Outdoor Industries Association Blog

Archive for the ‘Outdoor Community’ Category

Britain on Foot – The OIA’s Calling Card to Government

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

So is Britain getting back on its feet?

This is an update on the progress we at the OIA are making with our political campaigning work – all under the banner ‘Britain on Foot’. You remember that? Well, the campaign is progressing with strength. I want to start by clarifying what a campaign is, specifically this one – it’s the industry’s calling card to government and the nation. By aligning our OIA goal to sell more outdoor kit with a clear, not-for-profit goal to ‘Get Britain Active Outdoors’, we open many, many more doors.

BOF Logo CMYK FinalBoF is a call to action to get the British public fitter, healthier and happier in the great outdoors. Two years ago, the OIA had no political engagement, zero! Since then, the team has built a campaign, brought together a network of contacts, and built the profile of Outdoor Activity to cabinet level. BoF is now discussed in Number 10, in both houses of Parliament, in National Health strategy meetings, in a Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity, with all concerned being most supportive of the campaign.

With a long way still to go, however, the OIA needs support to encourage the nation to get active and make the most of what the Great Outdoors has to offer, increasing participation and ultimately boosting industry sales. A number of supporters (www.britainonfoot.co.uk/supporters) have generously provided financial assistance to the campaign, but there are many other ways in which EVERYONE can get involved and help to promote the campaign, from displaying stickers in car/shop windows to adding the logo and a link to web pages and spreading the word via social media.  

So what success has there been recently?  

We’ve been very busy and have achieved some great results. I hope you’ve seen a lot of the increased activity around Physical Activity recently in the media, especially in the last month, when two major reports were published that we’ve been closely involved with: 

1) The Natural England conference – ‘Outdoors for Everyone’, which BoF sponsored. This report was prepared following a national conference by the University College London, and has had wide government distribution. Basically, the paper continues to promote the case for using the Outdoor Recreation environment for tackling health issues. 

2) The Public Health England (PHE) framework for Physical Activity, ‘Everybody Active, Every Day’, was launched with a huge commitment from government to invest in prevention, with the costs of a ‘cure’ spiralling out of control on the NHS. You may have seen headlines in the papers talking about ‘paying you to stay fit’ – a media twist and sensationalism on exactly the direction health is going. There is only one feasible solution for the issues in the UK today – we need to get the nation more active. The UK is the least active nation in Europe – 63% is physically ‘inactive’ – compared to only 18% in Holland, 28% in Germany, even the USA has only a 40% inactive population!

So, there is a huge need – financially, morally, health strategy wise – to ‘Get Britain on its Feet’, and when that happens, the Outdoor Recreation market needs to be ready and willing to take those new customers. To that end, we are working closely with Sport, Tourism and Health departments and are right now working at Ministerial level on a National Strategy for Outdoor Recreation. We are just at the very beginning of this, but if it is successful it will mean “outdoor” featuring in a Strategic Government plan for the first time, and could be the real beginning of change for the industry. 

This is the core of what we do on the campaign side – engage, promote, represent, keep up the pressure that Britain has stopped moving, offer Outdoor Recreation as a solution, and pressure as many departments and partner organisations as we can to build and promote the outdoors – it’s a long journey, but one we are tackling at speed, with greater and better results being achieved as we go along, and the outdoors is at the heart of that journey. 

None of this would have been possible without the support of OIA members and BoF’s First Funders, so a continued big thank you to you all – together we can raise the profile, build the outdoors, save the health of the nation and grow our industry.

Andrew Denton

Advice on ‘ash dieback’ for woodland walkers

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Following concerns about the spread of ‘ash dieback’ in British trees we’re issuing advice, along with the Ramblers, to walkers heading for the woods this autumn.

Chalara dieback of ash – known as ‘ash dieback’ – is a disease caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus which affects ash trees and can lead to tree death. It was unknown in Britain until earlier this year when the first cases were traced back to ash plants imported from the Netherlands.

The Foresty Commission has advised that public access to forest and woodland areas doesn’t pose a signficicant risk to the spread of ash dieback which it is believed may be spread by rain splash, by insects or through the movement of diseased plants or logs.

Walkers should however follow information on official signs in infected areas to avoid accidentally spreading the disease. Woodland walkers can act as an extra set of eyes, looking out for and reporting any trees which they suspect may be infected to the Forestry Commission.

