Burton Revamps But The Sky is NOT Falling….Yet!

Everyone out there with an internet connection knows about the Burton announcement today so lets just skip over that part and get down to pointing fingers and making claims.

First and foremost… If you didn’t see this coming you are not paying attention Angry and I have been surmising this exact day for a year or so in our late night chat sessions (which by the way I always remained fully clothed for but I can not vouch for the depravity on his end of the connection). I mean I’m not trying to be all like “we know shit you don’t know” but we know shit you don’t know. Mostly because we talk, listen, and observe the dealings behind the scenes of the industry. We compare notes,
actions, and rumors and can generally get a feel for what’s going on. Over the last few seasons Burton has gutted the Forum Brand. Very few employees are actually devoted exclusively to the brand. Much of the work is “shared” by Burton staff. That’s a bad sign.

Burton/Forum has been unwilling to spend large amounts of dollars to retain high profile riders for the Forum brand. Case in point Jake Blauvelt, a big mtn rider in his earning and riding prime. This is the sort of rider that Forum should have fought to retain but instead he was allowed to move on to bigger and better sponsors. Another example John Jackson, his movement from Forum to Burton was a humongous red flag that something wasn’t right on the Forum front.

Burton/Forum has been slow to move riders up the ladder so to speak. Cam Pierce should have been pro two years ago and Austin Sweetin could easily be pro as well for another company. Not wanting to promote riders to a better pay grade is a red flag that there’s no money to be spent or at least no willingness to spend the money they have.

Second… This isn’t Burton’s “fault” or a case of them “killing” the sport. You know me I’m no fan boy of the big B but seeing everyone piss and moan about boycotting Burton is pretty ludicrous. First of all remember Burton acquired Forum eight years ago to prevent it from being sold off to same lame investment group. They did what they could and they obviously dumped a ton of money and effort into the brand. The brand was dead or dying when they bought it. Too bad for everyone involved that it
didn’t work out better but hey shit happens and that brings me to…

Three… This is not the end of the world, companies come and go all the time. I was in Milo just yesterday hanging out in the back as some of the guys were cleaning the base grinder. On the wall is a promo poster for the 2000 release of Kingpins Destroyer (one of my all time favorites by the way). Here are some of the marquee sponsors… Dub Clothing, Morrow Snowboards, Drake, Rossignal Snowboards, M3 Snowboards, yeah you get the picture. Relevant brands come and go, it is the nature of the industry (I think Rossi has come and gone five times). Does it suck to see a brand with the history of Forum fall away? Damn right it does but it also sucked to see Rev go, see Kingpin go, Mack Dawg, Sims etc etc you get the point. Every dog has its day and if you are lucky and I mean real fucking lucky you at least get to go out with some dignity and not get bought sold and bastardized five times over and become a basement brand at Big 5 and a mere shell of your former glory. Lets all hope Forum is put to rest because I don’t think any of us want to see them at Big 5.

So now what? Well I guess that remains to be seen, but there has to be winners and losers. Honestly
I think Cam Pierce comes out ahead here. He should already be pro and this should give him the push he needs to go on to bigger things. Austin is probably in that same boat. I think Jake Welch is fucked, three or four injury plagued seasons in what should have been his prime is going to hurt his marketability even though his part last year was banger. Pat Moore has more left in him but I don’t know if a company will pay big bucks to get him or what as he is certainly well into “veteran” status. I think Wiig is in a netherland not too old but old and injury prone he may have trouble getting big money sponsorship at least stateside and the same goes for Sauve and Ek. I’m not sure if they are
marketable enough stateside (although both are good and in their prime). Sauve should find a home with all the other Qeubec kids somewhere. Stevie will get picked up no problem hes got a great presence for any brand.

So in the end what does all of this tell us? First it should show you how amazingly fragile this industry is. You mix a downturned economy with one, just one, bad winter (remember 10/11 was record setting) and it is a recipe for disaster. There are a few big named brands out there hanging by a thread. If you don’t want to see even more brands go under you better hope to god it decides to
snow this year.

