The direct-to-consumer-only or DTCO business model in the outdoor industry is nothing new. Stio, Tarptent, Wagner Skis, and Trew have been doing this for years, just to name a few. Canadian startup Live Out There now wants to join the ranks of companies selling you outdoor gear at more reasonable prices than what you may find in a retail store.
Live Out There was founded by mountaineer and outdoor industry veteran Jamie Clarke. You may remember Clarke as the climber at the heart of the whole Champion-Aerogel on Everest project. For the past couple of decades, Clarke has also run an outdoor retail store in Calgary called The Out There Adventure Center. As a sign of the ecommerce-heavy times, the store closed last summer, which led him to start his own online business to take advantage of the market and his experience in retail and manufacturing.
The most obvious benefit of a direct-to-consumer-only model is the ability to offer similar product to retailers but at a better price by just cutting out the middleman. A retailer has to cover overhead costs such as rent, staff, and inventory and those costs require a markup in prices. You can also theoretically bring product to market quicker, as you are not beholden to the retail buying cycles.
With a direct-to-consumer-only model, you also have complete control over your brand’s story and the ability to educate the consumer on the features and benefits of your products — more so than a retail salesperson might be able to do. Live Out There appears to be all about transparency — transparency in the materials they use, their manufacturing process, and the prices they charge.
In terms of pricing differentials, Trew has been doing this for awhile — showing you what price a retailer would have to charge for one of Trew’s products versus what the company can charge by selling to you direct. Live Out There takes it one step further, however, and shows you the entire build cost for a product, their actual markup on that cost, and the final price. Knowing exactly how much the company is going to make off of your buying the product? Now that’s transparency.
By working directly with factories in China and selling the final product through the website, Live Out There offers similar quality gear at 70% of the price of competitors. For example, the Chamonix Down Jacket, which the company claims is similar to the Patagonia Down Sweater, retails for $149.99 versus Patagonia’s $229.99.
Clarke is starting with outerwear on Live Out There for now, but hopes to expand into a full product line of outdoor apparel layers. The outerwear retails for anywhere from $129.99 for a vest to $229.99 for a down parka.
Two words. NO WARRANTY.
Also let’s not forget that outdoor communities are often built around local gear shops (hosting events, gathering place, source of local knowledge). So as much as it’s nice to get a deal, touting yourself as cutting out the local gear shop isn’t always a great thing.
Hi GC, thank you for the thoughtful story. You hit the nail on the head on a series of issues and important points.
Retail is changing and rather than continuing to be part of the problem we figured out a way to be part of the solution.
At the end of the day, our mission is to get the world outside and high value gear is a good place to start.
Re: Warranty as noted above. We have a lifetime warranty on everything we make.
And I miss out old store too. It was a good local shop and a great meeting place for outdoor enthusiasts. We plan to reinvent that important community in new, more sustainable ways in the future.
I hope you’ll join us.