What do if out walking this autumn:

Follow information and advice on any official signs – such as disinfecting boots learn how to spot signs of the disease – guidance can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara

Look out for signs on ash trees where you are walking report any suspected cases to the Forestry Commission immediately – contact details can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara

“The tragic news about ash dieback reaching Britain need not stop people from enjoying a woodland walk this autumn” said Ramblers Senior Policy Officer Justin Cooke. “Walkers, who often know their local woodland well, can play an important role in identifying trees which they suspect might be infected and reporting them to the Forestry Commission.”

Climbing the hill of influence at Westminster

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The outdoor industry is finally starting to get noticed at Westminster.  That at least is the conclusion that I have drawn from my latest meeting in the Houses of Parliament.  By being persistent over a prolonged period of time, by making connections and then developing relationships with the right people and by going armed with compelling data about the value of our industry to UK plc, I have been able to get my muddy boot firmly in the door.

OIA in Westminster

Recently there was another significant moment, when I met with John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism.  He was genuinely engaged and interested in our work and acknowledged that some of the areas in which the OIA works and campaigns fit in well with the Government’s agenda.  In particular, these are: de-centralising the focus of tourism from just London and raising awareness of the wider potential across the UK; improving recognition, interest and visits to the British countryside by foreign visitors; ‘weatherproofing’ the tourist industry, and encouraging people to visit and participate in the UK, regardless of the weather (within reason!).

I was given the opportunity to present to Mr Penrose about the importance and value of the outdoors to the wider economy.  The minister was both impressed and surprised by how large a part of the overall tourism industry the outdoor sector actually is; encouragingly, he was reasonably aware of what constitutes ‘outdoor’ and enthused about how much Brits enjoy adventure and activities like camping and caravanning, walking and climbing.

This meeting was also my chance to introduce Britain on Foot to an influential figure within government.  I am delighted to report that Mr Penrose was supportive and has agreed to speak about the importance of the outdoor economy at our planned launch event on October 24th.  He has also agreed to host a forum at Westminster in 2013, similar to that which David Rutley MP hosted in May this year and which proved to be such a success.  Finally, and possibly most significantly, the minister will help us to secure a meeting with Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport Jeremy Hunt and Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson after the Olympics (depending on any cabinet re-shuffle in September!).

All of this is significant and represents progress, but it is still just the start.  Rather than sit back in self satisfaction, we now need to work even harder to cement and build the relationships that we have initiated, and make sure that Britain on Foot is ultimately given support that amounts to more than supportive words, very welcome though those are.

Andrew Denton,
Chief executive,
The Outdoor Industries Association.

Using the Olympics and Paralympics to create a legacy for the outdoor industry

Friday, June 15th, 2012

If the blanket media coverage for the Olympic Torch relay is any indication, there is only really going to be one story in town for a while come the end of July.  Excitement about the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is building at a rate of knots and we’re set for quite a crescendo.  In all of this storm of media content, it is interesting to note that the organisers of the relay and the opening ceremony appear to be very aware of the importance of the outdoors to Great Britain’s society and culture.

We already witnessed Sir Chris Bonington taking the Olympic Torch to the summit of Snowdon as one of iconic moments of the relay, and this week, details emerged of plans for a very outdoors themed opening ceremony.  Film director Danny Boyle revealed a vision that will see the Olympic Stadium transformed into a “British meadow”.  Whether we like Boyle’s idea or not, what is clear is that he has recognised that the British outdoors is something that should be front and centre when showcasing the country to its own people and to the rest of the world.

So, although competition climbing hasn’t yet made it into the Olympic programme, the outdoors is playing a key role in the global picture that will be painted of our country this summer.  That has to be good news for the outdoor industry, but it will only be of lasting benefit to us if we build our own legacy on the back of it.  Every company and organisation in our sector can, and should, play their own role in that, and the OIA is already working hard to lead on behalf of the industry.

We are continuing our efforts to engage with government and push the outdoors agenda on the national political stage.  We are building a coalition of individuals and organisations who share our ambition, including influential politicians at ministerial level.  We will all work together to raise the profile of the outdoors, encouraging more of the British people to go outside and explore the wonderful countryside and coastline that surrounds them.  It is in this context that the momentum behind our planned ‘Britain on Foot’ campaign is gathering real pace, but we still have much work to do.  The additional awareness of the UK’s outdoor assets that the Olympics is generating can really help, but only as long as we all use it as leverage to further our cause.

