Out&Back Outdoor, an online platform that buys and sells sports gear and clothing, is barely two years old, but it is already expanding its partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dick’s new outdoor specialty store Public Lands.
The online resale platform recently revealed it added four new Dick’s Sporting Goods locations where customers can come in and sell unwanted gear and clothing, making it easier than mailing that merchandise in. The new locations are in Torrance and Santa Rosa, California; Portland, Oregon, and Midvale, Utah.
Out&Back already has partnerships with other Dick’s Sporting Goods in Denver and Charlottesville, Virginia. Its partnership with Public Lands includes locations in Pittsburgh as well as, Huntington, New York; Kennesaw, Georgia, Framingham, Massachusetts, and, in November, Medford, Oregon.
“In the outdoor gear category, the retail touch points with Dick’s and Public Lands gives us the capacity to take in bigger items,” said Barruch Ben-Zekry, the founder and chief executive officer of the vertical managed marketplace platform, which is based in Denver.
There is also a climate-friendly, philanthropic side to the business with Dick’s and Out&Back donating 1 percent of the value of the goods to 1% for the Planet, created by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews, a retail fly-fishing outfitter in Montana. It funds environmental organizations dedicated to protecting the planet.
Ben-Zekry started Out&Back in late 2019 after working for nearly seven years with VF Corp., most recently as senior director of new business models.
The idea behind Out&Back was to take in all that outdoor gear and apparel clogging up people’s closets and garages and find new homes for it. Ben-Zekry knows all about that. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay area, he was an avid outdoorsman with lots of gear piling up.
He launched the new venture with some of his own capital as well as investments from VF Corp., Baselayer Ventures and Accelerator Ventures.
Prior to launching its partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods earlier this year, Out&Back worked exclusively online with customers who would go to the company’s website and get cash offers, distributed via Venmo or Paypal, for goods that are under 10 years old. Once an offer was made, Out&Back would pay for the shipping, which was done through the U.S. Post Office.
But that is where things got sticky. Many people said they would package their goods and ship them, but often they never made it down to the post office. “It was like pulling teeth,” Ben-Zekry said, noting that the shipping abandonment rate at the beginning was around 30 percent to 40 percent. “It has gotten a lot lower, via messaging and more customer communication.”
This supply side of the Out&Back business model is critical for success. “There is no factory here,” Ben-Zekry said. “I can’t call up and order more used stuff. We spent a lot of time focused on our supply and acquiring sellers. And that is what led us to Dick’s.”
Once people discovered they could drop off goods at the sporting goods stores, things became easier for customers and the abandonment dropped considerably. Using a physical drop-off point also opened up new categories that could be bought and resold, such as tents, backpacks, and now, skis and snowboards (without the bindings). Dick’s ships the used items to the Out&Back’s warehouse in Denver.
For Dick’s, the largest sporting goods chain in the U.S., the partnership means getting more customers through the door and helping the environment.
“Working with Out&Back to give people an opportunity to explore the outdoors and reduce our environmental footprint at the same time is a win-win,” Peter Land, Dick’s chief sustainability officer, previously told WWD.
Out&Back relies on the internet to determine the amount it pays for used goods, which normally sell for 10 percent to 35 percent of the original retail price. Age and condition are two other factors considered.
“We are by and large a technology company,” the company founder said. “We have a network that is constantly scanning the internet and looking over the past 10 years to see what prices were for goods sold in the outdoors category. That’s why we don’t take items that are older than 10 years because they don’t have a paper trail. If it wasn’t sold online, we don’t know about it.”
He said backpacks and tents hold a tremendous amount of value, especially if they are well engineered and made of quality material. Popular outdoor brands for gear and apparel include Osprey, Patagonia, Marmot, The North Face, Pendleton and Arc’teryx.
Goods sold to Out&Back online end up at its 10,000-square-foot warehouse. With a staff of just under 20 employees, the company takes the used clothing and other merchandise purchased, inspects them and then cleans and repairs them if necessary. Once that is done, a photo is taken for the website.
Ben-Zekry couldn’t estimate how many items are in the company warehouse right now, but he said usually there are 1,500 to 2,000 items on the website at one time. But things are growing. Ben-Zekry is now searching for a larger warehouse to handle the number of items the company is buying and selling.