COLUMBUS, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST)–Public Lands is embracing a more open approach to the outdoors.
The new outdoor retailer opened Friday at Polaris Fashion Place. It’s just the second unit for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (NYSE: DKS) brand and replaces the Field & Stream store that previously filled that 60,000-square-foot space adjoined to the sporting goods shop.
“The outdoors is thought of as traditionally physical — you’re skiing, you’re climbing, you’re hanging off the side of a mountain,” Public Lands President Todd Spaletto said. “What we heard from customers is that for many, it’s more emotional, more mental. Hiking is their yoga.”
So while there is some product overlap from Field & Stream, which also sold camping and fishing gear, the new brand aims to present a more diverse and inclusive offering for people eager to explore the outdoors, be they experts or novices.
“There’s been a big surge in people wanting to be outdoors,” Spaletto said. “This was happening before Covid, but the pandemic really accelerated it.”
What the team at Dick’s saw was a more diverse customer base than Field & Stream was hitting. As they began to conceive of what would become Public Lands, Spaletto, who previously was global president of North Face and group president of Wolverine Worldwide, was brought in late last year to pull those ideas into a new store.
The first Public Lands opened in Pittsburgh in September.
“We definitely think there’s an opportunity for more,” Spaletto said.
The roughly 60,000-square-foot Polaris space is divided into eight departments, including camping, hiking, biking, and fishing. There’s a service and repair shop for bikes (whether or not the bike was acquired from Public Lands) and on-site embroidery.
There’s apparel throughout — men’s, women’s and children’s — with an assortment ranging from big names like North Face and Carhartt to smaller brands like Outdoor Voices.
Spaletto said that mix of large and small brands is important and enables Public Lands to offer both what customers are seeking and expect while also surprising them with names and products they otherwise might not know.
The Columbus store is the largest physical store in the U.S. for the North Face brand. It also stocks Zpack tents, a favorite among aficionados though not widely available.
There are local buying options as well. A small café area toward the back of the store is stocked with local brands like Charqui Jerky, Zest juices, and Roosevelt coffee. Public Lands also tapped local artists for some limited edition apparel designs.
There’s an experiential and hands-on element to the store as well. That’s most obvious with the 30-foot climbing wall which customers can ascend either for fun or to test out potential purchases.
But there are other touches too. There’s a platform where customers can actually roll out a sleeping bag to climb in and test. Padding is out so shoppers are able to feel and touch the bedding. Every tent that’s sold already is set up in-store so folks can climb in and see for themselves.
“This is a very purposeful space,” Spaletto said. “We don’t want it to be intimidating. We want this to be a warm, welcoming experience.”
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