/ The demise of the climbing shop?

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stp - on 06 May 2014
I would much prefer to buy gear from a climbing shop. I appreciate the fact such specialist places exist and the range of products they have. However looking at the cost of buying stuff from such shops compared with online and elsewhere has made me think. For instance:

Guidebook: costs 30% more
harness: 35% more
shoes: 90% more

I don't mind paying a little more from a specialist shop but the difference in cost for me is too much to justify. This works out at roughly 60 more on just 3 items. At these prices it feels more donating to a charity.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who will choose the cheaper option here.

So I'm wondering if climbing shops have a future? Do they need to change the way they do business to survive?
Choss on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

Most Climbing shops will Price Match genuine online prices if you ask, in my Experience.
Neil Williams - on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

A lot of smaller shops will also supply online, this widens their market. In the case of The Outdoor Shop in MK, for instance, this has become their majority business.

Neil
needvert on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

Having a climbing section in an outdoor shop seems one way to go.

As you can buy climbing gear online much cheaper as you say, it seems evident plenty of outlets already are focusing on this online model.

I think its a good thing for the most part, inefficient distribution methods (as evidenced by cost) dying in favour of more lean businesses.

If I want advice or opinions I look online first, not to the guy who sells me the thing in question. Sometimes his opinion is good, but if hes good at business he'll be profit driven.

Hooo - on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:
I think you need to shop around a bit. I've never bought any of those items online, I wouldn't buy shoes or harness without trying them on.
S&R and Cotswold do 15% or 20% BMC discount, and if that's not cheaper than online they'll price match anyway. Admittedly they aren't "proper" independent shops, but they are the only shops near me, and they are real shops where you can see and try on stuff.
Last guidebook purchase I made, Cotswolds couldn't find the price, so just used Amazon's price. And, they gave me the BMC discount off that!
Post edited at 10:23
full stottie on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

Its true that specialist shops are threatened - we are about to lose Wildtrak in Newcastle, (its web sales may survive?)and Nevisport is also gone. However, given the right customer service, a good shop with added online sales should keep going.

Over the years I've been so impressed with Needlesports in Keswick - if you are in the area, you get good advice and good prices, and their online service is really fast and with very reasonable postage - for me, excellent customer service is worth more than a marginal cost saving, but as others have said, most shops will meet a genuine low competitor's price.

Dave
gdnknf on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

My father and I have bought the majority of our climbing and mountaineering equipment from Needlesports in Keswick (who also have a successful online shop).

The shop is staffed by climbers who have a huge amount of experience between them. Nobody is ever too busy to thoroughly discuss the customer's needs and help them to find the right product (and if that product happens to be something they don't sell, they will happily send you elsewhere for it!).

Steve has always been very helpful and supportive of climbers and their ambitions in advice and products. Emily helped my girlfriend choose her first pair of rock shoes; Cal has given me an enormous amount of advice on the alps and Harry is a great person to chat about routes and gear and sorted my dad out with his first set of crampons and axe.

Prices are reasonable when you include all that knowledge and experience, however, if that isn't enough, often a 10% BMC discount is given.

I don't think this shop will ever disappear, and that's a good thing.

If you're reading this Steve, keep up the good work! Cheers.
stp - on 06 May 2014
In reply to needvert:

> If I want advice or opinions I look online first, not to the guy who sells me the thing in question. Sometimes his opinion is good, but if hes good at business he'll be profit driven.

Yeah a very good point, I hadn't even thought of that. And ask on UKC you won't get one person's opinion but more like 40. I suppose Amazon have been pretty good at capitalizing on people's opinions about their products. They've made their web site a valuable resource regardless of what it sells.

stp - on 06 May 2014
In reply to Hooo:

> I wouldn't buy shoes or harness without trying them on.

Yeah, but I've just got shoes from Decathlon where I could try them on. 39 vs about 75 for the cheapest in a climbing shop. Sure they're not the best (and those are over 100 in climbing shops now) but they're perfectly adequate for what I need. Regardless of brand all shoes will be worn out in less than year if I climb regularly anyway because the rubber wears out.


