In the olden days, stores that sold camping, backpacking and travel stuff were relatively low key affairs. Individually owned and operated, they were eclectic and varied. Actual enthusiasts worked there, (some even beyond their 20’s!) and it was by no means an entry-level job or an alternative to a career in fast-food.
Employees were expected to be very knowledgeable about all facets of the business: from which carabiner one needed to the various types of plumules available.
Things started changing in the 80ï¿½s and 90ï¿½s. Gear and clothing became commodities, small companies that had been casually run by fuzzy hippies got snapped up by huge conglomerates, neighborhood shops gave way to malls and, much worse, ï¿½big boxï¿½ stores. (Galyan’s, SportMart, et al)
Long-term employees who knew how to tie dry flies or field strip a Svea 123 were shunted off and younger, entry-level employees (often with little passion for the outdoors) replaced them, all in hopes of increasing the bottom line for the stockholders.
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Specialization was the only way to survive. Though many venerable stores have been swallowed up and spit out, some truly great retailers have nurtured and kept their knowledgeable staff.
Why should you care?
Here is one good reason: You should seek out and regularly patronize your local specialty retailer because of pack fitting. Unless you want excruciating back and shoulder pain for your entire excursion, you should be fitted for the correct pack and doing that takes someone who has been trained and has experience. Pack fitting simply cannot be done over the phone from some place on the internet with lower prices, it has to be done in person by someone who has been through pack-fitting clinics from the Sales Reps.
Support your local retailer!
And maybe they also will teach you how to fix that old Svea 123…