In SNEWS: Reps discover a creative way to showcase products and brands

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"The Denver Merchandise Mart is a quirky venue that's the perfect place for reps to attract buyers to spend time with their entire lines in a cool, creative atmosphere.
SHANNON DAVISMAR 7, 2018
An icy wind whipped fresh snow into mini tornados in the narrow alleyways of a Golden, Colorado, storage facility, and Bruce Gordon dropped a box of product samples into the slush under his rented box truck.

He looked over at his business partner Zach Branson and said, “There’s got to be a better way.”

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The two were hustling to make their outdoor sales agency, Mountain Source, a success, and knew that the storage-locker-and-rented-truck strategy would only get them so far. Eventually they found a home base in the Denver Merchandise Mart.

This hulking event space and collection of showrooms, tucked into an industrial pocket of north Denver, opened in 1965 as a wholesale marketplace. Unlike, the Colorado Convention Center, the new home of Outdoor Retailer, which accommodates sweeping events attended by entire industries, the Denver Merchandise Mart specializes in connecting sales representatives to buyers. It’s strictly B2B and not open to the public.

Since opening, The Denver Merchandise Mart has become a major business hub for the western wear industry, and outdoor industry sales reps in the Rocky Mountain region—like Mountain Source—are wisely beginning to take note."

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The potential

So, are outdoor industry brands utilizing it and how? To begin answering that, I meet up with Mountain Source, an outdoor and snow sports sales agency with eight team members servicing retailers in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nebraska.

The Smartwool showroom at the Denver Mart is an idea place for reps to show buyers the complete line.

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“We used to use a storage unit and a rented truck and show product in a retail space,” says partner Bruce Gordon. “Now we have a controlled environment to interact with retailers with no distractions like we might have if we were meeting at a shop, or even worse, the back of a van. It’s revolutionized our business.”

Mountain Source currently reps Chaco, Fjällräven, GU, Hanwag, Klean Kanteen, Smartwool, and Swany.

“We want to change the agency model. As we grow, our goal is to have a [show] room for each of our brands,” says Gordon. “Ultimately, we want to show a buyer that they could stock all of our brands, and in this environment, we can mimic how those brands could be displayed in the store. Smartwool is now flying people from outside of our territory to pre-line here in this showroom.”

Their bright Smartwool space features vinyl wall wraps, custom racks and signage, and individual meeting tables to display product on. The Chaco space has artificial turf and a vibe 100-percent in line with the booth I’ve seen at Outdoor Retailer for years. Their showrooms are inviting, casual, and fun, just like the brands they rep.

“We all got into this business because it’s fun, right?” says Gordon. “But then at some point the fun is out of it. Having showrooms at the Mart has been key to us bringing some of the fun back. We can do really creative things in this space. With all of the support from the leasing manager and staff here, we have extreme flexibility to do whatever we want.”

Mountain Source’s biggest success, business wise, has been with brand extensions. “In an unhurried environment, we can introduce buyers to more brands. We were not able to do that as successfully before,” says partner Zach Branson.

“This space allows our staff to tell better stories. We do 80 percent of our annual business in this showroom now,” adds Gordon.

“It sounds cheesy,” says Branson, “but this place has given us a real sense of pride and really gotten us excited to reinvest in our business. There’s no other place we’ve seen where we can do this.”

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