Northwest River Supplies, Paddlesports Equipment Guide

Sep 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

‘Boy, this is attention-getting,” says one judge in reference to the cover of the 25th Anniversary edition of the Northwest River Supplies (NRS) Paddlesports Equipment Guide. “It’s definitely a great visual,” agrees another. But still another is not as impressed with the bright orange twilight scene of a rafter alone on a river. “It looks like a color photocopy,” the panelist argues. “The idea is beautiful, but the execution just doesn’t convey the message to me.”

The judges do agree, however, that inside this compendium of supplies for rafting, canoeing, and kayaking, the Silver Award-winning sporting goods cataloger grabs customers’ interest-and keeps it. The experience begins with the opening spread, where the company tells its story, thanks its customers for the past 25 years by offering them several discounts, lists its services, and prints its table of contents. Then, from page 4 on, it’s just equipment, equipment, equipment. “Eighty pages of gear! Enough said,” raves one judge in regard to NRS’s merchandising efforts. Moreover, all the water sports equipment is neatly categorized into sections, such as inflatables, oars and raft paddles, repair equipment, camping gear, rescue equipment, life jackets, and outdoor apparel.

Design is well done, too, “with a nice mix of lifestyle and product photography, and good flow throughout,” one judge notes. And although one panelist feels the overall look of the catalog is too “amateurish,” others believe the presentation is quite appropriate for the target outdoor enthusiast audience. “It’s easy to use, and customers should relate well to the action shots,” one judge comments.

Throughout its catalog, NRS has a flair for benefit-oriented, descriptive copy, as in this description of AIRE Lynx kayaks: “These kayaks feature fast hull speed and quick response. Their unique design makes them light and maneuverable.” Or this, for the NRS Rodeo Shorts: “Our crew loves these tough but comfortable shorts for their paddling escapades. High back design and natural curve will keep you covered and protected all the way around.”

But NRS needs to improve its service policies, the panelists agree. “Customer service is very basic. NRS doesn’t even seem to have a guarantee or returns policy or a service number,” one says. And another notes that there’s no 800-number printed on the back cover-”a no-no.”