Two new brands of backpacking packs, lightweight tents, waterproof jackets, and all-in-one stoves are coming soon to a Walmart—and trail—near you. Walmart acquired Moosejaw in 2017, and for the past two years, Walmart and Moosejaw have been building their own brands geared toward the newest-of-new outdoors-curious crowd: Allforth for hiking and backpacking apparel, and Lithic for equipment such as stoves and down sleeping bags. They both hit the website and shelves in 50 stores this week.
The launch comes at an opportune time. Because of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions around the country, people are discovering the joy of exploring wild places in their neighborhoods and being in nature—some for the first time. A Moosejaw survey with 30,000 responses showed many people are trying hiking for the first time and say they will continue after the pandemic. “They may not shop at Moosejaw—or have never stepped inside their local gear store—but they do shop at Walmart,” said Moosejaw CEO Eoin Comerford.
Now, a few aisles over from the toilet paper and hand sanitizer, Walmart shoppers can find outdoor apparel and gear priced from $13 to $148—well below the prices for most outdoor gear. Allforth women’s apparel goes up to size 20, and tags on all items feature easy-to-understand product descriptions.
“The outdoor industry has been talking about diversity and inclusivity for a long time,” Comerford said. “These brands give us products for our existing consumers and will be a great entry point to people who are new to the outdoors. They’re built by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, and the thought process around how we’re pricing and building them boils down to accessibility and inclusivity.”
Two summers ago, Walmart and Moosejaw unveiled the Premium Outdoor Store to expose Walmart’s 160 million weekly customers to hiking, climbing, and backpacking brands such as Black Diamond, Leki, and Deuter. But almost instantly, the industry took issue with it. Brands pulled out, one after another. The main critique was that it would undercut specialty retailers, steal their customers, and cheapen high-quality brands. “People aren’t buying high-end anything at Walmart, period,” said Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, a collective of specialty stores and brands. “Its whole thing is being the entry-level price point, so we tend to not sell the same brands that they do.”
“We took down the Premium Outdoor Store in January of this year because its standalone nature was not consistent with our push for inclusivity and exposing new users to enthusiast brands and activities,” Comerford said. He also said Walmart and Moosejaw don’t want to take customers away from retailers, but instead hope to push shoppers to specialty as they continue their pursuit of the outdoors. In fact, Walmart is appropriately positioned to cater to first-timers as well as those who are underrepresented and less affluent. The outdoor industry has been keen to attract that market.
“This is about growing the pie, not taking a sliver off the existing pie,” Comerford says.
This time, Hill is supportive. “To me, it looks like a huge improvement over anything that’s ever been done for an entry-level, one-time backpacker,” he said. “My hope is it’s a great experience for people.”