How to Start a Camping & Outdoor Goods Store

Are you a budding entrepreneur with a passion for the outdoors? Are you looking for a low-risk, low-cost business idea for first-time business-owners? Spring has sprung! And what better way to start the season of renewal & rejuvenation than with a new business.

If you’d like to try your hand at selling hiking, camping & outdoor accessories, but aren’t sure where to get started - check out our guide below!

Why sell camping & backpacking equipment?

Backpacking, camping and hiking have all grown substantially as leisure activities in the past couple of years. In the United States, the number of reported hikers has been steadily climbing each year since 2006, while the number of new households participating in camping has grown by one million each year. And just last spring, 47.2 million Americans reported going backpacking within the last 12 months.

It's hard to pin down an exact reason for this growth. Experts have noted a rising class of millennials taking to the outdoors in greater numbers over the last decade. Perhaps the rapid advancement of new technologies that we've seen in the last ten years has given rise to a paradoxical urge to get outside. Whatever the reason - Millennials account for 38% of the 75 million active camper households in the U.S. - with more than half saying they plan to camp again later this year.

On top of the long-term growth of the hiking & camping industries, there's also the short-term advantage of starting a camping business at this time. With spring & summer right around the corner, demand for camping & outdoor supplies is expected to boom, just in time for the warm months. If you're a first-time entrepreneur looking for a low-cost, low-risk business idea - camping supplies might be right up your alley.

Building an outdoor brand on social media

Outdoor lifestyle brands are very popular on social media and it's generally very easy to find online communities relating to hiking and camping. Take Instagram for example. Instagram has a wide network of influencers specializing in the outdoor lifestyle. Users following accounts like this are perfect to tap as customers for an outdoor lifestyle brand.

In the initial stages of audience growth, consider an awareness campaign that exposes your brand to these users. An awareness campaign is the first step in the marketing funnel that eventually leads users to buy your products. Build awareness of your brand on Instagram by creating a profile for that audience. Consider posting serene pictures of the outdoors or humourous expressions for people who love nature.

You'll want to explore the outdoors influencers on Instagram profiles and see what they're doing that attracts users. Participate in their communities. Comment on their photos. Like and comment on their followers photos. If you're willing to spend a little for exposure, you can consider paying influencers to promote your brand as well. Once you start selling, it can't hurt to send influencers free products as well.

Influencers are Instagram users with an established following. The plus side to using influencers is that they've already built audiences who trust them to recommend products. This makes them great candidates to bring awareness to your products and hopefully bring some followers over to your social media accounts.

Influencers have a certain degree of clout in online communities, which will help you to establish a place in your niche. You can find top influencers using influencer services like Influence.co - but an even better idea is to try to find smaller influencers. Smaller influencers allow you to target more niche follower groups, which has been proven to be more effective in garnering sales.

How to market a camping essentials company

Since we already know that there’s a lot of potential customers in the audiences of outdoor influencers, this is a good place to start when it comes to marketing. People who follow these profiles are likely to be people who enjoy the outdoors and would follow your brand on social media.

In the awareness stage, you don't want to heavily advertise or market your products. You're simply giving your users a reason to follow you. Social media users don't want to follow a profile that just posts ads. Before you can do this, you need to build up a level of trust with your audience.

Focus your posts on content that you think would interest your audience. You can take a look at the social media profiles of your influencers to get an idea of what sort of content your people like to follow.

Choose content that interests yourself, as well. Social media branding is all about consistency. The more passionate you are about your content, the easier it will be to post on a regular basis. If you fancy yourself a photographer - start posting some outdoor lifestyle shots on Instagram. If you're more into the written word, a travel blog might be a good idea for engaging with your followers.

Using drop-shipping to sell hiking & camping supplies

Of course, one of the downsides of selling camping & outdoor equipment is that because your products can be quite hefty, it's not as easy to store or move stock. Drop-shipping your products will help to negate this issue. Drop-shipping is a model of ecommerce where products are stored and shipped by a third-party manufacturer like AliExpress. It works like this: when a customer buys from you, their order is sent to your supplier who ships the product directly from their warehouse to the customer's address.

Drop-shipping is a great tool for first-time entrepreneurs, since there's very little risk involved. Products are only purchased from your supplier after they're purchased by your customers, so there's a far lower chance of not making a profit. This also allows a lot of wiggle-room for sales and discounts, since product prices can be marked up, then down to create urgency around your latest deal. It's also a great time-saver, since you can let the manufacturing and shipping be handled by someone else while you focus on marketing, branding and building a following on social media.

Business Model

Given the timing and increasing popularity of camping gear, this is a great business idea for first-time entrepreneurs. Camping products on AliExpress can range a lot in price due to the variety of products you could sell, but by drop-shipping products, you can keep costs low to leave yourself room for sales and discounts.

For example, tents can retail between $50 & $150 on AliExpress but can cost for hundreds of dollars from major retailers. By drop-shipping, you'd be able to offer your customers huge savings on products while keeping the price-point high enough that you're able to make substantive profits.

Dropshipping tips

If you decide to dropship through AliExpress, here are a few tips to set yourself up for success.

Free shipping can be exceptionally slow on AliExpress, and the express options are often prohibitively expensive. Try to find sellers that offer epacket shipping; it's an affordable alternative that allows trackable and quick shipping from China to most developed countries including USA, Canada, and some of the United Kingdom.
AliExpress can sometimes seem overwhelming because there are so many products. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to product selection, sort your search results by “Most Ordered”. This will put the best sellers at the top of the list and give you a general idea of what’s selling and what’s popular.
To get a better idea of what the cases look like in real life, check out the Reviews tab for product listings and view “Reviews with Photos.” Be sure to read the reviews as well, to see what others are saying about the product. Also, you’ll want to check out the “Transactions” tab within the product listing on AliExpress. If you see several purchases from one person, it’s likely they’re dropshipping the item. This tells you it’s likely a good item to sell.
Even though you might be paying next to nothing on AliExpress, don't under-price your products. You’ll want to leave enough margin for marketing, so try to sell products for three or four times your cost.
Try bundling your items into themed sets, or offering complementary products. Check out what the competition is selling to get a better idea of what product categories might be particularly relevant to your audience.
Platforms like Facebook allow you to target very specific attributes or behaviours. For example, if you use Facebook ads to drive traffic to a cell phone store, you can target iPhone 6 users for iPhone 6 phone cases and target LG V10 phone users for LG V10 phone cases. These device-specific options can be found in the ‘Behaviour Targeting’ section of your Facebook ad manager. Hyper-targeting can be applied to a wide range of behaviors and demographics.

Start selling camping gear online!

With high returns, low risks & camping season right around the corner - camping and outdoor equipment is a great business idea for first-time entrepreneurs. Start selling today!