Gear Up for Outdoors Jon Wynn and Dan Holman

Dan put it into high retail gear with Jon Wynn from Gear Up For Outdoors this week. Join the conversation as they talk outdoor retail, inventory, discounts and more. 

Jon Wynn was born and raised in Toronto and went to a boy’s private school… He experienced the North as a Junior Ranger in 1976 and decided he wanted to pursue a carrier in Forestry instead of following the way of business and marketing as his dad who graduated from McGill.

He worked for a Forestry & Environmental Supply company after graduating as their sales manager out of Mississauga travelling his territory of Ontario and the Lake States of Minnesota, Michigan & Wisconsin. 

Jon met his wife Sandra in Toronto, and they were married in 1982. The Company he worked for wanted to set up a physical office in Northern Ontario so at the tender age of 25 they decided to move from Toronto and set up a partnership with his old boss in Thunder Bay.

They moved and set up their business in 1987 selling forestry equipment, and some outdoor camping gear. After 6 months of business and a tremendous loss of revenue he decided to pull out of the partnership leaving his wife and him with a rather large “LIFE” decision… Do they quit and come back home? Or do they Continue with their dream with No Family, no Connections and no Financing.

They contacted an accounting firm and a lawyer and with the help of a Federal Government Program for Small Business (CFDC – Community Futures Development Corporation – Thunder Bay Ventures – Eventually they were able to obtain financing and buy out their partner… They were on their own…

They survived the early years due to their great relationships with their suppliers. Today they still have incredible relationships with all these suppliers who helped them out in their hour of need.

Over 10 to 15 years they survived selling quality outdoor products throughout Northwestern Ontario in particular Thunder Bay in their 4000 sq. foot bricks and mortar store and they eventually obtained a line of credit from the bank, and this kept them going for many years.

The years were very difficult especially during the winter months when they did not have enough snow on the ground and some very warm winters.

One day in 2005 one of their young staff members suggested that they should go on the internet… The Internet? He had no idea what the internet was. He said you should sell to tree planters, selling tree planting bags, shovels and gear… As most young students who were in university were

working as Tree Planters and they all had access to computers. Wow… What a novel concept. The results were huge, coupled with securing a new Vendor out of Toronto… You may have heard of them… CANADA GOOSE. They did some research and contacted a computer programmer in Thunder Bay who had started a business selling computers, software and was just focusing and pioneering with the Internet. They took his advice and worked hand in hand as a test case for selling-on line.

It was the perfect time and they had designed a customized website, and everything was done by hand… cutting, pasting onto their own platform. Many long hours of writing descriptions, putting up images and putting up products on a seasonal basis.

They were Canada Goose’s largest on-line dealer selling millions of dollars’ worth of Canada Goose products into Europe, North America was not even on the radar at that time.  They were pioneers in the early 2000’s selling on-line and learning along the way about fraud and shipping into countries around the world.

The Internet changed over the past 10 years with everyone getting on to the “NEW” Platform of Selling… Canada Goose eventually designed their own website and started putting restrictions on Gear Up Selling into Europe and eventually forced them into selling in Canada Only.

They had the products and the brands that many military organizations, Utility Companies and Government Agencies were looking for. Their business grew substantially, and they had a staff of over 20 at one time working for Gear Up shipping around the world.

THEN ONE DAY… Things changed in the world of on-line. COMPETITION and the REALIZATION that too succeed in business you had to be on-line… Many suppliers, Many Retailers finally discovered that to survive you would need to have the perfect balance of a Bricks and Mortar Store and On-Line component. They needed help. They had tremendous sales… They took their eyes off the prize… Their Inventory got ahead of them, and they had a great point of sale system that was customized for them On-Line and In-Store Sales but they needed some expertise in managing their inventory.

They reached out to Dan Holman of Canadian Retail Solutions and worked with Dan and his team for over 5 years and then eventually utilizing their M1 System of buying they changed things around. They cleaned up so much legacy inventory that was holding them back for many years. Dan taught them about ordering, buying and marketing.

In Early 2019 they decided that they needed to upgrade their Retail Pro POS System… They needed to upgrade their Servers and they needed to upgrade their On-Line Presence after 5 Versions of customized web programs.  They also decided to invest into Shopify… after almost a year and thousands of dollars. They went back on-line with the newest in technologies. They Launched Black Friday November 2019 and they were very busy after working out all the bugs and technical glitches.

Then the infamous day of March 17th/2020 – St. Patrick’s Day came… THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC…  They had to lay off their staff and it was just his wife and him who were at the store. Suddenly, the uptick in sales started and it was crazy. Tree Planters were ordering Tree Planting Bags, Shovels, Camping Gear and Footwear from across Canada NB, NS, PQ, NFLD, ONT… All with “Customer Pick Up at Store” The revelation came. Tree Planters were considered Essential Services in BC. With the Pandemic nobody could fly so these young kids stopped in at Gear Up and picked up their equipment en-route to the West to Tree Plant, It was like DeJaVu in 2005 when they launched their first website.

Gear Up has always been an innovator when it comes to technology and have always invested in technology in the early stages which has helped them over the past 1-1/2 years of the Global Pandemic. During the Pandemic they never closed as they were shipping product around the world 24/7. They have always maintained great relationships with their suppliers, and this has been extremely beneficial since their inception… Especially now with the supply chain issues and shipping prices around the world and trying to access inventory too sell.

Learn more:

Jon Wynn – Gear Up For Outdoors

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