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20 Things You Didn't Know about Sierra Trading Post

Sierra Trading Post specializes in selling high-quality products which people need when they are exploring the great outdoors. Sierra is not a single manufacturer outlet store. Sierra sells thousands of items from brands around the globe. The company buys from vendors of specialty labels, top brands, and gems from all over the world. Sierra accomplishes this with its team of entrepreneurial, opportunistic buyers who negotiate the best prices and the widest selection of colors, fabrics, materials, and styles so that customers enjoy great savings. There’s always something new arriving every week and this is part of the magic treasure hunting that Sierra’s customers really like.

1. Keith Richardson founded Sierra Trading Post with his wife, Bobbi, in 1986.

Keith graduated from San Jose State University in 1974 and was the Controller for Hexel Sports from 1974 until 1990. He next worked with Sportif USA. Keith had been promoted to President of Sportif USA in 1980, after getting a raise in pay and a bonus. But, the company owner replaced Keith unexpectedly, taking the position as Owner/President. Keith quit Sportif USA and had no other job lined up to move into. But just two days after the awful unexpected happened, Keith came up with the concept for Sierra Trading Post. It took Keith about a month or so to create a new business. To get started, he bought all the seconds and closeouts Acorn had. He bought them from Acorn founder, David Quinn, for $10,000 and discovered that he couldn’t sleep the night he made the huge purchase. Keith and Quinn began a longstanding friendship and Quinn always approached Keith first with his closeout list.

2. Keith’s eldest son, Ron, drew the 44 illustrations in Sierra’s first catalog.

Sierra Trading Post took its leap and mailed the catalog out to 100,000 customers. The catalog was created using just two colors. It only had sixteen pages, but it was a huge hit. The illustrations were beautiful drawings of outdoor life with the look and appeal of catalogs from the 1800s. Ron continued to illustrate items for sale in the catalog and a family friend, Woo Cude, joined Keith’s other son, Mark, to ship the catalogs by hand. By 1999, Sierra introduced splashes of color to their catalogs and customers loved it. Another visual innovation to the catalogs that year was including product photographs mixed in with the incredibly detailed hand drawings. By 2003, the company had sixty-two catalogs available. These ranged in size from 35 to 72 pages each. The company's circulation had reached more than 60 million catalogs as well.

3. Keith and Bobbi originally created Sierra Trading Post to be a Nevada catalog company.

When the state of Nevada passed a tax which troubled Keith, he wrote to the Governor of Nevada, but received no reply. He and Bobbi decided to move the business. They toured in a motor home searching for a new site in the West. Their two top choices were narrowed down to either Cheyenne or Laramie. Cheyenne became the favored location after Keith was welcomed to the Capitol to meet with former Governor Mike Sullivan. Jack Crews, President of LEADS facilitated the discussion by taking Keith to the Capitol to meet Sullivan. It was a positive experience compared to Keith’s disappointment in Nevada. Sierra Trading Post ultimately started up in Cheyenne in 1992, with approximately 40 employees. By 2009, the number of employees at the Cheyenne headquarters had reached about 650 tech-savvy employees, with Internet sales of about $200 million per year.

4. Sierra’s entry into Cheyenne was supported by Cheyenne LEADS.

Cheyenne LEADS function is to serve Cheyenne and Laramie County as an economic development entity. The corporation is private and non-for-profit. Its funding comes primarily from members who pay dues. When potential expansion or relocation prospects consider the area, the corporation promotes it and works to facilitate relocation into the area. Together with community organizations and local government, LEADS endeavors to create area jobs and economic expansion in the area. Keith Richardson stated that the financial community in Cheyenne was more responsive and supportive than any other Sierra had found throughout the Western states. Sierra Trading Post’s facility was custom-built, and it cost the company less than rentals in Nevada. Sierra also found top quality transportation services with overall shipping charges priced at 20% less, which helped the company to thrive.