Please join the OIA in helping to make that desired legacy a reality.  If you, or your company, is an association member, get involved in our many initiatives.  If you are not a member, join today and become part of a very special project that has the potential to benefit the whole outdoor sector in the UK, and indeed the wider population as well.

Andrew Denton,

Chief executive,

The Outdoor Industries Association.

ROG and the OIA

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

The Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) is the trade body for manufacturers retailers and other organizations that provide products and services for the outdoor leisure pursuits market in the United Kingdom. Our role is to provide leadership and represent the industries’ interests and so help responsibly & sustainably increase participation in the Outdoors for everyone.

What does that actually mean to the hillwalker or climber on the mountain?
Well we are the not-for-profit body that businesses like Berghaus, Cotswold, The North Face, Rohan, Tiso’s etc… all join. As well as Outdoor brands and shops we also welcome tourism and education Outdoor bodies too such as the BMC, The Camping and Caravanning Club. It’s our job to ensure that their interest are best served, we aim to ‘Unite, Engage and Represent’ those members, so that means with issues like sustainability and green directives we need to help members find a way to actively engage, but in a commercial manner that help their business.

There is a deep inconsistency in the Outdoor Industry – on the one hand we are thought of as a bunch of tree-hugging, environmentally active, hill-walking Patagonia wearing ‘greenies’ yet on the other many of us will get on an airplane to ski down that receding glacier, will drive to the Lakes or Scotland climb the warming snow and ice, and will launch new collections and new products year after year risking waste and change before change is needed.

On a world stage, especially through the work of Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard, retailer Mountain Equipment Co-Op and the 1% For the Planet foundation, the Outdoor Industry has a very strong eco positive image – and that image no doubt helps us sell kit. At its most cynical it is commercially positive for us to support and endorse the green movement, to associate our brands with that group and lifestyle consumer. Yet there are many people in our industry that passionately believe in the sustainability agenda, they are anything but cynical, going out of their way to do the right thing, regardless of profit.

The harsh reality is of course, if there was no skiing or new ski resorts, no flights to go climbing. The harsh reality is of course, if there was no skiing or new ski resorts, no flights to go climbing, no new product made each year, no huts in the mountains etc.. we would leave a cleaner greener footprint – so what to do?!

As in our personal lives there is a balance to be struck, a decision to be made between a crusade on the one hand and a commercial, sustainable, best endeavor approach, in an already established industry on the other.
There is a demand in the market for Outdoor pursuits and the gear to enjoy them safely in. Indeed the love of the planet that motivates many a sustainability enthusiast or eco-campaigner is the same love of wilderness and mountains that fires the Outdoor industry. If our industry, built by users, enthusiasts and an authentic love for the land were to disappear, then the replacement could be so much worse?
The trick then, in walking the ‘Fine Patagonian Line’, is to use the position of responsibility we have as market leaders, to work with our customers and partners in ensuring best practice, and to build sustainable Outdoor gear that lasts.  It is also to promote the use of the UK’s wonderful Outdoors rather than stepping on a plane every time you want to go climbing; to develop fabrics and trends such as re-cycled polyester fleece or organic cotton that then flow into more mainstream fashion clothing.

We accept that we live in a consumer driven world.  Perhaps it is possible to grow industries more sustainably, rather than just to walk away from the issues or to take the ‘ostrich in the sand’ approach to the environmental challenges of today.

With ROG we are trying once again to walk that fine line – the ‘greenest’ jacket you have is the one you already own; if it does the job then you have no need of a new one. That purest approach however does no good to the industry selling you kit. It stifles development and innovation, denies donations to mountain rescue and environmental causes, and means the outdoor adventurer who wants the best, latest outdoor kit for their own trips is compromised.

Here now at ROG you have an option, swap, donate, move around Outdoor kit – enable more people to get outside, less well off adventurers, young people, groups, schools etc.. That new jacket you really want you can buy still, but now you have the option to pass on your old faithful rather than leave it rotting under the stairs.

