Zumiez is back.
After a two-year, COVID-related hiatus from the annual Methow Valley convocation of its corporate leadership and store managers, the global retailer of recreational gear and garb for young people returns at the end of this month.
Zumiez’ return is another example of our gradual return to pre-pandemic “normalcy.” For the first time since 2019, the Methow’s roster of summer events is full again, or close to it.
As in the past, some 700 Zumiez representatives will be distributed at locations around the valley for several days of intensive training and camaraderie. You will know them by the fleets of white vans in which most of them arrive. It’s not exactly a vacation — the Zumiez sales training program is structured and results-oriented. But it’s not a boot camp ordeal either.
Lynnwood-based Zumiez is an international retailer of “active lifestyles” clothing, footwear and accessories for skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing and motocross. The company began holding its annual sales meeting in the Methow Valley in 1990, and they just kept growing. But the coronavirus prompted the event’s cancelation in 2020, and again in 2021.
Zumiez founder and chairman Tom Campion, part-time Methow resident and longtime valley advocate and benefactor, is happy to be bringing his young, energetic and highly productive charges back for what has become something of a late-spring tradition in these parts. “It’s part of our culture and training,” he said of the Zumiez excursions to the Methow.
It’s become part of our culture, too. The influx of Zumiez’ store managers, who are noteworthy for how they reflect whatever current Gen is surging through to adulthood and for how well they perform as retailers, adds a burst of energy and interest for a few days each spring just before the Winthrop ’49er Days kick-off.
But not the past two years, as Zumiez adapted to the pandemic’s predations along with the rest of the world. The sales force gatherings were canceled as COVID made such large, in-person gatherings difficult if not impossible.
In a chat last week, Campion pointed out that the company did close hundreds of stores around the world for a time as COVID’s effects spread, but did not lay off its full-time employees and gradually reopened its outlets as conditions allowed. “It took months to get them back open again,” Campion said, and Zumiez switched much of its sales efforts to online. Still, the publicly traded firm had its best year ever in terms of sales per share in 2021, Campion said.
One thing that helped is the nature of what Zumiez sells — stuff that kids take outside to use. For instance, skateboards are ideal for socially-distanced recreating, Campion pointed out. When you sell teenage clothing and gear, Campion said, “If you don’t know how to adapt you won’t make it.”
Zumiez may adapt, but its corporate strategy has been unwavering. The company understands its clientele and its sales environment. The store managers go through various levels of training, each focused on shared achievements. “Everybody teaches what they know,” said Campion. Some store managers eventually move up into the corporate leadership ranks as well.
We’re in for a few more-hectic days than we’ve been used to recently, as the Zumiez contingent will be in town the same weekend as the Methow Trails Sunflower Trail Marathon and Relay. It may seem a little overwhelming as we emerge out of another shoulder season, but it will certainly be energizing.
News at the News
More changes to report at the Methow Valley News: After eight productive years as our advertising sales representative, Sheila Ward is departing the newspaper to pursue plans that involve splitting her time between Wenatchee and the valley. Sheila has been a vital part of our team in a challenging job, bringing in the bucks that keep us going even when that became more difficult the past couple of years, and we thank her for all her contributions to our success.
Our advertising clients are of course most familiar with Sheila and her customer support efforts over the years. Many of them will also know her replacement, who we were fortunate and grateful to find right inside our building. Our business manager for the past several years, Tera Evans, is taking over sales responsibilities from Sheila. For the time being, Tera will handle both roles as we figure out and adjust our staffing needs. Expect her to be introducing, or re-introducing, herself soon.