5. Sierra Trading Post was proud to sponsor Jason Aldean for Pandora’s Backroads event.

Pandora presented Jason Aldean for a live celebration in Nashville, Tennessee. Aldean is the Most Played Country Artist in the history of Pandora. Country music fans were invited to tune into Backroads, Pandora’s country music station to get ready for the free live music event held at Marathon Music Works in Nashville. Attendees of Backroads were treated with custom sponsor encounters and Sierra Trading Post was in the line-up of even sponsors. The event took place on November 27, 2018.

6. Sierra’s website led the way as one of the first catalog companies online.

The year was 1999 when arrived on the World Wide Web. The first sale logged took place in January.

7. Keith Richardson got involved with the outdoors when he was a young Cub Scout.

He’s spent plenty of his growing up and adult years hunting with friends and family. He always wanted to have a business dealing with the outdoors, but he never thought it would happen. He took a different career path studying accounting. He thought he would use his logical mind to create an accounting business.

8. Sierra joined Feeding America’s campaign in 2017.

Sierra Trading Post took donations at the registers of its in-store locations to help support the anti-hunger movement. Along with other companies owned by TJX, Sierra helped to provide families with more than 21 million meals that year.

9. Gary Imig, Sierra Trading Post Executive Vice President, provided written testimony to the U.S. Senate concerning Internet Taxation.

Imig’s testimony was presented to the Subcommittee on International Trade of the Committee on Finance. What he wrote was a description of Sierra Trading Post, Inc. as it existed in 2006. At that time the company planned to mail 60 million catalogs, and its website was averaging nearly 75,000 unique visitors every day. The company was ranked by Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide as having revenue which placed it as the 75th largest retail website. Imig testified that the company was a mid-range, very typical, small business, nevertheless. Imig’s testimony was specifically designed to help “protect and nurture” the industry of direct marketing. He noted that the economy of America became great by offering consumers creative and unique products. He included Sierra as a company that has paid attention to its customers, offered unique products, while continuing to collect and pay sales taxes in the states it operates, while also creating jobs in that state. Imig noted that Internet sales helps smaller businesses like Sierra to keep business open even during off-season sales months and reminded everyone involved that Sierra has continued to create jobs where doing so is difficult to do, having created 500 new jobs in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the 14 years it had been doing business there at the time of his testimonial letter.

10. Sierra has 21.8k followers on Instagram and 84k on Twitter

The company invites its customers to get to know the company “all over the social sphere”. The company is on Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, Tumblr, Pinterest, and it keeps a wildly adventurous blog with posts from outdoor adventurers of all kinds.

11. German Shorthaired Pointers provide pet therapy in Sierra offices.

The year was 1998 when employees got used to finding “a brown speckled stalker” hanging out in hopes of a nice treat. Sierra was clear to tell the curious that the dogs made for great office company, increasing employee productivity, reducing stress, and providing welcome diversion every now and again.

12. The Frontier Chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) got its start at Sierra Trading Company.

Visitors to the Sierra Trading Post store in Cheyenne, Wyoming are greeted by signs alerting guests to keep an eye out for German Shorthaired Pointers who might be using their designated crossings. The humorous signs are all along the curving road that leads to the company headquarters. It’s well known that the hunting dogs are part of Sierra’s company culture. It also points out the fact that the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association is, too. Keith and Bobbi decided in 1998 that they wanted to become part of the world of well-bred hunting dogs. They welcomed Greta from Washington to Cheyenne and began training and NAVHDA testing her. Her first litter of puppies was given to interested employees and their son on the condition that the puppies would participate in natural ability testing. Three dogs from Greta’s first litter competed in the versatile championship and this secured breeder’s awards for Keith and Bobbi in the NAVHDA Natural Ability and Utility Tests. The Richardson’s went on to join with Wyoming NAVHDA members to secure a location for its training and testing site, and the Frontier NAVHDA Chapter started officially in Spring 2003.