Yes it’s a fine line. There are no clear cut decisions in an industry that supports a strong sustainable ethic, but with ROG perhaps we are moving one step nearer a compatible, commercial option that is both environmentally sustainable, yet commercially aware.

Andrew Denton, CEO, OIA

Columbia UK reaches out to help engage independent retailers with a win win offer to join the OIA.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

One of the challenges that was put to members at the OIA conference just gone was to help the association reach out to the smaller independent retailers.  The OIA already has 47 retailers as members, but there are a plethora out there who are either unaware of the OIA at all, or still judge it by the association of old, and others who perhaps simply cannot see the value in their membership subscription.  A fair enough observation if they haven’t seen any of the latest communications.

So Columbia are offering a helping hand with this great offer: product at wholesale to the value of their membership fee for the first year.

The independent retail sector represents a hugely important part of our industry. And whilst the industry dynamics are changing in terms of supplier/ retailer distribution to the consumer, which for the most part can be directly attributed to the proliferation of the Internet, independent retail will always have an essential role to play in the make up of the outdoor industry. But change and evolution is also needed, necessary even, to ensure long term survival.  This is where being part of an overarching industry body can help.

The OIA conference demonstrated that the smaller, independent retailer would directly benefit from significant savings through their membership, more than offsetting their subscription.   But just as importantly, and ignoring the direct cost savings, free business support services and access to vital data and research, the benefits of membership are also derived from direct promotion of their business to the consumer via the new consumer portal The Active Guide, and reduced rates for the soon to launch industry retail training programme, helping to increase business’s productivity and raise standards across the board.  And in times of crisis being part of an industry voice is invaluable.

Newly appointed OIA Board member Anthony Greasby from Countryside Ski & Climb, comments “I think it’s time for independent retailers to sit up and take notice. This is the only trade organisation that’s specifically going to make a difference in our own industry, and I really can’t find any reasons why you wouldn’t want to be part of that.”

Columbia’s UK Country Manager, Dan Trapp, also advocates this notion that we need to work together across the whole sector for the benefit of the industry, and that means joining and supporting the OIA.  So much so that he is putting his money where his mouth is and is offering all independent retailers product at wholesale to the value of their membership fee for the first year, even if they are not current Columbia accounts.  There’s your value for money straight away.

All in all it is a pretty compelling proposition.  But it’s your opinion that counts so here’s our call to non OIA member retailers:  get in touch with us to find out what your industry body can do for you, and is already doing for the wider outdoor industry at large.

And with Columbia’s very generous offer, you literally have nothing to lose!

Contact as today on info@outdoorindustriesassociation.co.uk or call 0131 333 4414

A festive message from Sir Chris Bonington

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Our industry is well prepared for the cold financial front

One way or another, I have enjoyed a link to the outdoor industry for almost 60 years – as a consumer, climber, executive, ambassador and dare I say elder statesman.  I remember the sector well during its very modest, formative stage.  Back then, it was dominated by a few very passionate outdoor activists who opened retail outlets or started making products and created brands that would one day be household names.  Just as I was exploring the wild places of the world, these people were business pioneers, embarking on adventures that in some cases continue today.

And the industry certainly has changed a great deal over the decades.  No-one could accuse it of being a ‘cottage’ industry now.  I have been fortunate enough to be closely involved with Berghaus for almost 30 years and have witnessed first hand both the development of one company and how it has played its part in the evolution of the whole outdoor sector.  Of course, Berghaus is just one of many UK companies that have contributed to transforming our industry into a modern, dynamic and forward looking sector that makes a major contribution to the UK’s wider economy.

The state of the economy is clearly at the front of many of our minds at the moment.  These are very challenging times in almost every part of the public and private sector.  Consumers are quite understandably being very cautious about how, where and when they spend what disposable income that they have available.  There is no point shying away from the fact that 2011 will test us all.  However, I know that here in the UK we have an industry that is very well prepared for that test.

We have talented people, very well established retailers, brands and other businesses, and we have a collective drive and passion to succeed.  The increasing appeal of the outdoors to more consumers from all walks of life offers an insight into the opportunity for our industry.  We must reach out to these people, clearly demonstrating to them that they should seek advice, products and services from the real experts, who can offer outstanding customer service and great value for money.  I know that the OIA has a major initiative planned that will start in the spring, which is designed to encourage more people into the outdoors.  In the process, it will drive interest and footfall (‘virtual’ and real) to OIA members up and down the country.  I encourage everyone to support this when details emerge – it will be a project that has the potential to make a positive impact on our collective fortunes in 2011.

