Proven Tips for Selling Camouflage Clothing in Your Store

Camouflage clothing is a top seller in retail stores, and these proven tips can help you build partnerships to generate more revenue.
Proven Tips for Selling Camouflage Clothing in Your Store

Outdoor retailers face a variety of challenges when it comes to selling camouflage hunting products. For some independent outdoor retailers, these challenges can present barriers to participating in the category as much as their customers would like.

It might start with competition from other retailers, including big-box retailers and their e-commerce websites, or online mega retailers and their third-party vendors, or popular outdoor companies operating direct-to-consumer models. There’s also the challenge of finding adequate sales-floor space to display enough product to drive and satisfy customer demand, as well as the back-room storage space needed for the required inventory.

However, for hunters who don’t live near a big-box outdoors store and who wouldn’t think of buying a hunting jacket or a pair of boots without trying them on, the independent outdoor retailer often is the best option. Regardless of other factors, some hunters just prefer the idea of buying products at a locally owned store. They like seeing familiar faces and talking to the same people they’ve trusted over the years for recommendations on gear purchases.

Brian Mildenstein, second-generation owner of Fin & Feather, The Great Outdoors Store, in Iowa City, Iowa, said customer service has been a focus since his parents, Roger and Linda, opened Fin & Feather in 1967. According to the Fin & Feather website: “(Brian) shares his parents’ passion of introducing customers to outdoor activities and loves swapping stories of outdoor adventures.”

Brian said camouflage clothing isn’t a huge part of his store’s 25,000-square-foot offering, but spikes in demand, often driven by innovation such as a new camo pattern or a new scent-free technology, can cause him to expand that offering from year to year, and season to season. He said he travels to several trade shows a year looking for new brands and new ideas. He’s typically not interested in mass-produced items readily available in big-box stores or online.

“As a small, single store, I think we’re more nimble than big-box stores operating at the macro level,” Mildenstein said. “We’re in whitetail country, and we’re buying just for this store, for hunters in this area, so it’s easier to make those decisions. We can react quicker (when adding new products) if we have an account with a company, but some companies are easier to work with than others.”

Read on to learn how three companies work with outdoor retailers to provide, or promote, camouflage hunting products for their customers.

Logos such as the Browning Buckmark are easily recognizable by the majority of hunters. (Photo: Browning)

Browning Helps Retailers, Large, Medium and Small

The iconic Browning Buckmark logo is recognized by hunters from coast to coast.

Browning licenses its name and logo for use on a variety gear, everything from camping gear to key chains, but its team of in-house experts designs and has built to its specification the extensive line of quality Browning camouflage hunting clothing.

When finished samples of new products are ready, Browning turns to outside sales representatives to spread the news to retailers across the country. Pat Heinrich, with More & Molloy, Inc., in Sandy, Utah, said his company’s territory for Browning clothing includes everything west of Kansas, including Canada and Mexico. “We’ve represented Browning for 35 years, and there is no logo in the hunt/shoot category that carries like the Buck Mark logo,” Heinrich said. “(Retailers) know their customers will recognize that logo.”

Technical camo clothing is popular among hunters thanks to new fabrics and insulating or cooling properties. (Photo: Browning)

Heinrich said he typically sees the new apparel line the last week of September each year, and receives his dealer workbook and samples by early October. He has until December 1 to place retail orders for delivery the following summer, ahead of fall hunting seasons. Buyers at larger chain stores who plan their sales floor space down to the square foot by brand, category, individual products and seasons, require these extended timelines. Smaller, independent retailers have more flexibility, Heinrich said, but they also need to be more specialized.

Heinrich guessed the average independent outdoor retailer offers less than 20,000 square feet of sales-floor space, and some get by with as little as 1,000 or 2,000 square feet. Compare that to more than 200,000 square feet for some of the biggest outdoor retail chain stores. That doesn’t mean independent retailers are out of luck if they want to offer brands that resonate with their customers. They just have to think smaller and smarter.

Heinrich said Browning ball caps with the Buckmark logo, Browning knives, and, perhaps a small selection of lightweight, price-point camo in a few patterns, or a few shooting vests, are enough for some retailers to satisfy their customers’ demand for the Browning brand.

“A lot of guns stores don’t sell apparel,” Heinrich said. “Selling Browning caps, as an impulse buy, might be as far out as they go on apparel sales.” If that’s not enough, Browning has some great tools to make sure retailers can deliver any Browning product their customers’ want: the annual Browning Master Catalog, and a convenient dealer-access portal.

The 2018 Browning Master Catalog totaled 315 pages. Retailers often keep these catalogs near the sales registers, and invite customers to look through them when wanting something specific that isn’t available in the store. The dealer-access portal allows retailers to place orders on the spot, even for a single item.

Browning doesn’t sit on huge inventory positions, especially with big-ticket items, but the company tries to have a good selection of products, especially the price-point stuff, in stock and ready to ship.

Heinrich said having the Browning catalog, and access to the dealer-access portal, gives the independent retailer more flexibility. This is particularly true in gun stores where the customer base might be skewed to older, more experienced shooters who don’t want to use a smart phone to look at a company’s product offering.

