Backcountry.com is one of the leading online companies in the world when it comes to “extreme sport” equipment, clothing and accessories, and it is proud to call Christiansburg home.
The company already had one distribution and fulfillment center in Utah, but wanted to cut down shipping time elsewhere. Thus, the search began for an East Coast location in order to reach more “Gearheads.”
In 2012, the company opened a $20 million, 326,000 square foot facility on a 46-acre site of the Falling Branch Industrial Park. At the time, Backcountry.com officials said their relationship with United Parcel Service (UPS) help to single out the Commonwealth as the place to locate the new East Coast operations.
After visiting the UPS site in Roanoke, the company’s search then narrowed to the New River Valley and the final choice was Christiansburg.
The location’s proximity to the Interstate both north and south, along with nearby I-77, played a major role in the final decision.
Marit Fischer, a company communications manager at the time, said it was the state and county’s commitment to economic development and the (incentive) package they put together that made the decision even easier.
The package included $2.3 million from the town, Montgomery County’s Economic Development Authority and the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.
Virginia and the NRV beat out sites in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, and the rest is history as the company quickly hired over 200 employees. That number has remained steady, and during peak times, many temporary individuals are brought in to help cover the demand.
Backcountry.com got started in 1996 in a Utah garage with two guys and a stack of avalanche beacons. From there, the company blossomed and opened its first distribution center in Park City, Utah. Now, it is considered the premier online specialty retailer for outdoor gear ranging from hiking and camping to paddling and biking.
The Backcountry.com family includes CompetitiveCyclist.com, MotoSport.com, Bergfreunde.de and SteepandCheap.com. While the company does have any physical stores, it boasts the inventory of more than a 1,000 different brands of merchandise. Those companies include clothing from brand names like North Face, Oakley, Rossignol, Marmot and Patagonia. There’s gear for backpacking, camping, running, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, kayaking, biking, skateboarding, surfing and now ATV-ing
During a recent tour of the facility, Backcountry.com supervisors pointed to the shelf after shelf of ATV tires.
MotoSport includes “throttle-powered” gear with OEM replacements, parts, helmets, jackets and accessories. Berfreunde.de is headquartered in one of Germany’s hottest climbing spots and includes outdoor gear and clothing. Steep&cheap is just what is says with quality deals for outdoor enthusiasts who don’t have a lot of cash to burn, while Competive Cyclist is the world’s source for pro-caliber cycling gear and clothing.
Backcountry.com is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation that also owns the QVC Network, STARS (a distributor of TV programming), Sirius XM Radio and Expedia (online travel service.)
The “quick turnaround” is also a factor supervisors are proud of and the main reason for the east coast location. In most cases, the delivery is less than 24 hours.
Mike Miller is the Fulfillment Center Director and said it has been a great addition for the company. He sees continued growth for the company who is continuing to make upgrades to make it more efficient. That includes a CVP-500 Box machine that takes sheets of cardboard and cuts it to the size needed for each and every individual product sent out.
The company has also designed and installed its own auto bagger machine, which also makes shipping more efficient. Over three-quarters of the facility is lined with shelves 35-foot high. A magical maze exists in the building that employees transverse to find stocked products.
On average 1,800 to 2,000 packages leave the facility on a daily basis. Of course, those numbers see spikes like other online companies including, a January where there was a spike of 5,000 to 7,000 packages a day. At the top level, the site has seen numbers peak to 35,000 to 40,000 packages a day this past January. On Cyber Monday (the Black Friday of online), that number was an estimated 54,700 packages.
Employment at Backcountry.com includes a robust benefit package and a heavy involvement in the community. Individuals have helped with local wellness competitions, Renew the New and the Hospice Hike at Claytor Lake.
One of the biggest bonuses for employees is the “use the gear we sell” program who have the opportunity not only for amazing discounts on the products but also the chance to use the products and bring them back.
A gear closet is available so employees can fuel their passion for new things before buying it.
The future is bright for Backcountry.com and Miller believes that could include some expansion here in the New River Valley, where it now calls home.