13. Keith and Bobbi are two of the top German Shorthaired Pointer breeders in the United States.

Keith and Bobbi own Prairie Wind Kennels. Their focus as breeders is to produce quality litters rather than large quantities of puppies. For this reason, they only breed one or two litters annually. They also breed to improve the German Shorthaired Pointer breed rather than to sell puppies for profit. Their puppies are bred to become National Level Competitors and their preference is that these puppies go to homes where their families engage in serious field trials. They take deposits in advance and most puppies are sold long before they are born. They breed their puppies to have sufficient stamina to compete in field trials which are hour-long competitions. Ultimately, they breed for characteristics which define the attitudes, run and range qualities which will produce All Age dogs. They believe that a true All Age dog can function with extreme speed and distance, spending an entire hour hunting for birds and making best decisions throughout their search to find and game and hold point until their handler finds them. Prairie Wind dogs are NGPDA National Championship Winners.

14. Sierra’s merchandise is a mix of blemished-but-curated and first-quality name brand items.

Keith has been reported to verify that Sierra doesn’t sell anything of marginal quality. Items that are flawed are so slightly imperfect that most customers cannot find the expected flaw once their merchandise arrives. Keith has also reported that when top-drawer manufacturers’ items are sold, certain labels can be quite picky about making certain that their brand names don’t show up on their imperfect products. For that reason, Sierra removes the labels from those items. Sierra also tells customers clearly what kind of merchandise is being sold, using descriptions such as “always first quality” to explain close-out and overstock items, and “cosmetic blemishes or irregular” to explain items which would be called “seconds” in other stores.

15. Sierra’s YouTube site includes a wide range of videos about outdoor pursuits.

There are workouts, fitness tips, information for climbers and runners, selecting and caring for outdoor gear, recipes and tips for making camping or backpacking meals, how to stake tents on rocky ground, how to fix broken zippers away from home, and everything from pointers on drying out soaked BIC lighters to camping with the family.

16. Sierra has a group of creative outdoor bloggers who share tips on the company website.

The blog categories include specialty articles written by outdoor experts in seven categories. Camping, Climbing, Fitness, Hiking, Kids, Lifestyle, and Water Sports are all covered with blogs filled with tips on everything any outdoor enthusiast might find useful or intriguing. A few examples include the best ways to choose training shoes, how to find the best fall foliage viewing in Wyoming State Parks, tips for how to fish standing up on paddle boards, learning three ways to purify water when outdoors, or how to choose a canoe. Sierra bloggers are a diverse bunch, ranging from Eagle Scouts to avid hikers, to the Public Information Officer for the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

17. Sierra celebrated 25 years in business in 2011.

The company continued their tradition of offering great deals on great products. Keith and Bobbi Richardson told YouTube viewers that they appreciated the many years of support their customers have given them. They said that Sierra began with a goal of offering the best brands and the best deals all in one place, and that is something they planned to offer over the years. Keith said that most of the items they carried were exclusive to their company because they had first chance to purchase them from their many vendors and nobody else carried the products. They noted that they were proud to be able to serve their customers successfully for so many years. Keith noted that they began with zero customers and had reached more than 3 million by their 25th year.

18. Sierra Trading Post sponsored the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra.

It was the 2012 season for the orchestra. The opening concert included Dvořák’s violin concerto, Liszt’s Les Préludes and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and the Overture to the opera, The Bartered Bride by Smetana. In the program’s Sponsor section, Keith Richardson wrote that Sierra had saved shoppers more than $3.5 billion off the regular retail pricing of products since the company had opening its doors.

19. Sierra opened the Fort Collins Technology Center in Colorado.

The grand opening took place on March 23, 2012 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new office, with its 4,700 square feet, was designed to be the place where investing in technology solutions would provide new and creative ways for customers to interact with the company and shop for products on the Internet. The brightest and best industry talent was hired to bring jobs to Fort Collins and focus the business on future technology needs.

20. Sierra was acquired in 2012 as one of the TJX Companies, Inc.

TJX Companies, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company with a rank of 85. By end of the 2017 year, the Company recorded revenues in excess of $35 billion. Along with Sierra Trading Post, the Company operates Homesense, HomeGoods, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx and their combined Marmaxx, Winners, and the online retail sites for T.J. Maxx and Sierra Trading Post. The Company operates in the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. There are more than 4,000 stores operating in these countries along with the 3 e-commerce sites. The Company has only had one year with sales decline. By 2017, the Company had enjoyed 22 consecutive years with sales increases and 21 years of consecutive dividend increases.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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