Should the outdoor industry welcome selling on walmart.com?
On Aug 27, Walmart launched a Premium Outdoor Store microsite stocked with nearly 50 well-known outdoor brands. Walmart promised those brands greater reach to “exponentially more customers” and even an introduction of the outdoors to underrepresented groups.
By the close of last week, a third of those brands left the site over concerns about selling on walmart.com.
“I wasn’t naive enough to think that all outdoor retailers would welcome the Premium Outdoor Store with open arms, but I am surprised by the vehemence of the attacks by some of our industry’s leading retailers and the threats to drop brands that participated,” wrote Eoin Comerford, general manager of Outdoor, Walmart U.S. e-commerce and CEO of Moosejaw, Friday on Linkedin in an open letter to the outdoor industry.
The team at Moosejaw, the outdoor e-tailer acquired by Walmart in early 2017, is responsible for managing the site and Moosejaw’s relationships helped many vendors sign on.
Mr. Comerford credited April’s relaunch of Walmart.com — including a more image-driven versus-transactional look — for making Moosejaw’s vendors comfortable selling directly on the site. But Outside Magazine said some vendors felt the upgrades weren’t as advanced as promised.
The bigger concern is that, following the launch, some owners of outdoor specialty stores threatened to put holds on orders of any vendor selling through Walmart.com.
Outdoor retailers have continually complained about seeing brands sold by third-party sellers on Amazon.com below MAP (minimum advertising prices). Walmart claims to be offering more control over third-party sellers on its online marketplace.
Mr. Comerford told the Wall Street Journal that the response from outdoor retailers is shortsighted as consumers expect a wide selection of items online and he believes limiting selections to specialty is “just not going to work long-term.”
He concluded his Linkedin note with a challenge: “At the end of the day, the question becomes, ‘What industry do we want to be?’ A small, exclusionary, slow-growing industry dominated by one or two large retailers that dictate everything from distribution and promotional calendars, or a large, inclusive, fast-growing industry embraced by a growing customer base and populated by many innovative and inspiring outdoor brands?”
- Premium Outdoor Destination Curated by Moosejaw Opens on Walmart.com Today; First in Walmart’s Family of Acquired Brands to Open Digital Store on Site – Walmart
- Open Letter to the Outdoor Industry – Linkedin
- How Retailers Rose Against Walmart’s Online Gear Shop – Outside Magazine
- Walmart Just Wanted to Sell Pricey Outdoor Gear. Then ‘All Hell Broke Loose.’ – The Wall Street Journal
- Walmart turns to Moosejaw for curation – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How open should the outdoor industry be — both vendors and specialty stores — to supporting Walmart’s Premium Outdoor Store website? Given Amazon and other online competition, do outdoor vendors have a better choice than partnering with walmart.com?