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Outdoor sleeping accessories | Selling tips | Drifters Adventure Centre
March 2015

Selling more...outdoor sleeping accessories

David Evans was nominated as a top salesman by Simon Larsen, from Ram Mountaineering in Cape Town. “Drifter’s is one of the premier technical outdoor retailers in South Africa, if not the best. They have been around for a long time and have an amazing range of top quality outdoor gear,” he says. What makes Evans so successful at selling gear is the fact that he has access to the best brands and products within the outdoor industry and he continuously engages with his customers to get feedback about what works and what doesn’t, which allows him to offer customers the best advice and equipment for any adventure. “Dave draws on his extensive personal outdoor experience which includes alpinism, rock climbing, mountain biking and travel to the remote corners of the globe,” explains Larsen. Evans’ expert advice, great service and quality products are testament to the business’ success and the reason so many outdoor enthusiasts choose Drifters Adventure Centre in Johannesburg as their number one outdoor retailer.

Selling is not a difficult art, says David Evans from Drifters Adventure Centre in Johannesburg. Communication and understanding his clients’ needs are the key elements that make him a successful salesperson.

Having the necessary product knowledge, is key for him and is the most important characteristic for any salesperson, he says. Friendliness, openness and smiling at customers are also a salesman’s ticket to a successful sale, he adds.

Being an outdoor enthusiast himself, Evans finds that having first-hand experience with different products have contributed to his product knowledge and success as a salesman. Although it is not always possible to test every product, having an understanding of the product is vital, he says.

Retailers can build up their own product knowledge by reading about the equipment they sell, or using it themselves like he does, says Evans. Training by suppliers is also a useful tool that one can make use of, he recommends.

Most clients are unsure of what they are looking for and he therefore interacts with his customers. They would particularly need help if the product is a specialised piece, he points out.

A product also needs very special packaging in order for it to sell itself, says Evans. If products are well displayed, he finds it is far easier to explain and direct people to the correct product. It also gives customers the opportunity to see the products.

More about Dave Evans

David Evans has been working at Drifters Adventure Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg, for 10 years. The store, which has been running for 32 years, is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts as it offers a wide variety of products and expert knowledge.

Evans, with his background in restaurants and events such as banqueting, is used to dealing with customers and looking after their needs. He, however, “needed a change after my business [restaurant] closed,” he explains.

Although he was new to the sport and outdoor industry when he started at Drifters Adventure Centre, Evans’ passion for climbing, hiking and camping has aided him in his position as a salesman of outdoor products.

Tips for selling sleeping accessories

There are plenty of situations in which your customer will be sleeping in the outdoors, says David Evans from Drifters Adventure Centre. This will vary from the relative comfort of a caravan, to a family tented holiday to a rugged hiking trip where you have to carry what you use.

He points out that there are a variety of sleeping accessories that can be used in these scenarios.

When customers approach you about purchasing outdoor sleeping accessories, it is best to ask them what their primary reason for purchasing the product is, advises Evans. Thereafter you will be in a better position to supply what the customer needs.

Sleeping pads

Sleeping pads, which are available in different forms — for example, inflatable and foam — are very useful sleeping accessories, whether you sleep on a cot or the floor.

  • When selling pads, the salesman can let customers get a feel of what they want by laying out the pads (if you have the space in your store) and letting them feel what is most comfortable for them in terms of cushioning, size and weight.
  • Inflatable pads are intended to increase comfort, which could be a selling point when introducing customers to the product. Advise customers, however, that although the thickest pad may look the most comfortable, they should still keep their planned activity in mind. A one or two inch pad, for example, is more suitable for backpacking as it is lightweight and packs easier into a backpack than a thicker pad, which would be heavier, bulkier and more suited to car camping.
  • Inflatable pads are more suited to warm conditions, but if your customer is looking for one they can use in varying conditions, you can recommend an insulated model.
  • Pad thickness is related to the amount of insulation they provide — inflatable pads are usually very thin and therefore will not insulate the user from very cold conditions.
  • Foam pads, with their dense foam made up of closed air cells, are ideal for use in cold conditions. The foam forms a barrier between the user and the ground, offering good insulation.
  • Unlike inflatable pads that may rip or puncture on rough ground surfaces, foam pads will not, and they are more affordable.