Second if you know me you know where I’m going to take this. This all comes down to doing your part buying local. How the hell do I make that connection? Well let’s look. If the alpha male of the snowboarding world has to make cuts you know shit is in the toilet. Lets take a moment to remember the roots of the sport here. These fucking discount sites and “member” discount sites are destroying this industry. First of all you are talking the difference of 30, 40, maybe 50 bucks on a board because there are contracts in place that limit price slashing both in dollars and in time of year (remember voiding these contracts effectively sank Sierra). So instead of going into your local shop and looking at that new Destroyer then going home and buying for 30 dollars less why don’t you cough up the 30 bucks or AT LEAST see if your local spot will price match. NEWS FLASH if you support your local shop you will create a relationship with them and thus this sort thing is more likely to work in your favor. I know money is short these days but you have to look at the greater picture. I know as a kid this line of thinking is hard to follow but believe me this is where YOU save this industry or YOU destroy it. If you live somewhere where you don’t have a good local shop you know what online retail outlets are legit … shop at some of the great independent shops via their websites Exit, Eternal, Moda, Milo, Salty’s, Youth Shelter Supply you know who these people are support them if you
have no local source. By purchasing boards from them you can enable them to buy more from the companies which means the companies are more sound… you see the cycle here I hope. When you buy a board from a local shop it gives the shop confidence in the brand. Which will in turn cause the shop to continue to carry the brand and that will help the company that manufactures them, I know from experience talking to guys who run some of our shops that if a line doesn’t sell a good percentage of boards at full price it is usually not brought back in. Part of this is on the companies. They shouldn’t be over producing product that results in massive discounts at the end of the season or sell offs to these vulture discount sites. In companies defense most have already made this move and produce based on orders meaning that you are forced to buy earlier or face the possibility of not having product available at the end of the year. You as a consumer may find this unfair to your wallet but it is a direct result of consumers betting on overstock and not buying new. In short you made this bed now you’re lying in it.

Third point on this is I think we are seeing the end to the 10 brand companies. Burton with 10 sub brands each with its own identity etc etc this is too costly to perpetuate and is going away. You can also see this in skateboarding with the demise of Podium which ran Matix, Diamond, DVS, and Lakai (Lakai pulling out a year or so ago in a good move). This is just too much for these companies to try and fund. That’s fine a little streamlining never hurt anything. Well unless you’re Forum….

They call him the Alabama Slama, he's not allowed in the south anymore.

15 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Helluva write up Daniel. I won’t pretend to have the great insight that you and Avran have, BUT when Jackson moved I knew something was going down. Also, there really is nothing like forming a relationship with your local shop and more importantly supporting your local economy and the REAL snowboard industry.

  2. DoodooBrown says:

    Regarding team riders etc., do you think any of these guys actually make decent money from the board company? I don’t think the board sponsors pay a decent wage. unless you are Shaun, Terje, Travis etc. I would be shocked if Pat Moore made more than $30k a year from Forum (probably more like free travel and then a few thousand a month tops). Pros used to get a cut of pro model sales, but there are few pro models left. Most of these guys make money from their other sponsors I would guess, Redbull, Monster.. etc. You know, the companies that are making money hand over fist.

    Correct me if I am wrong. I have never seen a board sponsor contract.

  3. David Z says:

    Insofar as the discount sites deal predominately in past-season gear, I don’t think they’re necessarily destroying the industry you do mention the real problem is their excess capcity which they’ve been struggling to control the past few years ever since the economy took a nose dive back in like ’08. The real problem is that excess capacity — it’s like the automotive OEMs that can only be profitable if they can produce at full capacity, 16MM units a year running 3 shifts full time, there’s no scalability to it and even the slightest disruption to demand causes a shitstorm for their bottom line — as long as brands continue to produce more than they can possibly sell at full retail, these discount liquidators are a necessary evil.

    Otherwise I agree with pretty much all you said.

  4. Andrew says:

    Giveforumtopeter.com

  5. Pat Morgan says:

    nicely written… a shame, but life goes on.

  6. Kids struggling in college or just trying to replace a barebones lit get the free pass on the discount sites. If you’re some one looking to pick up a fourth pair of goggles you can go fuck yourself haha

  7. SilverSnowSurfer says:

    Great write up and well said. I have been an avid advocate for local shops, and cant agree with you more about your take on this. Being in the NW I see so much of this coming and going of companies and have in the 25+ years on the snow. Its sad to see some of the great ones go, and I too have had favorites come and go…and have been forced to move on. But I have learned that the local shop is the BEST place by far to help this industry, learn more about it, and make a real connection to the community that you ride with. I am blessed to have a local shop here in Portland, Sublimity Snow and Skate, owned by two of the most amazing and well informed people who have not only taught me about the industry and the brands, but also special ordered me product that I can stand behind not only because I believe in what they stand for but also because of the quality and dedication they have..and that bigger companies have lost sight of and/or overpriced because of name recognition. Because I stand by my local shop, and what they do, I have learned more about one of the most passionate things in my life, RIDING, and I thank them every year for that by volunteering my time and energy to help them at the Snowboard Show here every year.. all I have to say is = SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHOPS, and if you dont ride, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RIDER!! and lets help things evolve!

