The increasing demand for an authentic shopping experience has created a void that only independent, regional retailers can fill, says Ed Ariniello, new owner of U.S. Outdoor, the Northwest’s landmark independent storefront and Internet retailer.
“With the price-focused box stores moving away from specialization toward the general consumer, there’s an opportunity for family-owned businesses like U.S. Outdoor to reinvigorate the independent outdoor retail category,”Ariniello says. “Both long-time and novice outdoor aficionados are being overlooked and under-served.”
“As Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials age or have children, they’re trying new things,”Ariniello added. “But they can’t get our kind of expertise from the chain stores in terms of the right choice and the best deal. Our staff lives and breathes the outdoors, which gives us tremendous leverage.” Although the industry has adapted to new technologies,Ariniello believes people still crave the human touch with first-hand knowledge and personal service.
The Great Outdoors Are In
According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), Americans spend $646 million per year on outdoor recreation activities. Ariniello notes that with a loyal and growing customer base, U.S. Outdoor’s success is reflected in the OIA Foundation’s 2016 Topline Report, which finds that nationally, outdoor consumer activity has increased to now include nearly 50 percent of Americans. “According to their research, at least 68 percent of Oregonians get out each year and explore amazing places like The Cascades, The Gorge and the Oregon Coast,” Ariniello says. “Out-of-state visitors generate substantial revenues as well.”
With the outdoor recreation category being a significant and continuing source of sales and jobs, Ariniello believes a largely untapped void exists in the Northwest market. “Although Portland’s population has increased, many outdoor retailers have closed. U.S. Outdoor is one of the few remaining family-owned, locally-owned independents with a strong, loyal customer base.”
The Ariniello’s say they are committed to maintaining U.S. Outdoor’s tradition of providing the right gear and the right fit at the right price, backed by a staff that knows the sports, the terrain, the weather and the products. “Our customers are very particular,” Ariniello says. “We get it right because we don’t just sell things; we provide a fun, real and one-on-one shopping experience. Whether it’s equipment, apparel and/or accessories for land, snow, water or any outdoor adventure seasoned experts and enthused newcomers alike only can find this kind of customer-focused service from independent retailers like U.S. Outdoor.”
An Internet Outdoor Retail Pioneer
After generations as a Northwest mainstay, in 1996 U.S. Outdoor began reaching around the globe as one of the very first with an online retail model. Today www.usoutdoor.com is the fastest-growing part of the business. “Oregon has no sales tax, so we can offer additional savings — plus fast or free shipping options for many of our customers,” Ariniello notes. “With vendors now selling directly to consumers from their own websites, the outdoor industry is at a major crossroads. People shop their local stores for what’s latest and greatest. But as vendor-direct companies limit the choice of brands at the retail level, the independents need to reinvent themselves with new lines and an even deeper commitment to creating the ultimate customer experience.”
Plans On the Horizon
Established in 1957, the Solomon family operated U.S. Outdoor for four generations until last spring, when Rob Solomon, the founder’s grandson, retired. With the Ariniellos now at the helm, U.S. Outdoor will continue to expand its 4-story, 19,000+ square-foot store and online business based in downtown Portland.
Ariniello is expanding U.S. Outdoor’s customer base to serve all outdoor lovers with the same expertise and passion that have made it a retail leader since 1957. He plans to add depth to current lines, offer new areas of recreation and sports, and present top speakers and films.
U.S. Outdoor is maintaining strong partnerships with its long-time brands and suppliers, many of whom Ed knows from prior experience. These include Patagonia, The North Face, Burton, Arcteryx, Mountain Hardwear, K2, Salomon Sports and Volkl Skis. “We’ll continue zeroing-in on finding new opportunities and working with the top 20 percent tier of manufacturers,”Ariniello noted.
To ensure U.S. Outdoor’s growth, Ariniello will leverage his 27 years with G.I. Joe’s, a former and beloved Northwest outdoor retailer, along with his own family’s sports and outdoor lifestyle. His background includes sales, merchandising, marketing, distribution, human resources, management, and company operations. Ariniello holds both a B.A. in Management & Organizational Leadership and an MBA in Finance from George Fox University. Carrie Ariniello, Ed’s management partner and wife, oversees U.S. Outdoor’s website, social media and human resource operations with 20 years of experience working with leading healthcare organizations.