Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, with the help of The North Face, is taking a step toward a paper-free future by encouraging and subsidizing a membership shift away from use of the paper “workbook,” the ubiquitous outdoor industry sales tool.

By supporting a membership change from paper workbooks to PDF presentations displayed on a digital tablet, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance is embracing the opportunity to create long-term savings, eliminate waste, and improve the sales process for their retail members and vendor partners.

To broaden and quicken adoption of the practice, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance launched a $20,000 technology grant in early 2019 – supported with a $10,000 contribution from vendor partner The North Face – to offset the cost of member retailers acquiring needed digital tools for the changeover.

The grant program was immediately embraced by Grassroots members, supporting the changeover for nearly half of the association’s retailers. Additional partners are being sought by Grassroots to support the goal of complete adoption.

“In a few years, we’re going to look back at paper workbooks the same way we look at phone books,” said Rich Hill, president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. “With a digital PDF presentation, the working process of the industry remains virtually the same, the efficiency of the sales relationship vastly improves, and we’re able to eliminate thousands of pounds of unnecessary paper waste a year.”

In the outdoor industry, annual workbook budget estimates range between $15,000 and $250,000, based on numerous factors including company size, number of seasons, number of catalogs printed, number of dealers, photography and collateral created, employee resources and more.

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance efforts to shift to digital presentations were directly inspired by vendor partner The North Face, which has been evolving toward an all-digital sales process for more than five years. In November of 2018, the company took the final step with a complete commitment to digital workbooks and assortments during the Grassroots Connect show.

“The moment of truth for us was definitely Grassroots Connect. That show has a high pace of appointments, a large turnover of people in the booth, and everybody who comes through needs to efficiently edit, save and upload notes from their meetings,” said Pat Duca, national specialty sales manager for The North Face. “As daunting as the changeover initially sounded, the whole thing was a success because the tool itself is really streamlined, simple and easy to use.”

Duca, along with Patrick Fitzmaurice, The North Face senior sales planning manager, were the primary drivers of the changeover. They explained that their back-end software system — PlumRiver Technology’s Elastic Suite — has a few custom twists. Utilizing Elastic Suite allowed The North Face to include features like the ability to notate and rate products, easily create line assortments, account for real-time product color/style changes, stay abreast of pricing fluctuations, allow for sales segmentation, manage overall product curation; and create a more strategic product mix.

However, while process efficiency was key to the success of the program for The North Face, the real boon was the simplicity of the retailer interface — which is essentially an editable PDF displayed on a tablet, with an Apple Pencil for quick detail work.

“By choosing to move to a simple and basic tool instead of a proprietary system, the door is open for others to adopt a similar system and for the broader industry to step forward,” said Hill.

For Grassroots Outdoor Alliance vendor partners who are interested in participating in the changeover process and upcoming technology grants, please send a message to