  8. Nasty James says:

    Great read. I’ve missed this sort of post on the site. One thing I’m actually looking forward to, or at least hoping will come of this move, is the companies that rise from it’s ashes. Riders have been displaced, designers, techs and sales people too. Some will go to burton, others will go elsewhere, but I’d bet we see at least two new brands as fallout from this move. The program brands had been stale for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean the people behind them didn’t have more to offer, they were just working within the confines of outdated brands, and with big brother over their shoulders to boot. You mentioned Kingpin. I loved their films. But If they never shuttered, we wouldn’t have had KidsKnow, and in turn no Videograss. Probably FODT too. Last time Burton shook up its team we ended up with Yes, Slash, Weekend, Bond, and probably a bunch more stuff that doesn’t come to mind. So while I feel awful for the people that have lost their jobs, I’m looking forward to what may come.
    And just an aside, you mentioned Pat Moore. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions, and I have to say I’ve never met a nicer, more enthusiastic and more dedicated snowboarder than him. He really has become one of the modern greats in our “sport.” And I believe he’ll have no problem going wherever he wants. But I would love to see him, out of everybody at the program, start something new. I’d bet some awesome stuff would come out of a brand with Pat at the helm. And I’m pretty sure if it happened, he’d run it out of NH. That would be great , as east coast could use some new life in the industry. Pat, if you need a hand shout me a holler ;)

  9. Kling says:

    Awesome article, insightful comments…am I at the right place?!?!

    Keep up the good work dudes.

  10. Jon says:

    Great write up..You couldn’t have said it any better. As a shop owner I can also testify that ourselves, as well as the industry as a whole, got our asses kicked last year. Your point about supporting shops is imperative to this industries survival. Of course industry success is largely driven by snowfall, but this is a great starting point. Nasty’s comment about companies/ideas coming out of the ashes of this is also very valid. Its evolution and some great things will come out of this…Quite frankly, Im glad Burton isnt going to be doing this any more. It was basically Burton anyways. Same old crappy warranty issues, weird minimums, etc. Its much better to see what could come out of this, than to have the B running a company like this. I was informed by a “friend” who worked a little with the program to put my dollars elsewhere this year. This has been in the works for awhile. I feel bad for anybody who has already bought any of the program stuff this year. I know as a shop owner, it would be really hard to push this stuff knowing that product support/warranty, etc. might not be there for the customer. ” Hey, check out this Destroyer…great board, but the company is going out of business” Thats a good selling point..Again, great write up.

  11. e says:

    Forum did great in europe, so most likely burton is trying to recover some units after they got beat up again this year & makes themselves stronger….they do have factories they have contracts with so that might have something to do with it as well.

    My first board was from Bike Factory in Washington, great owner, great crew & it really helped me in the beginning. My only shops by me are not this at all, they are chain stores & well why one is still decent it’s not the same thing. Its sad the brick & mortar is so tough. However, support the shops, but support the brands as well…brands getting beatin up as well, now days with terms to shops going over a year & only to have them ship stuff back to the brand cause it didn’t sell is tough. To go futher back, factories are really really get beatin up as well. The biggest board factory in the world has a real good chance of being done, imagine what will happen to those brands having to re-open molds & almost start over, another factory just got sold but will probably not last more than a year, other factories are down 30 to 40% in cases. Imagine how many excess boards are out there, its going to take a couple of years to dig out of this….so a Forum being done does suck but also is probably only the beginning for others to follow. Some how, all 3 parts(shop/brand/factory) need to work together better. Some of our most favorite brands have some serious issues.

  12. Jon says:

    Wow..i must be doing something wrong then…shipping boards back to the companies wasnt or never will be an option for us..that must be nice

  13. e says:

    Sending gear back if it doesn’t sell has been going on for over a decade….not by every shop. I personally don’t like it. I remember when I worked for a small brand, we had some shops that were great to work with, we had others that returned whatever didn’t sell, which sucked since they were all scratched up & then we had some that just flat out didn’t pay us & either return it or still tried to sell it. It can all work, but a shop & brand need to work together & a brand/factory need to work together. But its really tough when people(chainstores/internet sites) have labor day sales with stuff 20-30% off, whats the shop down the street suppose to do. Glad to hear there are good shops out there, they should be supported.

  14. ODV says:

    well said

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