80 Years 80 Reasons

Kittery Trading Post has been successful for eight decades.

There’s a reason Kittery Trading Post, the iconic everything-for-the-outdoors store located conveniently right off our Route 95 on the New Hampshire-Maine border — no one heading up north from Massachusetts skips stopping in for gear — has been an industry standard for 80 years.

Actually, there are 80 reasons for its success. And we found them, thanks to an internal contest prompted by this story and coordinated by Kittery’s senior VP Dave Labbe. The executive, who is also chairman of the National Sporting Goods Association, asked the company’s 370 employees to help explain its success in a crowded, hyper-competitive retail market.

Labbe has seen the drastic changes in outdoor retailing in the past three decades and is particularly proud that Kittery Trading Post has stuck to its roots — doing what it does best, which is providing everything for the outdoors in a unique, family- and customer-friendly environment. KTP has survived and thrived by adapting to the changing retail environment.

“In my 32 years in the outdoor retail industry, besides the consolidations of both retailers and manufacturers, bankruptcies and the disappearance of the independent retailer, the real change to the industry is competition from manufacturers selling direct to consumers,” Labbe says. “Online sales by companies without a brick-and-mortar retail format and the over-saturation of products manufactured outside the United States and distributed to big-box stores has lowered both the quality and price point of specialty outdoor products.

“But one thing that will never change in outdoor retailing is the need for great customer service,” he adds. “Provide it and you will survive, like us for 80 years and going strong.”The 100,000-square-foot Kittery Trading Post retail store in Kittery, ME, has been celebrating its anniversary all year with a host of special events commemorating its history and growth from a small local retailer to a national reputation built on an incredible array of well-known and obscure outdoor brands, great vendor relations, a commitment to its core values and a laser-like focus on its customer base.

Finding 80 reasons why KTP has been successful for 80 years was easy — limiting it to just 80 was the hard part. Employees’ reasons for KTP’s continued success range from the expected – great customer service and product selection – to the out-of-the ordinary – fishing and hunting licenses and fudge – to the downright obscure — lobsters and dog treats among them.

We guess we will just have to do this again in 20 years for its centennial celebration. Here, in no particular order, and in the words of KTP employees themselves, are 80 reasons why Kittery Trading Post remains a leading outdoor specialty retailer eight decades after its founding.

80 Reasons

1. Nice People. “Genuinely helpful and friendly staff that enjoy helping customers.” Luke Conroy
2. A Foody Heaven. “Fudge, nuts and now lobsters.” Lisa McKinley
3. One Big Family. “A family run business that prides itself on great customer service and treats employees like family.” Kimberly Donnell
4. Bulls-Eye. “All of my kids and now my grandkids call KTP the bulls-eye store. When we pass the bulls-eye store, they know they are almost home.” Tracey Deon
5. Hi, My Name Is. “All of the associates wear first-name badges because we believe in personal service; we want you to get to know us because we know you’ll be back.” Jon Nash
6. Summer Loving. “Deals in the tent all summer long. Sweet!” Kristin Broadrick
7. Benefits. “Great benefits for the employees.” Lisa McKinley
8. Big Stuffed Animals. “Have you visited and looked for all the taxidermy? We have some wonderful specimens on display that are interesting for both kids and adults. Directions are regularly given with reference to a moose: ‘Where might I find a dressing room?’ ‘To the right of the moose.’” Kristin Broadrick
9. Family. “It is a family business and the family is still here. They are not locked up in some office, they are out where you can see them, working, having opinions, making a difference. They know our names.” Kristin Broadrick
10. By Chance. “We aren’t afraid to take some chances and try some new things. Retail is ever-changing” Lisa McKinley
11. License Place. “You can get your fishing and hunting licenses here on your way to camp.” Kristin Broadrick
12. Sweet! “A fabulous selection of candy that is sure to please.” Kristin Broadrick
13. Woof. “A great dog department.” Kristin Broadrick
14. Get On The Water. “A place to try out canoes and kayaks.” George Hockhousen
15. Boat Browse. “There’s a two-story boat yard right in the store in which customers are always free to browse our extensive inventory.” Jon Nash
16. Animals Everywhere. “Animals are a welcome part of many KTP experiences — Septemberfest pony rides and the petting zoo, November hay rides, raptor shows, seminars with wildlife saved by rehabilitation are just some examples.” Jon Nash
17. Charity. “Being a stop for Wreaths Across America, a Maine tradition that honors veterans and the holiday season.” Jon Nash
18. Biggie Small. “Best of both words — a small shop feel with large shop selection.” Lisa McKinley
19. Happy Holidays. “Boxes for your holiday shopping and live music while you are shopping.“ Kristin Broadrick
20. Fit Me! “Buy a backpack and have it fit properly in the camping department. That makes for a much better hike.” Kristin Broadrick