We stopped selling stuff. Here's why.
Since Gather started out in 2015 we’ve charted our own path to discovering our true purpose.
Charting our own path.
We’ve always known that we wanted to help folk enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, and to conduct business in a beneficial and meaningful manner. But it’s taken a few false starts and lessons learnt the hard way to reach the enlightened plateau we’ve finally found ourselves pitched upon.
This ultimate pivot sees us stopping selling stuff, to focus on trading in inspiration through Adventurous Ink, our outdoor literature subscription.
Coming to the outdoor industry without any previous experience was a risk. We didn’t have the contacts. The knowledge. We didn’t understand the way ‘things are done’.
Ultimately this has been our strength, but it’s not always felt like that. Walking our own path has rubbed us raw and left us feeling exposed, but we’ve taken heart on our journey from peers and mentors who have shown us the way.
Standing on the shoulders of giants.
At first we sought counsel and guidance from the Do Lectures community, which founder Tim was fortunate enough to attend, back in 2012 when Gather wasn’t even a need for warmth, never mind a spark or a fire.
But when the headwinds of daily life began to chill, it was the Do network that provided refuge and kindled Gather into life.
By standing on the shoulders of giants, like disruptive author and sustainability guru Mark Shayler and academic and industry insider Charles Ross, we were able to grasp the outstretched reach of our eventual peers.
An out of the blue offer from Finisterre to become one of their first retailers, just months after starting out, was an incredible vote of confidence in a fledgling enterprise. Especially one mired in imposter syndrome.
However, like the eager young charges we were, it took time for the importance of David Hieatt’s “Do one thing well” mantra to finally sink in.
Yes we wanted to clothe explorers ethically and inspire their next adventure AND introduce them to awesome people who could take them out there. But we couldn’t do it all. Or do most of that as well as others such as Finisterre and Much Better Adventures could.
More than that though, reconciling ourselves to retail had never come easy. As this early period promotion for our Crew Buy shared purchase scheme shows!
We could never shake a deep concern about living in a world long past Peak Stuff, now glissading disastrously down the lee into consumer driven apocalypse.
So we stopped.
So we stopped selling stuff.
And focussed on actually aiding more adventures, by making it simple to tap into the inspiring vein of creativity running through modern outdoor literature.
Adventurous Ink, our exploratory offshoot since 2017, has now become Our Thing.
In the current climes, we feel that every business needs to fundamentally question why they are doing what they are, and the impact it has.
That is why we have also decided not to make any Adventurous Ink merchandise, regardless of the easy sales and visibility afforded by wider use of our “Adventurous” script.
We’re not the only ones thinking like this. Friends and collaborators Miscellaneous Adventures recently reached a similar conclusion, stopping selling anything other than the wooden goods they handcraft themselves.
Make positive choices.
If we are to have a future as a race, a great many more businesses need to undertake a similar reflection and make some positive choices.
We’ve done the math and concluded that our subscription has a highly beneficial impact on people and minimal impact on the planet. Just like timber used in construction, books become a carbon store. Whilst recycling rates for paper and use of recycled fibres in paper production are way higher than most materials.
The planting of replacement trees, something we’re investing a proportion our profits in, also requires zero chemical applications and provides habitats for wildlife, and recreational landscapes ideal for Shinrin-Yoku or 'woodland bathing'. Not to mention soaking up CO2 and breathing out essential oxygen.
More than a zero-sum game however, our books and journals are a font of knowledge helping burst the bubble of busy modern lives which cocoon us from the natural world, and reconnect us with something we have lost.
Burst the bubble of busy modern lives
We’ve lost ourselves in our devices, living lives in a perpetual state of mild satisfaction. We may never be bored, but are we ever truly living? Will an evening on the sofa scrolling through screens ever be vividly remembered in the manner of the Type Two Fun that the great outdoors uncomfortably affords?
The printed page is the ideal antidote for those looking to break their digital addiction. It’s easier immerse yourself in a good book, given the lack of distracting pings, buzzes and glowing dots tempting your thumb towards easy amusements. And you can be sure no-one is secretly tracking the stories you read in order to tailor ads at your algorithmically estimated persona, or planning to upsell the final five pages.
This is not some sackcloth-and-ashes polemic against purchasing. Should you happen across our founder Tim you will find him clad in ethical clothing from the likes of Patagonia, Outerknown, Finisterre, Two Thirds, Bask In The Sun and Wawwa.
Of course you still need to buy stuff. But when you do, make more conscious choices: buy good stuff direct from good folk and look after it well. Maximise it’s value and minimise your impact.
This then is our newfound purpose: to help folk find themselves outdoors.
It always has been. It just took a while to unearth it.
Type Two Fun Anna Mcnuff
Woodland light from Flickr user SJ Photography - used under CC licence