Outdoor Insight

May 2019

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An event that started as a few vendors with trailers in front of the store now attracts more than 20,000 attendees who come to learn about all things paddle and outdoor related. There are more than 180 seminars across the show's duration covering topics as diverse as travel, beginner's and family info, conservation, and art and music. And at the heart of it, it's a chance for them to check out the latest boats and watercrafts in 250,000 square feet of exhibition space and pass the time with fellow paddlesports lovers. Rutabaga brings on some 150 people to put on the event and closes the store in prepa- ration. It's not a discounting event: Vendors typically offer a show special of 10 or 15 per- cent (not nothing, especially on a four-figure boat purchase, but not a loss leader, either), and Bush says that's by design. "Does that mean we don't sell boats and paddling gear? Of course not, it's a big part of our business. [But] we don't push sales; we push a quality event that gets better every year, with a discount as a thank you to our customers. We give them gear and know-how, they give us funds so we can keep giving them gear and know-how." Expanding the love of watersports to new faces — and especially to the next genera- tion — is also a main thrust of the Outdoor Programs division of the business. "Virtual recreation is what will kill us if we don't get kids off the tablet and outside in the dirt where they belong," Bush says. "That's why we have Rutabaga Outdoor Programs, and why we have a large part of that devoted to kids, including a scholarship fund for kids who can't otherwise afford our programs." Bush says those personalized recommen- dations and straight shooting help Rutabaga compete in a crowded marketplace. "Box stores nibble around us and certainly take a few sales with off-pricing and the temptation of a rebate, of course. I can't do anything about that — I can't beat their mar- keting in the traditional sense. I can't match their pricing every time their algorithm says drop it," he says. "But what we can do is love our customers. They can't." l 20 19 Rutabaga Paddlesports / Madison, WI 1 Location Notable: Rutabaga's annual Canoecopia 3-day consumer trade show draws more than 20,000 attendees from the Midwest and beyond to hear speakers and browse new product. Quotable: "I know that each of my employees is an agent whom I trust to do what I would do. They know me, they know how I feel about our customers, so they are tight and aligned in that mission." — Darren Bush, Rutabaga Paddlesports ™ ™ ™ Unbeatable Starting Lineup... Please see bertucciwatches.com to view our full array of fi eld watches. May 2019 • Outdoor Insight • 27 outdoorinsightmag.com

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