Tracking the short, sad life of online outdoor retailers

Jan 6, 2001
Outside Magazine

THIS WAS THE dream: The Web would be the ultimate gear shop. It seemed like a good idea two years ago, when a glut of investment cash encouraged entrepreneurs to launch scores of Web-based "e-tailers"--such as,, and Many of these businesses spent heavily on advertising only to find their URLs forgotten by would-be customers overwhelmed with choices and longing to actually see, feel, and try on the goods they would trust with their very lives.

As dotcom losses mounted, investor confidence finally began to falter, and last fall the money evaporated like a Serengeti watering hole. It wasn't just swag sites, either. Webcaster called it quits at press time in mid-April, canning all but a handful of its remaining 220 staff. As the company reportedly prepared a bankruptcy filing, Nasdaq suspended trading of its stock (from a one-time high of $19, shares had dipped to 23 cents). Survivors remain, but the damage has been fast and furious. Below, a partial list of casualties, and an outlook for those still clicking along.
Launched: October 1998
Brands sold: Helly Hansen, Dynastar, Asolo, Dunlop, Wilson
Life span: 25 months

June 2000 dumps 20 people.

July 2000 announces it has raised $12 million from venture capitalists, and says it will spend the dough to expand its product offerings to more than 250,000 items.

Septeber 2000 The firm unloads another 22 people, slicing its original staff in half.

November 2000 Web wholesaler purchases's $14 million inventory and folds it into its sporting-goods department. employees receive a one-month bonus if they stay at Overstock through Christmas season.
Launched: August 1999
Brands sold: Patagonia, Black Diamond, The North Face
Life span: 12 months

June 2000 Company launches spinoff site. Weeks later, it cans 22 of 100 staffers.
Launched: January 2000
Brands sold: Adidas, New Balance, Shimano, Oakley
Life span: 12 months

December 1999 seals a ten-year, $120 million marketing deal with SportsLine, allowing MVP to link to SportsLine's Web pages.
January 2000 kicks off a $50 million marketing plan starring football legend John Elway and pros Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.
August 2000 buys for undisclosed sum.
November 2000 misses a $5 million payment owed to SportsLine. SportsLine dumps MVP.
December 2000 cuts its staff in half, slashing 79 jobs.
January 2001 unloads its domain names and customer database to SportsLine and turfs 36 staffers.
Launched: November 1998
Brands sold: Callaway, Nike, Columbia, Converse, K-Swiss
Life span: 25 months

May 2000 FogDog chairman Brett Allsop resigns. The firm cites "market conditions."
July 2000 FogDog president Tim Joyce resigns his reported $280,000-per-year position, citing personal reasons.
July 2000 The stock sinks below a dollar.
October 2000 The company reports losses of $8.5 million on revenues of $5.9 million. Stock sinks to 23 cents. Fogdog dismisses 20 staffers.
December 2000 FogDog cries uncle and sells itself to—which operates Web sites for sports retailers—for $38.4 million. Almost all of's 140 employees get sacked, save 25 engineers.
Launched: March 1999
Brands sold: Nike, Marmot, The North Face, Patagonia, Mountainsmith
Life span: 27 months and counting

April 2000 Atlanta-based Cox Interactive Media sells to for $10.5 million. The deal doubles's traffic.
June 2000 teams with National Geographic to create, a site offering virtual tours of the nation's most famous trails.
June 2000 inks agreement with, a network of 258 travel agencies.
October 2000 Gomez, a Web-site ratings firm, calls the number-one outdoor-enthusiast site on the Net.
November 2000 After six months on the job, Altrec president John Wyatt resigns--following 16 employees dismissed since September.
January 2001 As one of the last gear sites left standing, Altrec expects to be in the black by year-end. Development VP Shannon Stowell: "We're really pleased with how the market has shaken out." No kidding.  

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