Most of the things sold in The Hiker Box are items Tom or I have either used personally or seen in use. Some other things are based on best-sellers in the field or what’s the newest from a great, reputable company.
And then there are the customer requests. Things customers have asked for time and time again to one of us and it becomes our mission to obtain that product and have it on the shelf. If only for the other one of us to ask, “Why in the heck are we carrying a pedometer?” and some day be able to taunt back, “See! I sold a pedometer! Thank goodness I ordered them! WE WOULD BE BANKRUPT OTHERWISE.”
(Note: sometimes this does not go as planned. Sometimes you hear 4,510 requests for an item but as soon as you have one, no one else ever wants one ever again. And sometimes you will order one, people will ask for one, then look it at on the shelf, shrug, and leave without purchasing. This may or may not have happened with pedometers.)
Many of these product requests fall outside of the range of “Hiking, Camping, Backpacking” and more into the range of, “You are a convenient store for tourists to pop into and ask for random items they forgot to pack.” I will say that at least 65% of these requests are items you might sometimes eventually use outdoors. Or carry outdoors from the car to the house.
We get a lot of general sports-type requests. We get a lot of specific-there-are-three-outfitters-in-a-5-mile-range-catering-to-that-activity requests. (We usually do not act on those but give referrals. And it has so far worked nicely in that other stores refer customers to us as well.)
But come summer, this is tourist town. And I have lucked out on choosing some products that have nothing to do with hiking. We sell out of swimming floats and collapsible umbrellas. We did rather well with critter nets and citronella candles.
Where we have completely flopped is batteries. Even when we sell an item that REQUIRES batteries. They are just not the type of thing we can purchase in enough bulk to be well-priced and while someone might wonder if the grocery store carries collapsible umbrellas (it does, but you did not hear that from me), they are fairly sure they can find batteries there.
So imagine my excitement when I had the cutest girl come ask me, “Do you have the stuff that goes in here?” pointing to an opening in a camera. I started to show her the batteries, all excited that I was definitely going to make a sale because I have been a cute little girl once and I remember having terrible price-comparison skills.
Then it dawned on me. She was asking for FILM.
(No, we don’t carry film. And it will take many more cute little girls to ask for it before I make it a mission of mine.)