Low-economy, LGBTQ+, and people of color are often removed from the conversation of outdoor clothing and mass market gear companies. The upper class is often targeted in advertising campaigns, focusing on consumers’ need for top performance and fashionable innovation. AT Eugene Gear Traders, with two locations both located on West 5th Avenue, there’s no need to worry about affording a backpack or multi-terrain shoes. This business has all items used, and it uses a consignment agreement that allows someone who donates items to get a percentage of the sale price once it’s sold. All items in the store are half their original price because they have been lightly used or are out of season.
One of the stores pmainly sells equipment such as bicycles, personal watercraft and hiking equipment while the other sells clothing ranging from flannels to fleeces. The stores create spaces that mimic a mountain lodge with wood-paneled floors and walls. The most recent location, which open in December 2021, has a comfortable sofa for those waiting for their friends while they try on clothes.
Bevin Helm, owner of Eugene Gear Traders, said every decision she makes in the store is based on “living sustainability”. Helm thinks if everyone can reuse something, it would be the best decision for the planet. She said retail makes people feel better about themselves, but the consequences of buying fast fashion can lead to cheap clothes going to landfills and online retailers refusing to refund customers. Helm’s Consignment Shop uses social media to reach a wider audience.
“The whole outdoor industry is relatively new in the way it’s become,” Helm said. “The industry really started in the Northwest, and generally people who live in urban areas don’t have a connection to the outdoors where they can practice a healthy mindset.”
According to a United States Forest Service report, there is a barrier to experiencing leisure activities such as camping, hiking, or surfing. The government study found that black and Latino communities are more constrained than white people because they have less time for entertainment, inadequate outdoor information and consistently feel unwelcome in public parks.
Helm said Gear Traders supports all types of people in their outdoor pursuits. She believes there is an adjustment for populations that were not raised outdoors to interact positively with nature. She also sees the stigma of the outdoors as historically refusing to support a budget conscious person. Product prices are high because the materials are meant to last a long time and are durable in all weather conditions, Helm said.
Jackets in Gore-Tex cost around $600 as they are designed to repel water and perform as advertised. Helm thinks people should look for less expensive products that still perform the same function or style that they are looking for.
Helm opened the first store in March 2020 in Eugene after living and working in ski and bike shops in Bend, Oregon, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She noticed that Eugene was a centralized location for year-round multi-sport activities, but was absent from the consignment business model. The consignment form works by creating an account with the store and negotiating whether to donate an item, allow the store to set a price, or allow the customer to set the price. The consignment period lasts four months and if a product is not sold, it is considered a donated item.
“Our pricing margins are based on the selling price of the product, and that’s always on a slightly lower scale,” Helm said. “If a product is under $100, we take 60% and return 40% of the sale, between $100 and $200 it’s 50% and anything over $300 goes 70% to the co-signer. We take more margin because it’s the only way to keep the lights on here.
Madison Paschal, a sophomore in education at Lane Community College and sales associate at Eugene Gear Traders, is Helm’s niece, and she has worked at Gear Traders since October 2021. As a native of Eugene, Paschal said that ‘to love the Earth’ is how she was raised. Paschal considers the consignment process to be efficient because items can be properly checked for quality control.
“Equipment is so expensive in general because it’s supposed to last, and because it’s supposed to last, it ends up sitting on people’s shelves for years,” Paschal said. “This place is really cool because people can contribute that, and the community benefits because they can either make a profit or buy products at a bargain price.”
Eugene Gear Traders is an opportunity for students or anyone interested in the outdoors to purchase gear for their next ski trip or kayaking adventure.
Eugene Gear Traders is located at 233 W 5th Avenue and 505 Willamette Street. The stores are about two blocks from each other. Both stores are open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.