.  And the small section of knives and wood kits.  

By the way, thanks for the suggestion on the Magellan pants.  I'm going to try some of the Magellan olive colored nylon switchbacks.  I stopped buying BSA pants when I bought four of the centennial uniforms and the uniform pants all failed in the first year.  The nylon switchbacks lasted forever.  I'll try the Magellan and see how good they are.  

https://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/magellan-outdoors™-mens-back-country-zipoff-nylon-pant?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051#repChildCatSku=102410529

 

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