Sleeping bag liners

“Always recommend a liner, particularly for down sleeping bags,” says Evans.

  • Washing a sleeping bag, especially down bags, is not a good idea as it may reduce insulation. It would be better to just wash the lining.
  • If your customer is going to sleep in very cold conditions, like at Kilimanjaro, a thermal liner that provides extra warmth would work better than a non-technical one.
  • A sleeping bag liner can add another dimension to a sleeping bag, by helping to improve its versatility and making it more adaptable to varying temperature conditions. For example, it can add extra insulation when in cold conditions and if the temperature increases and the customer gets too hot, it can be used without a sleeping bag.
  • Not all liners, however, can be used on their own. Mummy shaped liners are designed to be used as an inner for a sleeping bag, whereas rectangular liners can be used both on their own as well as inside a rectangular sleeping bag.
  • Advise customers that using a liner can increase the lifespan of a sleeping bag as it absorbs dirt particles and body oils, which would otherwise accumulate in the sleeping bag.
  • Another benefit of a liner is that if customers are travelling and staying in places such as hostels, a liner can serve as a barrier between them and a dirty mattress.

Not all liners are the same, however. The material of the liner makes a difference to its properties and first determining its purpose may help you to identify the best suited product.

  • Silk is lightweight, compact and improves thermal insulation, but comes at a price.
  • Cotton liners are less than ideal in a technical bag, as it doesn’t dry like technical or silk fabrics. Cotton absorbs moisture and doesn’t wick, says Evans. “Manufacturers now create polycotton blends in order to improve wicking properties and still take advantage of the cost-effectiveness of cotton.”
  • Fleece and micro-fleece fabrics offer the user warmth.
  • Synthetics can be breathable, which would make them ideal for venturing into humid conditions.

Sleeping cots

Some sleeping cots (also referred to as or stretchers) are better for long-term camping purposes as they may have parts that need assembling and take time to set up.

  • There are, however, others, which are easy to unfold or collapse, which allows one to set up or clean up quickly. This type of sleeping cot’s ease of use is the most important feature to discuss, says Evans. In this fast-paced day and age, people are looking for products that make their journeys easier and quicker.
  • Many South Africans are big people and you would need to make sure that the sleeping cot will be able to carry the camper’s weight. Rather err on the safe side, as a bed may not be able to carry the maximum weight indicated over an extended period.
  • Sleeping cots are usually popular with people who prefer more luxury when camping. The height of the cot makes it easier to get into bed — or get up — especially for less fit campers. They are also handy to use for extra storage space in a tent.
  • A sleeping cot will keep the camper dry and comfortable if the ground gets soaked. It is also useful if your customer is going to venture onto rocky terrain, as the cot is designed to keeps the user off the ground.
  • When needed, a sleeping cot can also be used with a sleeping pad, for example, to increase cushioning and improve its insulation capabilities.
  • But, when space is limited — or gear has to be carried — a sleeping cot will not be a good option.

Inflatable mattress

If the customer is in need of something that takes up a bit less storage space, he may want to opt for an inflatable mattress, which requires less packing space.

  • Inflatable mattresses are ideal for use when camping in a campground space, on a boat or even for doubling as a bed for home use. The product is very versatile and the salesperson could highlight its investment benefits.
  • Inflatable mattresses normally also require a pump, which is an extra sales opportunity. Remind the customer to store the pump with their mattress to potentially avoid losing it and having to inflate the mattress manually, which is quite a process.
  • Inflatable mattresses, however, do not insulate well against low temperatures.
  • An inflatable mattress is also less ideal if the customer will often be moving camp locations, says Evans. Inflatable mattresses can be bulky and heavy, making them a schlep to carry around.

Hiking mattresses

When backpacking or travelling light, a mattress that can fold up small would be the better option as it is light and does not take up much space.

For hiking and lightweight camping he would suggest customers purchase a self-inflating mat. These mats are lightweight and easy to pack away without occupying too much space.

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