Backcountry.com Headquarters: Brick and Mortar’s Big Brother


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 15, 2014      
 The original Backcountry Store beginnings. A classic reminder that like so many widely successful companies Backcountry.com had its start in a garage too. Possibly around a game of ping pong? Or was it beer pong? Click all images to enlarge.

The original “Backcountry Store” (it was called that first) beginnings. A classic reminder that like so many widely successful companies Backcountry.com had its start in a garage too. Possibly around a game of ping pong? Or was it beer pong? Click all images to enlarge.

You may my notice our backcountry.com banners. Some have commented that we just work for link juice, free beer, Austrian delicacies, and the enjoyment of punishment to our bodies in an attempt to give you, the readers, an honest review. Most of that’s probably true.

But if it wasn’t for that little (or big) backcountry dot com banner Lou would surely still be sleeping in his converted VW Bug. Yes, I said Beetle, I still don’t believe it either. Ask him.

I was invited to tour the Backcountry.com headquarters by Craig Zediker, owner of Competitive Cyclist; a brand now under the Backcountry.com umbrella by way of my fellow UVM alum, Perry Hall, team lead bike buyer.

The story of Backcountry.com, (originally known as The Backcountry Store), began with a small investment of $2000, a garage, avalanche beacons, and two lifelong skiers, Jim Holland and John Breese.

By entrance into the online business gear fantasy land once known as BCstore.com and Backcoutrystore.com they were able to set the bar to almost untouchable levels. Where it still stands to this day.

Current sites operated by Backcountry.com include:

Backcountry.com Camping, trail running, alpine, nordic, and backcountry skiing, mountaineering, backpacking and more

Dogfunk.com Skate, surf, and related gear/clothing

Competitivecyclist.com A world-class cycling gear and clothing with a personal touch at the click of a button

Motosport.com OEM replacement parts, aftermarket parts, helmets, jackets, and all other related petrol products

Bergfreunde.de German based online outdoor retailer similar to Backcountry.com’s offerings holds the largest online gear presence in Europe

SteepandCheap.com limited-time, limited-quantity deals once a day for outdoor enthusiasts

Chainlove.com biking products on a budget

Whiskeymilitia.com one-deal-at-a-time site dedicated to offering the action sports enthusiast a product priced so low they can’t not click to buy it

Geartrade.com A recycle site for used and blemished gear, setup for a reverse auction in which prices for gear drop the longer it stays listed

Backcountry.com prides itself on several company wide acronyms, their favorite and most proud of I learned was PBF, Packaged Before Five. On the day I visited their warehouses they’re previous day’s PBF was 99.62%. For anyone that has ordered anything from them before you know that it’s a bit of a shock how quick you receive some items.

Units shipped per day this week. 1 Unit = 1 Bin and 1 Bin contains 7 packages. Not bad for mid-week.

Units shipped per day this week. 1 Unit = 1 Bin and 1 Bin contains 7 packages. Not bad for mid-week.

On my visit; between dodging blonde girls on scooters, evading speeding boxes on conveyor belts, and fumbling with my camera, I got to grasp just how big of an operation Backcountry.com truly is. The building in West Valley City, UT is 325,000 sq ft on three levels and while that seEms big they have an identical fulfillment center in Christiaburg, VA that is 315,000 sq. ft on four levels. With 260 and 200 employee at each respectively they can swell to over 400 at holiday seasons. Additional offices are located in Salt Lake City, Santa Ana, Costa Rica, Portland, Oregon, and Kirchentellinsfurt, Germany as well.

I stumbled at Costa Rica, Craig assured me this is where most of their software engineers are based due to time zone relativity, country stability, and ease of travel.

Blonde girls on scooters... We don't make this stuff up at Wildsnow.

Blonde girls on scooters… We don’t make this stuff up at WildSnow.

Three floors of living, fast moving gear, its the Backcountry.com way.

Three floors of living, fast moving gear, it’s the Backcountry.com way.

Backcountry.com does almost everything entirely in house. Product photo shoots, product placement videos, how-to’s, and etc. You name it they have a guy or girl in house that can do it.

Green Room? Sure thing they have 6 in various sizes.

Green Room? Sure thing they have 6 in various sizes.

Each employee of the month is honored with a caricature of themselves and their favorite activity.

Each employee of the month is honored with a caricature of themselves and their favorite activity.

Each employee, whom might I add, no employee is just an employee of Backcountry.com, are world class rock climbers, cyclists, backcountry skiers, and runners spend over $2 million a year on purchases of their own. All employees cross train to understand each and everyone’s roll in the fulfillment center.

Daily gear spending never stops, even for those who work at the temple of gear.

Daily gear spending never stops, even for those who work at the temple of gear.

Backcountry.com was once known for it’s lifetime unconditional return policy. For those of you who didn’t know you could wear a jacket for a ski season without deodorant or ever washing it, send it back, and receive a full refund. No longer is this in effect unfortunately. Although some products bought during that early time still qualify including bikes, skis, and jackets.

Craig Zediker holds onto a piece of warranty item. Note: $6000 frames dont make good friends with parking garages.

Craig Zediker holds onto a piece of warranty item. Note: $6000 frames dont make good friends with parking garages.

Fully covered, under their old return policy that is.

Fully covered, under their old return policy that is.

Current return policy’s are a bit more standard; 30 days used for store credit or unlimited time frame for unused gear.

Just a morning's worth of goods to destroy. Liability is such a shame in the states.

Just a morning’s worth of goods to destroy. Liability is such a shame in the states.

