BikeBiz ran a story about the planning of Glasgows Outdoor Experience some months ago. Weve been keeping close tabs on it ever since and leapt at the chance of a preview before the official opening this weekend.
Weve long argued for the addition of retail theatre in bike shops. This is hands-on entertainment, making bike shops a leisure experience not just a transactional one. Glasgow Outdoor Experience is easily the most entertaining outdoor shop in the UK, perhaps one of the most entertaining shops of any retail category.
Its a British version of the highly-successful REI flagship stores of America and was the idea of Rory Tiso, one of the directors of the Tisos chain of outdoor shops (9 outlets in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland and founded in 1962). The Outdoor Experience store in Leith, Edinburgh, was featured by BikeBiz1 and trialled many of the feature ideas now employed on a bigger scale, and to brilliant effect, in this former warehouse on Couper Street in the centre of Glagow, close to Buchanan Galleries, Glasgows newest and poshest shopping mall (and even closer to Dales Cycles of Dobbies Loan).
Covering 6700 sq m, 40 percent of the floorspace is devoted to feature areas. The development has two levels: the ground floor is devoted to equipment (bikes, climbing gear, rucsacs, tents, and sleeping bags) as well as the main interactive features. The mezzanine floor has a lecture room, a bookshop, a landscape photography shop, an internet cafe and a themed play-and-learn area for children called the Discovery Deck which also includes kids clothing.
The outdoor shop is run by Tisos, all the other shop-within-a-shop retailers are concessions. The bike shop is run by Alpine Bikes (founded in 1989) which also has shops in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and on Great Western Road, Glasgow.
Many of the interactive features have been sponsored by outdoor companies. For instance, the rain tower, used for testing the waterproofness of jackets, has been sponsored by Gore-Tex; the Chill Zone, which includes a six metre ice wall, and which can simulate wind chill temperatures of down to -20°C and wind speeds of up to 20mph, has been sponsored by Gore Windstopper (they jumped at the chance, says store project manager, Don Morrison of Tisos); the 12 metre climbing tower has been sponsored by The North Face; and the 50 metre rock path, used for testing footwear and bikes, is sponsored by Brasher boots.
Designed and built by AEL, the Scottish company which constructs and maintains footpaths and walls in the Scottish Highlands, the rock path is in two parts, with an extreme rocky outcrop for walkers and a slighly less rocky surface for experienced mountain bikers.
Less experienced cyclists can whizz round the outdoor car park with space for 60 cars.
MTBers who want to test out full sussers can use the Berghaus Bridge and, if they are skilled enough, can reach out for the leaflets in the infomation holders around the pathway, which provides silent salesman advice about outdoor clothing and equipment.
Other features include:
Stove test area. This is a stone tablet table with an overhead ventilation system.
Water purifying area. A 4.5m rock waterfall, surrounded by the rock path, flows into a stream from where water can be collected to test out water filters.
Torch test cave. This is a darkened room, made from stone, underneath the feature waterffall, for testing headtorches and bike lights
Chill out zone complete with sofas, coal effect gas fire, and the latest outdoor and bike magazines.
Conservation area. The John Muir Trust has information on the diversity of fauna and flora of Scotland.
David MacPhee of Raw was in the shop today (training the staff on Karrimor products and Clif Bars). He was bowled over:
I thought Id seen it all but this is just something else. Very, very impressive. Its the whole scale of things. Its going to impress a lot of people.
Raw's George Bowie was certainly impressed. He said: "It's funky, interactive, spacious. It's absolutely unique."
NB: A much longer version of this article, including interviews with Tisos and Alpine Bikes staff, and loads more pix, will appear in our June issue due out on 11th June.
Top: the Berghaus bridge being tested by Paul McInally and Robin Larcombe of Alpine Bikes
Right: the worlds only indoor ice claimbing wall tested by Chris Tiso who returned from Everest yesterday
Bottom top: Duncan Riddoch, MD of Alpine Bikes
Bottom middle: Nick Fish of Trek was at todays opening. Seen here pictured with Paul McInally and Robin Larcombe
Bottom bottom: Duncan Riddoch (left) and George Bowie of Raw