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Oct 26, 2020 at 11:52 am #3681174Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
This is a great discussion. I’ll try to offer some further insight.
If the goal is continuing BPL’s tradition as a place for serious discussion of lightweight gear and technique…
This is absolutely our core and will continue to be.
We constantly monitor our demographics. People who post on our forums are a snapshot of our broader community and are somewhat representative of it, but less diverse demographically than our membership at large.
Here’s the trend we’ve seen since about 2015.
Our membership does not appear to be “aging out”. To use one of the funny colloquialisms that have been used before here, “when the old guys die, they’ll be replaced by new old guys” as today’s “young guys” grow older.
BPL’s demographic when compared to the broader backpacking community is older and trends male.
However, our age range is broadening, and we’ve seen notable growth in mid-career-age people (35-45), who are finding better life-career balance this decade and have more interest in backpacking with their young children, in college-educated singles and couples (25-35) who are working more from home and have more flexibility with their vacation time, and in women (especially 45+) who are discovering the outdoors with a newer sense of independence and empowerment than we’ve ever seen in the outdoor industry. We’ve seen all three of these trends emerge since the GFC of 2008-2011.
The biggest threat to our membership growth over the past 5 years has been the decay of disposable income among the bulk of people who have historically been passionate about backpacking and wilderness travel. Less disposable income for gear and travel puts a damper on enthusiasm. This is one of my biggest fears for the outdoor industry as a whole, looking into the future. In spite of some criticism to the contrary, outdoor adventure has historically been accessible across a wide range of income brackets. But when the cost of your lifestyle and economic security begins to erode, it impacts how you view an outdoor lifestyle.
It takes new members (generally) a long time of lurking on the forums before and if, they post. This length of time has increased significantly in the past two decades. There’s a barrier there, and they have to trust that this is an OK place for them. Is this environment of discussion and discourse helpful? Inclusive? Shaming? Condescending? Positive? They have to answer these questions and be comfortable first before participating. Semi-private forums like this are very sensitive to these kinds of things, especially now, in a media/internet age where division, trolling, bullying, and the spread of misinformation dominates much online conversation.
Our membership growth has been extremely strong in the past 5 years. Without disclosing numbers, here’s a graph of our membership sales growth (bottom of the y-axis is zero, so the bars are accurately relative), this is 1Q-3Q for each of the years for the best comparison:
Our renewal rates have also increased each of these years, which bodes well for the future health of the company.
As membership grows, I think we will see new faces in the forums. But turning the forums into the next new social media tool so we can attract young people may not be consistent with the goal of continuing to provide serious discourse about backcountry travel, and that’s always been really important to me as a brand value.Oct 26, 2020 at 3:18 pm #3681200JCHBPL Member
Thanks Ryan. Very informative. Great to hear good news re: membership growth and demographics. Serves to allay fears stemming from a lack of information regarding membership.
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