“Showrooms Are Standing By!”

Offering for your consideration: Tip #2, which is written into the fit guidelines of a site that sells discounted eyewear called…

Showrooming Defined

Not sure about this, but a business plan that starts with “First, we kill brick and mortar” doesn’t sound very viable if you’re not doing anything very innovative online. We’ll see.


Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory

It’s 2014 and we now live in the world after Willy Wonka created the Wonkavision.  Today, at any time of the day or night, people can reach into the glowing screen in front of them and grab whatever they want. Today, the distance between a consumer and a vendor is now about the length of an average arm. 

With eBay offering same-day deliveries in many urban markets, and Amazon promising that within the next five years anything with a barcode will be available for delivery anywhere in North America within 24 hours, we’re already not far off from the promise of Mr. Wonka’s invention. Add to that Amazon’s vision of aerial drone delivery (something that is apparently already well on its way to being reality in Australia), or that Google may be developing driverless delivery vehicles, and the idea of beaming products across television waves doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

The Wonkavision is here. But we haven’t seen anything yet.

The next generation of 3D printers will change everything, even dinner. Commercial Makerspaces have the potential to do so, as well. Boutique micro-manufacturers close to home will be able to make just about anything that you want, and deliver it to your door within a very tight time frame.

Hyper-customization is coming on in a big way. Major companies like Levis and Nike have embraced it, and small companies like Timbuk2 have been good at it for a long time. You can get custom, hand-built wheels for your bike from QBP, and – for that matter – you can get a custom-painted bike built to your exact specifications from Trek. As consumers get more and more used to buying items that are customized for them, they will demand it more as well. And timeframes for custom items will shorten dramatically.

It goes without saying but we may as well say it anyway: These initiatives are primarily direct-to-consumer.

It’s time to examine the idea that business models that have existed in that space between a brand and a consumer – we’re talking retailers of all sizes, independent reps, PR, advertising, and media (among many others) –  increasingly may just be in the way. The question everybody in these niches needs to ask daily is: “How do we add value now that the Wonkavision has been invented?” 

Because it’s here.

Is the Wonkavision the end of the world for specialty retail? No, not hardly. But it’s the end of the world as we know it.

We are living in a time of ongoing disruption. The new normal will be constant change. Get comfortable with this idea, and learn to thrive on it.

It’s 2014. Get on it.

Happy Birthday, PEMBA!

Today is our twenty-first birthday here at PEMBA. We’re now officially old enough to drink.

Think on that.

It’s been a long time since I stared at the ceiling of our base camp tent in Alaska as the snow buried it from outside, sketching out the idea that would become PEMBAserves. Those years, I  spent four to six weeks every summer climbing, and for several consecutive summers we went to Alaska to go up anything and everything that was in condition. It was a good life.

In those days, I worked part-time at Erehwon in Chicago and Madison, and supplemented that income as a free-lancer for Outside Magazine, Climbing, Rock&Ice, and a number of other publications. For Erehwon, I ran their newsletter and their marketing out-reach projects. I originally thought that PEMBA would do this same thing for different stores across the country, but then the phone rang. Continue reading

Quarante: The 2012 OR Winter Market

Skiing in support of the Big City Mountaineers, aprés Outdoor Retailer.

This OR Winter Market was my fortieth Outdoor Industry tradeshow. I began going to the shows in the summer of 1991 (that year it was in Reno), and I’ve been at almost every one since. I missed one after having a serious bike wreck on the day before I was supposed to leave for the show.

So this was number “40,” for me, or “quarante” as they say in French. That’s a nice round number that makes me think. Continue reading

Holiday Wishes from Pemba Serves


From the staff at Pemba Serves,
Adventure Medical Kits, Atlas Snowshoes, LEKI and PETZL.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,
Matunda Ya Kwanza and Laeta Saturnalia!

May all of you receive and share in the peace, love and joy
of this and every season.

Photo: Christmas #19 – The Timberland Santa | Creative Commons

Why I Buy? The Shiny and The Solid.

Photo: Paul-Baptiste Baca

I am a confessed gear whore.

gear whore n. someone who has to have the best, most expensive, coolest gear, useful or not.

Yes, I like the shiny and the new. And there are times when I look over my rack and I realise I am just one or two colour-coordinated draws away from being one of those sport climbers.

But really, why do I buy what I buy? Such a simple question does not have a simple answer.