> S&R and Cotswold do 15% or 20% BMC discount,

That's a pretty hefty discount for BMC members. I'm wondering how that works? Free advertising for those shops somewhere. On their own web site they have their own BMC shop and members only get 10% off there.

ByEek - on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

> Yeah, but I've just got shoes from Decathlon where I could try them on. 39 vs about 75 for the cheapest in a climbing shop.

I think you get what you pay for to a certain extent. I have looked at the Decathlon shoes and don't particularly rate them. Similarly, much of the cheaper non-branded cams are ok, but heavier and clunkier.

At the end of the day, the value added in a shop is the service and you simply have to ask yourself, what is that worth? Presumably, it isn't worth 20 per item for you?
andrewmcleod - on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

Shops in walls tend to be very good in my (limited) experience of them, since they only sell climbing stuff and presumably they don't have to overheads (in terms of rent) of a big shop. I buy most of my stuff at mine (the Barn, also selling online). They are also pretty good at ordering stuff in if I ask for it.
andymac - on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

Buy all my stuff (new ) from shops on Ebay.

Cotswold etc don't try hard enough.
In reply to stp:

Have a read of these signs, I saw them stuck up in the window of what used to be Mountain Shack in Worcester last Christmas:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/toby-northern_light/14120884031/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/toby-northern_light/14124194195/
balmybaldwin - on 06 May 2014
In reply to andymac:

That's great for your wallet, but with the numbers of decent climbing shops dwindling, it makes it harder for those emergency "i forgot the guidebook" purchases that bricks and mortar shops are so good for.

This is a debate that goes far beyond climbing shops... I do think in general humans don't value good service enough to pay for it and as a result if you want something a little bit specialist these days you need to order on-line and wait for the postman to knock on your door (or stealth deliver a "you weren't in" card)
Timmd on 06 May 2014
In reply to needvert:
> If I want advice or opinions I look online first, not to the guy who sells me the thing in question. Sometimes his opinion is good, but if hes good at business he'll be profit driven.

Or she.

If it's a decent climbing shop they'll give good advice so people want to return, it's not just about making one sale. Good advice is better service, and better service ensures return custom so the business survives and profits can be sustained/increased.

See above about Needle Sports (which I've not bought from as it happens, too injured/skint)...
Post edited at 19:10
stp - on 06 May 2014
In reply to balmybaldwin:

> I do think in general humans don't value good service enough to pay for it

Well for me, like anything, its about how much it actually costs. 60 extra for maybe five minutes advice in shop is not really good value. And as an experienced climber chances are I'll know more than them anyway.

For my 60 I could probably get a one to one coaching session and learn a lot more.
tombawimba - on 06 May 2014
In reply to stp:

shoes 90% more - never
you cannot buy a 100 pair of shoes for 10 online
needvert on 06 May 2014
In reply to tombawimba:

That would be 900% more.

Paying 190 instead of 100 would be 90% more.
Blue Straggler - on 06 May 2014
In reply to needvert:

> That would be 900% more.

> Paying 190 instead of 100 would be 90% more.

A voice of wisdom!
BStar - on 06 May 2014
In reply to tombawimba:

That's not the maths the OP stated, that would be 900% more. A pair of 95 boots in the shop at 50 online would be 90% more.
ads.ukclimbing.com
BStar - on 06 May 2014
In reply to needvert:

Beat me to it!
popebenedictus - on 07 May 2014
In reply to stp:

I reckon Needlesports represent everything a good climbing shop should be.

I think that geography plays a part too.
I can't imagine a specialist climbing shop surviving in the flatlands of say Ipswich or Oxford (although I would be happy to be proved wrong if such places exist)
teh_mark - on 07 May 2014
In reply to stp:

As long as I continue to buy specialist shiny things, I will continue to buy them from a climbing shop (and, in all probability, from Needlesports - they are truly fantastic) on principle. I think the world would be a much poorer place if GO Outdoors represented the epitome of in-store expertise.
Jim Lancs - on 07 May 2014
I can't stand people who 'showroom'. The ones who try on all the gear, find their size and then go off and buy it on-line from Sport Pursuits or the like.

