When I started FERAL, the easiest decision I had to make was our mission statement.
That’s a rare thing. I’ve worked for large corporations that are constantly massaging their mission. It’s easy to find excuses…an evolving market. Shifting visions of disposable and rotating CEOs. But more often than not, companies struggle with it because they lose their identity. How do you nail down a brief and catchy statement that summarizes your company’s intent if it is constantly shifting from fiscal year to fiscal year? It’s nearly impossible.
I knew I wanted FERAL’s mission statement to be simple, authentic, and tie back to exactly why I decided to take this journey. “Create adventure” spoke to my personal experience, but more importantly, I felt that it would keep us tethered to a mission that goes far deeper than just selling graphic t-shirts. I started FERAL because I wanted to get people outside, and I wanted our mission statement to reflect that.
But is it really that straightforward?
Over the past three years I’ve been exposed to some harsh realities in the outdoor industry. The industry is not as diverse, inclusive, or tolerant as I had expected. Like any other industry there is an establishment that works hard to protect the order of things, and that protectionism can often be at the exclusion of others. Elitism is rampant in nearly every outdoor activity, and that creates an outdoor community that puts a disproportionate value on elite brands, elite achievements, and elite egos.
That’s not my community. I feel very strongly that everyone needs to feel welcome in the outdoors and have reasonable access to the gear and activities that help foster a personal connection with nature.
It’s one thing to walk into a stranger’s home and feel out of place, but to walk among the mountains and feel unwelcome is a tragedy.
Sure, we’ve created adventure for a lot of people in the last three years, but have we been doing everything we can do to make sure that adventure is available to everyone? I don’t think so. We’ve continued to have a lot of internal conversations about how we can bring more people to the outdoors and one topic keeps coming up. Price.
It’s impossible to ignore that price is a severe prohibiting factor to ensuring that everyone has equal access to the outdoors. Do the math for a basic 3-day backpacking trip. The cost of gear can run close to what it might cost you to spend those three days at Disney World. It is not insignificant for many people.
So we’re continuing to take action.
The price of new gear is largely controlled by the brands that we carry, and we agree contractually to sell items at the same minimum advertised price that the big retailers of the world sell items for, with the exception of predetermined promotional periods that we all participate in. That’s out of our control, but there is much more that we can do.
As a result, in 2019 we are continuing to invest heavily in a few programs that we feel can have a meaningful impact on the price barrier:
1. Gear rental.
Brands can mandate the price that we sell an item for, but they cannot compel us to rent an item for a specific price. We make the rules, and we are setting our pricing as the most competitive in Denver. We are tripling our rental inventory and making sure that it is easy to book. With the rental program you will be able to get all of primary gear items that are needed for a 3-day backpacking trip for only about 10% of what it would cost to buy all of the gear. We will be relaunching our gear rental program in late-May.
2. Used gear.
In 2018 we launched used gear sales on our website. Now we’re bringing it into the shop. You can now buy and sell used gear at our Denver location. Once again, brands can determine how much we sell a new item for, but they cannot force us to sell a used item for any predetermined price. This control will allow us to take meaningful steps to address the broader issue of price access for our customers. You’ll see premium, like-new gear at a fraction of the new cost.
3. Launch of FERAL-branded gear.
We are launching a small line of FERAL-branded gear this summer that will be much more affordable than the similarly-designed brand name gear. Same quality, better price. If we can give you access to high-quality gear by designing it ourselves and working directly with the factory, we’re going to do just that. More to come!
While none of these programs is revolutionary as a stand-alone program, we will be one of the few independent outdoor gear shops in the country with both a full assortment gear rental service AND a full assortment of used gear for sale. We’re attacking the price issue from several different angles, and we’ll continue to explore all options. We want you to be able to gain access to gear in the way that makes the most sense for you.
We don’t just want to create adventure; we want to create adventure for anyone that is seeking the experience. We want to meet people wherever they are and find a way to provide them the resources they need to experience everything that wild places have to offer.
Adventure changed my life and I feel very strongly that we have an obligation to do everything that we can to provide other people the same transformative opportunities. We’re constantly having conversations at FERAL about our responsibility to our community and how we can serve you better, and we’re hopeful that these programs are a step in the right direction.
About the Author
Jimmy is the founder and owner of FERAL. When he is not exploring the hinterland of Colorado he can usually be found at one of his favorite Berkeley neighborhood watering holes with Sophie & Ace, the shop dogs.
Follow Jimmy on Instagram at @jimmyfunkhouser.
About the Photographer
Adam A. Pawlikiewicz
As a Colorado native I grew up climbing, riding, and skiing all around the Front Range. To say I’m obsessed with the outdoors is quite an understatement. I live for moments spent outside with friends pushing themselves to their absolute limits and as a photographer I aim to capture those raw moments of pure joy found through struggle and accomplishment.