“In some cases, these are customers who still have a newspaper dropped in their driveway every morning,” he said. “These customers like to pick up a catalog and flip through the pages, something they’ve been doing for many years.”

Then there’s the selection proposition.

“A big box might be able to offer five Browning shotguns, where and independent retailer can offer access to 105 Browning shotguns,” Heinrich said. “The independent-reps model works well for Browning. We do well with the big-box stores, but our meat and potatoes are the independent guys.”

Browning doesn’t require a minimum annual spend for its dealers to have access to the order portal, and does not sell directly to consumers from its website.

Website: • Phone: 801-876-2711

Realtree camo patterns have always been an industry leader, with a wide variety of patterns for different hunting scenarios throughout the country. (Photo: Realtree)

Realtree Focuses on Independent Retailers

In 2017, Realtree introduced its newest camouflage pattern, Realtree EDGE, which it describes as: “… the first camo pattern that allows you to blend into your hunting environment at close range, with natural elements arranged in a way to disrupt the human form at a distance.” The company unveiled a new waterfowl pattern, Realtree Timber, in late 2018.

Other than a handful promotional items, including hats, T-shirts and logo wear, Realtree doesn’t produce any of the hunting gear, clothing or lifestyle products featuring the company’s camo patterns. Rather, Realtree licenses its camo patterns to companies that manufacture clothing, boots and waders, firearms, archery equipment and truly every hunting and outdoor category consumers need to enjoy the great outdoors.

Realtree supports many of these companies, and the retailers who sell their products, on many different levels. Recently, Realtree saw an opportunity to help hunters shop for camo at the most traditional, and often most trusted level: the independent retailer. The company created its Independent Retailer Initiative and hired David Langston as director of independent retail. Langston has more than 20 years of experience in the outdoors industry.

Langston, Shane Grimsley (a 15-year Realtree employee) and Cragg Fitz (an experienced outdoor-industry representative), run the Realtree Independent Retailer Initiative.

“It’s all about partnerships and resources, and operating with honesty and integrity, all ideals we learned from our founder Bill Jordan,” said Langston, who estimates nearly 2,000 companies’ license and use Realtree camouflage patterns. “We’re not coming to your store to sell anything, we’re coming to help. We want to let you know how we plan to promote new products. “It doesn’t matter how big you are, we want to come in and help you."

For independent retailers operating their own websites, participating in social-media campaigns, and/or creating digital or print sales fliers or other advertising materials, Realtree offers several helpful services.

“For premium independent retailers who are using social media, including Facebook and Instagram, the number-one challenge is content,” Langston said. “When we’re working with these retailers, we can share a link that gives them free access to Realtree’s entire collection of images from premier photographers, covering everything from hunting to lifestyle to family, and all species.”

Realtree also can use its social-media platforms to geo-target customers within a 100- or 150-mile radius of a given retailer to promote its licensees’ products and let customers know where to purchase them. The company acts as a liaison between its licensees’ and retailers who need help with displays, signage, logos and other promotional items for everyday use, or for special events.

Langston and his team will arrange for Realtree pro staffers to attend in-store events to promote products, give seminars and demonstrations, or sign autographs and take pictures with customers. “No matter what you are looking for, Realtree has the resources to help,” Langston said.

Website: • Phone: 800-992-9968

Eberlestock Enters Camouflage Clothing Market

Long known as a producer of durable, functional high-quality hunting and tactical backpacks, as well as a variety of other products for active outdoor enthusiasts, Eberlestock entered the camouflage hunting clothing world in 2018. The company plans to roll out to retailers at least seven new outerwear garments in 2019.

The company also is offering two new proprietary camo patterns, Mountain and Sky, as well as solid earth-tone colors, in the new line. Both patterns are digital designs created to be effective at different distances throughout a variety of Western terrains and seasons.

Well-organized camo clothing displays are inviting to customers.

For starters, Eberlestock’s hunting clothing line will include mostly lightweight vests, jackets and shells, including insulated and waterproof versions, all constructed from performance fabrics, offering flexibility and breathability for active hunters.

Tanner Leaton, Eberlestock’s operations manager at its Boise, Idaho, headquarters, said the new camouflage clothing should ship to retailers in time for the 2019 turkey-hunting season. Additionally, he said the company is working on clothing offerings specifically for hunters who pursue whitetail deer, as well as beefier options with more insulation and added late-season weather protection.

Eberlestock knows many smaller, independent retailers struggle with finding enough space, both on the sales floor for engaging displays, and in the back room for storage — especially with big items, such as large, external-frame backpacks. That’s why its dealer program, which has an annual minimum buy of $5,000, at dealer pricing, allows retailers to stagger their shipments throughout the year, rather than accepting the entire order at once. Leaton said Eberlestock wants its independent dealers to be successful, and wants to ensure they are set up and stocked up sufficiently, so they represent the brand well.

Eberlestock sells direct to consumers through its website, but its independent-dealer program allows participating retailers to order individual items for their customers.

Website: • Phone: 208-424-5081


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.