Outdoor Focus

Image of Jennifer Bringle

Jennifer Bringle, features editor at Casual Living, is our guru of product introductions and retail and style trends. While helping Casual Living to stay tuned in to the various markets and latest retail issues, Jennifer keeps her focus on what’s new, what’s hot and what’s not.

  • Three Lessons Every Store Can Learn from Amazon

    Recently, The Retail Federation published a story on “21 Ways Amazon Changed the Face of Retail.” Timed for the e-commerce giant’s 21st anniversary, the piece highlighted nearly two-dozen ways the company has rewritten the retail playbook. We all know Amazon as a force to be reckoned with in the retail game. The site has been wildly successful, and has—for better or worse—forced traditional retailers to rethink how they run their businesses. And while most traditional independent stores can’t (and shouldn’t) replicate Amazon’s model, there are some key components of its business plan that retailers ... Read More
  • Going for the Gold

    If you’re like me, you’ve been glued to your television the past week watching coverage of the Summer Olympics in Rio. I’m a sports fan in general (it’s hard to grow up in college basketball country and not be), but there’s something special about the Olympics that really gets me going every four years. It's fun to feel part of something that can unite a country around a common goal. Particularly in a year as politically polarizing as this election cycle has been, the sense of national camaraderie feels even sweeter. I felt that ... Read More
  • Why Retail Training Matters

    In my reporting for our upcoming profiles of this year's Apollo Award nominees (check it out in our upcoming September issue), I noticed an interesting trend among the honorees I interviewed. Now, remember, these are retailers who are being recognized for the outstanding way they run their stores. These folks are at the top of their game. And what they kept telling me over and over was that one of the most important investments they make in their shops isn't in new displays or technology or advertising—it's employee training. In fact, Eric Stalzer of Great Gatherings ... Read More
  • How Building Community Can Build Business

    Last week, I got the chance to visit Grill-Billies, a barbecue retailer located in Raleigh, N.C. As I sat on the deck of the store chatting with owner Joe Pino, I couldn’t help but notice a common theme in our conversation—building community. Pino spent years as a competitive pit master before opening the store in 2013. During his years on the competitive barbecue circuit, he made a lot of friends in the industry, and those relationships have helped fuel his growing business. Tapping into that network of barbecue experts, Pino has a wealth of advice at his ... Read More
  • Who Do You Think You Are?

    This past week, I again got the pleasure of judging entries for our annual Merchandising Awards. This year's field was exceptional, with a varied group of stores representing a number of different locales and styles.  But across the board, one thing I noticed among the stores that elicited the strongest reactions from our judges was that each had a strong sense of identity.Even without knowing where it was located, I could almost pinpoint the city or at least region they called home, and I got a strong sense of who their clientele was, too. Even though many of ... Read More
  • 3 ways to harness the power of reviews

    In the old days, word of mouth was arguably one of the most powerful forms of reaching consumers. More than flashy advertisements or slick marketing campaigns, the opinions and experiences real-live customers shared verbally with their friends and family held the kind of weight that could potentially make or break a business or product. Today, word of mouth is just as important, maybe even more so. But in our digitally focused world, word of mouth looks much differently than it did even 10 or 20 years ago. Product reviews, Facebook posts, tweets, viral videos and the like are the new ... Read More
  • Millennials: Not so different, after all

    It's something we seem to constantly hear: The Millennial generation is so different. They don’t think like any other generation. They don't live like any other generation. They don't shop like any other generation. While some of that is certainly true, are Millennials really that different from everyone else? When it comes to outdoor living, I think the answer is no. According to a recent survey of Millennials conducted by Casual Living, outdoor living was important to eight out of 10 respondents. And when those respondents were asked to explain why outdoor living was important to ... Read More
  • Phil says "early spring!"

    This week, our furry little friend (or foe, depending on the year) Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring. For most, this is welcome news; for those of us in the casual industry, especially so. There's no denying spring and summer are our seasons. When the sun's shining and the weather is balmy, you're hard-pressed to find someone who'd rather stay indoors. And as people shed their winter layers and drink in those first few days of nice weather, they're often inspired to refresh their newly blossoming outdoor spaces with new ... Read More
  • A Sure Bet

    As I write this, the Powerball lottery jackpot has reached a record sum: $1.5 billion. While lottery dreamers are clamoring for a rather miniscule chance (one in 292 million) at those riches, there’s a greater prize out there for the casual industry with far better odds. According to Casual Living’s 2015 Universe Study, the outdoor market accounted for nearly $7 billion in retail sales in 2015. That’s an increase of 4.5% over the previous year. Those numbers are an impressive reminder of not only how strong the casual category is, but also how much growth ... Read More
  • Storytelling

    As I’m writing this, the latest movie in the Star Wars series, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” just broke all cinematic records by pulling in half a billion dollars in its first weekend. Half a billion. That’s a lot of money, even in mega-blockbuster dollars. And outside those ticket sales, billions of additional dollars will be spent on everything from Star Wars toys, T-shirts and sheets to pasta and soup with special-edition labels bearing images of the characters from the film. With a phenomena such as this, many wonder what makes this franchise so much more popular and ... Read More
  • The Power of Hello

    While perusing my Facebook feed recently, I was struck by a friend’s status update. She’d just returned from a shopping trip and shared her frustrations about a bad experience she’d had at a local business. Apparently, the proprietor was dismissive and rude, to the point that she not only left, but also vowed to never return to this business. Said friend is the editor of a local magazine here, so she declined to publicly reveal the business’ name. But most of the time that is not the case, and judging by the response to my friend’s ... Read More
  • Naughty or nice?

    This week, Consumer Reports released its annual holiday list of “Naughty and Nice” companies, recognizing those who’ve gone above and beyond for consumers and those who’ve stumbled this year. Click here to see the full list. Among those on the naughty list were Volkswagen (no surprise there after their emissions scandal this year), Tom’s of Maine and Costco. Of the more than a dozen companies deemed “naughty,” nearly all of them were cited for one glaring crime – misinformation. Whether it was deceptive pricing, misleading marketing or failure to meet promised standards, these companies were faulted for not ... Read More