Although all gear upon return is sorted and checked, some gear such as anything climbing related is 100% destroyed once it reaches Backcountry’s headquarters no matter if the item returned has never even been unpack-aged, as per strict rules given to them by their attorneys.

One of the dozen plus semi trucks waiting to be unloaded. Chock full of returns.

One of the dozen plus semi trucks waiting to be unloaded. Chock full of returns.

Used and returned gear that cannot be labeled as new is either placed on EBAY or moved to the employee sale section for the yearly employee sale blowout. Which I’m told is epic.

Returns from this past holiday season have been quoted as a “Megametric shitload,” very scientific speak.

Just a few more returns then Macys

Just a few more returns then Macys.

Cigarette smoke, pet smells, hair, or any item in question is marked and transferred.

Cigarette smoke, pet smells, hair, or any item in question is marked and transferred.

All returns are replenished back into inventory within 48 hours during the employees two shifts of 6am to 2:30pm or 2:30 pm till 10:30pm.
Of course Backcoutry.com isn’t just all returns; executives at Backcountry.com and Liberty Media Corp., Backcountry’s parent company as of 2007, always “Pray for Powder”. Craig said once the weatherman predicts heavy snowfall along the Cascades sales throughout the U.S. roll into Backcounty.com like a tidal wave as the storm moves eastward. 75% of all their sales happen in the 4th quarter.

Bins pile up as workers take a quick break early in the morning

Bins pile up as workers take a quick break early in the morning.

Bins travel upwards of 10mph around the factory on three floors

Bins travel upwards of 10mph around the factory on three floors.

The retail store alone does over $1 million in sales during the holiday season alone.

The retail store customer only gets a small look inside the belly of the beast

The retail store customer only gets a small look inside the belly of the beast.

Wait a second there really is a BEAST. Dynafit Beast 16, that is, custom mounted on a Volkl V-Werks for a French customer waiting patiently in full ski gear on the other side of the window.

Wait a second there really is a BEAST. Dynafit Beast 16, that is, custom mounted on a Volkl V-Werks for a French customer waiting patiently in full ski gear on the other side of the window.

All told Backcountry.com does what several brick and mortar shops wish they could do in sales in a year. But Craig told me that nothing replaces walking into a shop and getting properly fit to a bike or custom boot to a pair of backcountry skiing boots. To that end there will always be brick and mortar shops for the masses.

In case you didn't already know they are famous for the three words of Blisteringly Fast Fulfillment. With inventory accuracy, packing accuracy, and units shipped per hour among the 99 percentile not even Amazon.com can touch them.

In case you didn’t already know they are famous for the three words of Blisteringly Fast Fulfillment. With inventory accuracy, packing accuracy, and units shipped per hour among the 99 percentile not even Amazon.com can touch them.

Company achievements from past holiday seasons. You can be sure during these dates all hands are on deck!

Company achievements from past holiday seasons. You can be sure during these dates all hands are on deck!

So if you’d like to keep Lou from moving back into his VW Bug you should probably check out Backcounty.com. I’ve heard they have a few things on sale and you wouldn’t want those scooters to just sit unattended by fit blonde climber chicks now would you.

Don't worry little guy. You'll be zipping around SLC in just a jiffy.

Don’t worry little guy. You’ll be zipping around SLC in just a jiffy.

Oh there were guys using them too don’t worry Wildsnow.com girls!

The temple awaits... Will you click on in?

The temple awaits… Will you click on in?

Comments

8 Responses to “Backcountry.com Headquarters: Brick and Mortar’s Big Brother”

  1. Andy M. August 15th, 2014 4:02 pm

    Wow, the bit about them having to destroy all skiing/climbing returns makes me feel terrible about being wasteful. More than a couple times I’ve ordered a couple sizes of climbing shoes then returned the ones that didn’t fit.

    I do somewhat doubt it’s really 100% though, because, for example, when I ordered my TLT6s, the first pair I received was a pair of size 26’s in a 27 box, with all the tags ripped off… i.e. clearly a return. They quickly cross-shipped a new pair of 27s for me of course.

  2. andyC August 15th, 2014 4:28 pm

    Thanks for the story! I’ve been a long-time fan & customer of backcountry.com. I have also been impressed by competitive cyclist and had no clue they were related to backcountry.

  3. Wyatt August 15th, 2014 5:10 pm

    They definitely don’t destroy all returns. They list most returns on geartrade.com and will label it as such. I have seen some of my returns sold on geartrade.

  4. Joe Risi August 15th, 2014 5:28 pm

    They do of course re-stock items. But any climbing related gear is destroyed.

    Other items due to smells, pet hair, etc. sometimes end up on Geartrade or held for the employee sale.

  5. Lisa Dawson August 16th, 2014 12:06 pm

    Thanks for the interesting write-up!

  6. John August 16th, 2014 12:36 pm

    Sadly, their recent change to a 30 day return policy makes it really difficult to want to do business with them.

    http://www.backcountry.com/sc/returnguarantee

    http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php/269100-Hassles-with-Backcountry-com-s-new-return-policy/page2

  7. brody leven August 16th, 2014 11:33 pm

    I really enjoyed seeing this. As an SLC resident, I only see that small window into the belly of the beast–and talk to other locals, 1/3 of which seem to work at BC.com–and have never seen this much of the story. thanks for sharing it with us peasants on this side of the gate.

  8. Mike October 7th, 2014 3:39 pm

    I guess it is time to switch over to rei.com or gearcoop.com

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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