More people ventured outdoors this past year because of the pandemic, giving new attention to outdoor meccas like Colorado. These hikers are part of a trek sponsored by Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides, a Boulder company. Courtesy Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides

Boulder lures outdoor retailers, enthusiasts

BOULDER — Boulder’s long list of outdoor recreational opportunities has become a magnet for retailers and businesses researching, developing and selling outdoor products. And it’s a magnet for residents and visitors needing clothing, equipment, tools, gear and adventure-safe and healthy food to do snow, water and climbing activities. 

“If you want to be outside, it’s a great place to be, and if you want to be in the outdoor industry, it’s also a great place to be,” said Scott Sternberg, executive director of the Boulder Economic Council and associate vice president for economic vitality for the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. “There’s an established community around both the use of outdoor products and the development and retail sales of outdoor products.”

Despite the pandemic, major players in the outdoor industry are choosing Boulder to open new stores, seemingly arriving en masse, particularly in the past couple of years. The players range from local independents to large retailers with national and international headquarters and manufacturers of anything from thistle down jackets to snaggletooth crampons. Their iconic brands are clustering storefronts on Pearl and 29th streets and landing throughout the city.

“There’s great evidence these businesses have been successful in our community and that draws other like businesses to our community because of the opportunity it presents to build their business,” said John Tayer, president and chief executive officer of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. 

A few of the arrivals that are already here or plan to come in 2021 include Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., a manufacturer of mountaineering and skiing gear; Stio, an outdoor clothing brand; Backcountry, an outdoor gear and apparel retailer; Prickly Pear Sports, a designer of performance apparel; BearVault, a maker of bear resistance food canisters for backpackers; and Wild Barn Coffee, a wholesaler of nitro cold-brew and roast coffee.

“It’s a confluence of factors that make Boulder an ideal location for outdoor retailers and businesses to develop their businesses here,” Tayer said. “The outdoor lifestyle is paramount. … It makes it a fertile ground for outdoor brands to test their products in close proximity to the outdoor environment.”

Boulder’s outdoor lifestyle offers the outdoor enthusiast miles of open space, an extensive trail system and close proximity to hiking, skiing, mountain and road biking, rock climbing, trail running, camping, fishing, mountaineering and ice climbing. 

“Boulder has always been for many, many years a hub of outdoor activities,” said Chip, chief executive officer of the Downtown Boulder Partnership, adding that Boulder’s location at the foot of mountains is a major attraction. “There’s obviously a draw and appeal for these brands to be in Boulder and to want to associate their brands with Boulder.”

Boulder has had a mainstay of brands for several years, but recently there is “a lot more interest and a lot more movement,” Chip said. 

“Retail is changing. Companies are looking for locations that are highly visible,” Chip said. “There’s a renewed interest for visibility and connecting brands to Boulder that has a prominent outdoor lifestyle and culture. …. It’s not like it’s newly discovered, but it’s a new phase of what’s been a trend here for many, many years.” 

Outdoor retailers wanting to identify a new store location consider areas with opportunities to go outside and/or the volume of customers wanting to buy the products.

“When you’re choosing a retail location in particular, you want to know where people value the outdoors and want to buy product,” said Lise Aangeenburg, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association in Boulder, which represents 1,200 outdoor companies across the U.S.

Boulder may not have the high population numbers but has outdoor recreation opportunities within the city and within an hour’s drive, Aangeenburg said.

“Trails and open space are a huge draw for employers related to outdoors,” Aangeenburg said. “Are they going to get traffic that tends to be in places where there are opportunities to go outside? Or would you choose based on areas of high traffic, or a lot of people in that area?”

Businesses find other advantages when locating in an area that values an outdoor lifestyle, Tayer said. For instance, business developers can innovate and test the quality of their products in Boulder’s outdoor setting and with a customer base that potentially will use those products, he said. By virtue of their close proximity to other outdoor developers, they can see new innovations and improvements to product lines in process, fostering their own creativity, he said. And they also can collaborate and exchange ideas with the leaders of other outdoor companies and gain key business knowledge about anything from trade regulations to business processes, he said.

“Boulder is uniquely known as a business community that fosters strength through collaboration; you see it in startups and top-tier businesses,” Tayer said. “It’s about helping individuals achieve their goals to advance innovation. It leads to shared learning that helps in the development of new products.”

Boulder also serves as a draw for those businesses interested in sustainable practices and that want to source materials and products in a way that is both environmentally and employee-friendly, Sternberg said.

“The outdoor industry generally and certainly the individual who makes outdoor apparel is very much focused on sustainability and environmental awareness,” Sternberg said.

Boulder offers an employee base passionate about the outdoors and that’s experienced in working in research and development of new products and in the retail industry, Sternberg said.

“People who have a passion often want to work in that passion,” Sternberg said, adding that offering a place where career development can occur “is an important dynamic to maintain an industry cluster.”

Customers, too, know that Boulder is the “best place to come to find the best products, information and synergy,” Tayer said.

“When customers know you’re the center for outdoor retail and outdoor equipment, that is something that is a draw for our community,” Tayer said. “They know to come here for that type of retail shopping experience.”

Visitors to Boulder make plans for their outdoor adventures and decide to purchase what they need in the city, since it is easily accessible, Tayer said. Since the pandemic with the encouragement of social distancing and move of activities outdoors, residents and visitors alike have increased their engagement in outdoor activities, he said. 

“It’s a great relief and opportunity we have being in Boulder to shake off the constraints of COVID to get out in the environment and enjoy some recreation and blow off steam,” Tayer said, giving as an example the nearly 100% jump last summer of the usage of Boulder’s county trail system. “It’s evident that there are more folks looking to access the outdoors.”

BOULDER — Boulder’s long list of outdoor recreational opportunities has become a magnet for retailers and businesses researching, developing and selling outdoor products. And it’s a magnet for residents and visitors needing clothing, equipment, tools, gear and adventure-safe and healthy food to do snow, water and climbing activities. 

“If you want to be outside, it’s a great place to be, and if you want to be in the outdoor industry, it’s also a great place to be,” said Scott Sternberg, executive director of the Boulder Economic Council and associate vice president for economic vitality for the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. “There’s an established community around both the use of outdoor products and the development and retail sales of outdoor products.”

Despite the pandemic, major players in the outdoor industry are choosing Boulder to open new stores, seemingly arriving en masse, particularly in the past couple of years. The players range from local independents to large retailers with national and international headquarters and manufacturers of anything from thistle down jackets to snaggletooth crampons. Their iconic brands are clustering storefronts on Pearl and 29th streets and landing throughout the city.

“There’s great evidence these businesses have been successful in our community and that draws other like businesses to our community because of the opportunity it presents to build their business,” said John Tayer, president and chief executive officer of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. 

A few of the arrivals that are already here or plan to come in 2021 include Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., a manufacturer…