How do you know that the piece of backpacking gear or clothing you’re about to purchase is the latest updated model and not one from an earlier year that the retailer is trying to pass onto the consumer to get rid of old inventory.
- Or worse yet, that the retailer doesn’t even know that a new version is available, so continues to sell the old version, even though a newer and improved version is available for the same price from other retail sites.
- Or retailers are forced to sell older models because a competitor like REI, in particular, gets exclusive access to new products while other retailers have to wait 1 month to 6 months before they can offer them.
It’s a growing problem across the backpacking retail ecosystem that creates frustration for consumers, generates unnecessary product returns, wastes time, adds costs and ill-will, and their associated environmental impacts.
Multiple Versions of the Same Product in a Store
The same lack of “Verison Control” is widespread in the outlet section of online retailers, the USED gear area of their websites, and auction sites like eBay.
- For example, REI sells the Gregory Baltoro 65 in three places on their website: in the main store, in the REI Outlet, and the Used Gear section of their website. Are they the same products because they have the same name or different versions? (yep, they’re not the same)
Mixing of Old and New Product Reviews across Multiple Product Versions
Many retailers and manufacturers mix customer gear reviews for the current model and previous models of a product under the current version since they can’t differentiate across product versions. This is rife across the industry in most retailer and manufacturer websites.
For example, REI lists customer reviews going back 3 and 4 years for under the Arcteryx Proton LT Insulated Hoodie even though the latest version of the jacket is just 6 months old and the older reviews are for a substantially different product. That’s a flawed and misleading source of information for consumers.
Add Model Years to Product Names
The automobile and wine industries address this issue by adding model years to their product names and labels. This makes it easier to tell the difference between a 2020 Ford F-150 and a 2017 model or a 2019 Layer Cake Shiraz from a 2016 vintage. This makes it possible to make side by side comparisons between model years and to separate customer reviews between models.
Adding model years to backpacking gear product names (or all outdoor gear) would add tremendous value for consumers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the added clarity, stabilized pricing, and increased market demand for USED gear since people could better understand what they were buying.
If there’s one thing I’d like to see Backpacking Gear Manufacturers, the Outdoor Industry, and Retailers do this year, it would be to add dates or some sort of numbering scheme to product names so you could differentiate between product releases.
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