Meanwhile, I’ve put in a request for some proper winter weather in the UK, to remind the general public of the benefits of well made kit to keep them warm, dry and comfortable in all conditions.  I hope that request is answered and that trading between now and spring is brisk for you all.  Have a very enjoyable festive period and together, I hope that we can forge a prosperous New Year for the outdoor industry.

Sir Chris Bonington.

Honorary President of the Outdoor Industries Association

A Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year? A View from Keswick

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The last 12 months have seen many uncontrollable and unexpected external forces have significant impacts on our trade. As usual the weather played its part; the winter could hardly have been more buoyant – conditions ensured that virtually anyone who ventured outside was a potential customer for an outdoor retailer!

Once the snow melted we “enjoyed” one of the most prolonged dry spells for years – by the end of spring the harsh reality of recession-hit Britain kicked in. The General Election, the World Cup, the first austerity budget AND the super dry weather meant our customers had little incentive to buy; customer confidence was more than dented and the announcement of public sector cuts encouraged people to hold onto their cash.

So far the autumn seems a little more positive – the odd colder day has helped early purchases of winter kit…but what can we expect next?

After helping destroy confidence over the last 2 years the media is talking up the potential effect of the up-coming rise in VAT – there’s going to be a bumper Christmas as we all buy now to avoid paying extra tax! Really? Will another £4 on a £200 waterproof make someone buy today rather than hang on till the sales? I don’t think so; but if the media are determined to encourage a pre-Christmas buying frenzy then I’m happy to see them try!

In reality several supply-side issues far out-weigh anything a marginal VAT rise will do. The seismic shift in China’s labour market and the massive increase in freight charges mean that the guaranteed supply of better & better quality products at lower & lower prices is coming to an end.

After living with a deflationary outdoor market for 15 years our customers will have to adjust to prices going up! Our challenge will be to reassure them that are still getting value for money, not by discounting, but by having the courage to sell at prices where we all win. Suppliers need to make enough to maintain the supply chain & invest in R&D, retailers need enough to attract, train and retain quality staff and the customer has to get a product that more than satisfies their expectations at a fair and reasonable price.

Compare Outdoor products to the non-technical stuff available on the High Street – we sell absolutely fantastic pieces of kit at prices way lower than most people see every day!

The challenge for our trade isn’t to do with the weather, the competition within our market or the projected sluggish recovery of the UK’s economy – the challenge and greatest opportunity for us as a trade is to tell our story to a broader range of potential customers! If we can communicate just how exhilarating, enjoyable and accessible outdoor activities are then we’ve the chance to grow our market for the benefit of us all.

If we take the chance and do this job properly then the Outdoor Trade will not only enjoy this New Year but also many New Years to come!

Andy Airey, George Fisher, Keswick

Inaugural OIA CEO/ Directors forum kicks off with some punch

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Last Wednesday saw the inaugural OIA CEO/ Director Forum, held at the Palace Hotel in Manchester.  Far from being a stuffy affair there was a relaxed yet focused atmosphere as senior figures from within the industry gathered, some meeting for the first time.  The theme was, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Government cuts – is it all doom and gloom?  Identifying the opportunities and threats to the industry collectively’.

Tom Franklin kicked off the main part of the evening with his key note presentation, which highlighted some of the main challenges the walking community is now facing.  As debate and discussion around the room ensued, there was consensus that despite the current challenging circumstances for the business community,  opportunities  for organisations operating in our industry outweigh the threats and some core focus points were identified.  That said it was also clear that these will only be realised if we work together, not just within our own membership body but by creating those important alliances with our counterparts across the other sectors.   And having Tom Franklin, CEO of Ramblers, and Andy Robinson, CEO of Institue for Outdoor Learning, there was a good start.

It was even better that we could put something back and raise money for an outdoor charity, Equal Adventure, and make a little difference directly while we were at it.  Thank you to all those attending for their generous donations.

Now we just need to carry that momentum forward and I look forward to reporting on that progress by the next OIA Forum being held during the Innovex Conference on April 12th 2011. You can read the full report on the event in our news section.