I have worked in marketing and advertising for the past 20 years and have a pretty good grasp on how the artifice and casuistry of product pimping works. But that doesn’t mean I am immune. In fact, I have a high appreciation for a well-crafted advertisement and am more likely to invest at least my time into researching a product that is packaged well and peddled in just the right way to highlight its particular je ne sais quoi. Black and white sketches or flat product photos might be enough to pique some consumers’ interest, but many people really do prefer the glossy, full-colour splash of gear-in-action (me included). It’s a world of embodying the brand.

Companies like Black Diamond Equipment and Petzl know this. They don’t casually spend their advertising dollars. And retailers know what they are doing when they put those pretty products in the hands and on the backs of pretty people.

But as much as the beautiful people and shiny colours get my attention, it is not the reason I buy. Getting the customer into the store or to your website might be half the battle, but half does not make a sale.

Continue reading

211 Reasons to Wear a Climbing Helmet

This past month we invited a few rock climbing friends of ours to help spread the word about wearing helmets while climbing. Each of these climbers has a unique story about how they came to realize that wearing a helmet was important to them, their friends and their families. Reading the over 200 comments on these posts we hope that their followers; and you, decide to wear a helmet too.

Venturesome Krysia

I never used to wear a helmet rock climbing. I usually climb at the Red River Gorge, and many people that climb there don’t. My thought was if there was if there was a lot of overhang on the route, or when I start leading trad, then I would. But then something happened that changed my mind. // Continue Reading…



Ever since Cragbaby came along however, I’ve discovered a new reason to show my hard hat some love – and that is setting a good example for my son. When he’s ready to start climbing, I’m going to require him to wear a helmet. I can’t very well expect him to be happy about wearing one if he’s never seen me or my husband wear one. The funny thing is that at this point C thinks helmets are uber cool – at least once per climbing trip I turn around to find him wearing my helmet – usually accompanied by hysterical toddler giggles. // Continue Reading…


Splitter Choss

As Tracy and I spent more time climbing together, I started using my helmet more often, and now it’s a rare day you’ll see me without it. Often it feels like we are the only two people in Rifle wearing them, but a friend almost got killed there when a loose rock fell on his head as he walked under a popular cliff, so we don’t let the odd stares bother us. // Continue Reading…

So what about you?
Why do you, or don’t you, wear a helmet?


Need a helmet? Buy a PETZL Helmet online now
or visit your local PETZL retailer to check them out.

Don’t Play Climbing Helmet Roulette

Chicago area climber Justin Berry being littered out after a block of quartzite dislodged, smashing into his forehead and knee

I’ve written 3 different versions of a post for Pemba Serves about helmets and the outdoors.  Each one prior was full of stories that I had of how a helmet saved my life, or that of someone else that I know – like the time my long-time climbing partner Jay knocked loose a fist-sized chunk of granite from 70’ that knocked me flat, or Justin’s aid-climbing accident that had him littered out, or tales of my various bike wrecks that had me in stitches – not the funny kind of stitches.

But really, pictures and videos speak more than words. Let’s face it, if you participate in sports that carry an inherent risk – like biking, skiing, climbing…not wearing a helmet is playing Russian Roulette. The riskier the sport, the more bullets in the gun. I was going to put the end scene from The Deer Hunter in here, but you get the idea without Christopher Walken explaining it to you.

Continue reading

Mount Rainer Climb – BCM Summit For Someone

Photo - Patrick Gensel

I stepped off the paved trail, my boot plunged into the sun ripened snow of the Muir Snowfield. Standing majestically, miles above me the glaciated slopes of Mount Rainier called to me. After months of training, fundraising, and traveling to smaller mountains to test my mettle, I had arrived, It all came down to this climb.

If I said I wasn’t a bit nervous, maybe even reluctant, I’d be lying, but climbing a mountain of this magnitude is not anything to be taken lightly. After all, many use Rainier as their training grounds for far off peaks in the Himalaya and Alaska Range. “Was I ready?”, “Did I train hard enough”, “Would we be caught in a bad rock or icefall?”  These were the thoughts that filled my head in the weeks leading up to my Arrival in Ashford, Washington.

Continue reading

Why I Buy – The Three F’s

Photo: David Morlock Photography | OWL Trip 2010

I came across The Three F’s when I first started working in the Outdoor Industry about 20 years ago. I had only been on the job for a short time and like any new staffer hungry for knowledge I was browsing through old catalogs in the break room.

In the front of an old backpack catalog some guy named “Wayne” used the concept of Fit, Fabrics and Features to walk through his product line. It was a concept that not only clarified the differences between the products in the line but also between other companies.

The Three F’s have been a great tool me. They’re a yardstick that help me decide whether or not I’m going to buy a piece of equipment or apparel and they’re a great method for comparing and understanding outdoor products.

Continue reading