If the on-line shopping experience has short comings, why kill the better alternative?
Fraser on 07 May 2014
In reply to Jim Lancs:

> If the on-line shopping experience has short comings, why kill the better alternative?

Presumably bacause it's cheaper. I'm not saying it's right, but it's certainly understandable.

deanstonmassif on 07 May 2014
In reply to Jim Lancs:

I did the opposite last weekend. Having spent a bit of time online looking for a new waterproof jacket, and bringing the choice down to 2 products available in several retailers for the same price, I then happened to walk into Braemar Mountain Sports to see one of the jackets there on sale. Still cost me 10 more than the online sale price, but I was able to try it on for size, feel the weight of the fabric, check out the colour etc. Then as I was leaving I spied some walking shoes on sale and bought those too - saving myself hours of scouring online to perhaps get a tenner off the price and run the risk of them not fitting. I seldom spend money on myself and actually enjoyed the experience, compared to the lingering sense of "did I choose the right product/size" that I get from buying online.

I know we all say we hate shopping and would rather be climbing. But come on; who of us doesn't get a bit kid-in-a-toyshop when we walk into an outdoor shop?

Use em or lose em.

Nick
FrankBooth - on 07 May 2014
In reply to stp:

Interesting choice of products:
Shoes - unless you're going for the exact model you had last time, you almost certainly need to try on for size. Even then, the same size and model can vary over time in my experience. If you're looking to try a different type/brand then you certainly have to try on, and ideally compare by climbing a few holds. This is where a traditional shop wins hands down,and paying an extra 20 is well worth while.
Harnesses - again if buying for the first time, then swallow the difference and go to a shop where you can try on a few and compare. They last five years (minimum), so again, even if you're replacing like with like,there's no guarantee that five years down the line, the same model will be the same.
Guide books - these are generic products, so you might as well buy from Amazon, and put the saving towards the extra you'll pay for the above bits.

Sustainable retail businesses have by and large realised they need an integrated related solution - so that might mean:
  • A 'bricks and mortar' shop for passing trade and the sort of purchase discusses above
  • An e-commerce store, properly supported with SEO and digital advertising
  • An Amazon Marketplace store, for generic products like the guidebooks
  • An E-bay store for low margin or clearance items
  • Timmd on 07 May 2014
    In reply to teh_mark:

    > As long as I continue to buy specialist shiny things, I will continue to buy them from a climbing shop (and, in all probability, from Needlesports - they are truly fantastic) on principle. I think the world would be a much poorer place if GO Outdoors represented the epitome of in-store expertise.

    I agree, Outside are another great climbing shop, I've never ever had a bad experience with them.
    Webster - on 07 May 2014
    In reply to stp:

    I think the way forwerd is intergrating great climbers caffs with an outdoor shop, such as outside in hathersage. I absolutely love the shop and go there on every peak trip. I never go in there intending to buy any top end goods because it is so expensive and they dont offer any discounts (they are missing out on that front), but i still end up spending money there almost every time, ether for the cafe, and/or impulse buys for ods and ends or things on sale which catch my eye. and as someone else has mentioned the location of an outdoor shop is crucial, 10 mins from stanage is a winner!

    My other favourite outdoor shop is Up and Under in Cardiff. they have a great relationship with the university mountaineering club, offering discounts, lock-ins/movie nights plus great customer service ensuring that they tap into the local market with benefit to all.

    So to sumerise: outdoor shops in upland areas can florish by incorporating a great cafe into the shop, and outdoor shops in lowland areas should set up partnerships with local groups such as universities to guarentee trade.
    Neil Williams - on 07 May 2014
    In reply to popebenedictus:

    I did always wonder how Peglers in Arundel survived for exactly that reason. Sadly they didn't. :(

    Neil

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