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Biggest Outdoor Stories of 2020

There was a strong focus on the outdoor market in 2020.

For starters, the industry witnessed an influx of new customers looking to nature for respite from the stress COVID-19 caused. Also, market leaders including REI, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Columbia, Timberland, Merrell and others made moves sure to have an impact in their businesses in both the short- and long-term.

Below, read on for the outdoor stories you were most interested in this year.

Columbia Signs NASCAR Driver Bubba Wallace

Columbia signed Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, to a multiyear sponsorship in August. “Columbia Sportswear is a perfect fit for my lifestyle away from the track,” the famed driver said in a statement. “I love spending time outdoors — boating, golfing, hiking, photography — just anything to help me decompress from a hectic racing schedule.”

Two months earlier, Wallace made headlines in June when a door pull rope in the form of a noose was found in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Immediately after it was discovered, the FBI launched an investigation and stated the driver was not the target of a hate crime.

Watch on FN


REI Sells Its Newly-Constructed Headquarters Before It Even Moved In

REI Co-op announced in August that it is looking to sell its newly-constructed corporate campus, which is located in Bellevue, Wash. Construction started on the facility in 2018 with the intent of moving in this summer. However, the retail giant stated the company was moving toward “a less centralized approach to its headquarters presence in the Seattle area.”

It didn’t take long for the HQ to have a new owner, as REI announced in September that it has been sold to Facebook.


REI Co-op Is Making Its Own Outdoor Footwear

Speaking exclusively with FN in September, REI Co-op stated it was set to deliver shoes of its own.

The company confirmed that REI-branded models will debut in April. The retailer is billing its range as “footwear with a lighter footprint.” REI Co-op Brands footwear product manager Bennett Grimes labeled the initial styles as “some of the most sustainable footwear available” and explained that aside from environmental impact, the retailer is focused on delivering versatile product.


Dick’s Sporting Goods Announces the Arrival of Public Lands

Dick’s Sporting Goods revealed in late November that it was launching Public Lands, a new outdoor concept, with the first stores opening in 2021. And in early December, the excitement intensified when an internal DSG memo stated the company was hiring Todd Spaletto to lead the Public Lands business. (On Spaletto’s LinkedIn, his title is listed as president of Public Lands and SVP of Dick’s Sporting Goods.) Spaletto, who last served as president of Wolverine Michigan Group, also held several leadership roles over a 14-year period at The North Face, ending his tenure at the company as its global president in 2017. “They have somebody there who knows the entire industry really well, and I think it was a good hire. It tells me that they’re taking this really seriously and there could be a lot more than two doors down the road,” Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Sam Poser told FN.


Merrell Becomes First Outdoor Brand to Sell Mixed-Size Pairs of Shoes With Zappos

People with disabilities, including amputees, and shoppers with unevenly sized feet are now able to buy only one Merrell shoe — or two shoes in different sizes and widths to create a pair — through the brand’s partnership with Zappos.

In November, Merrell became the first outdoor and hiking label to join the Zappos’ Adaptive Single and Different Size Shoes program, which launched this summer with participating companies Nike and Converse, as well as New Balance, Billy Footwear, PLAE and Stride Rite. The offerings are available for all customers but are also targeted to adaptive athletes who seek to explore the outdoors — a trend on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic — with appropriate footwear tailored to their own sizes.


Timberland Reveals Sustainability Goals for 2030 That Will Have a ‘Net Positive Impact on Nature’

Timberland — the first winner of FN’s Sustainability Leadership Award — revealed in September two new product-related goals that it intends to hit by 2030. The end result of its goals, Timberland explained, is for its products “to have a net positive impact on nature,” which means they give back more than they take. The two goals Timberland announced include having 100% of its products to be designed for circularity (which will assists in the company’s plan of achieving zero waste and working toward zero impact) and having 100% of its natural materials sourced from regenerative agriculture (which it believes will lead it to a net positive impact on nature).


As Retail Shut Down Throughout the Country, Guns and Ammo Top the List for Some Customers

While most fashion and athletic retailers across the country closed in March amid the coronavirus outbreak, and stricter measures being enacted regarding “nonessential retail” throughout the country, Cabela’s and parent company Bass Pro Shops remained open for business. At time of publication, an employee of the Cabela’s store in Gainesville, Va., who spoke on condition of anonymity, told FN: “We’re not shutting down until we’ve been given notice to do so.”  FN reached out to several locations throughout the country, and although several declined to confirm what was selling, Adam Hanley, co-manager at Bass Pro Shops in Utica, N.Y., stated some of the most purchased products have been firearms and ammo, and that’s true in the Gainesville Cabela’s store, too.


Man Charged With Murder of Timberland Employee at the Company’s Headquarters

In February, Robert Pavao, 20, of Berwick, Maine, was arrested and charged with murder in connection with the death of a Timberland employee at the company’s headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, the state’s office of the attorney general confirmed in a statement. Pavao was charged with one count of second-degree murder for “knowingly causing the death of an adult female by assaulting her” and one count of second-degree murder for “recklessly causing the death of an adult female under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life by assaulting her,” according to the attorney general’s office. Three days later, Timberland confirmed in an email that the employee who was fatally stabbed was Cassie Heppner, Timberland Pro director of marketing.

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