This past weekend the Northwest snowboard institution that was Snowboard Connection or SnoCon as it was also known shuttered its doors and turned off its website. 24 years of servicing the snowboarders of Seattle, gone over night. As per usual in instances that traumatize the core of snowboarding; the statement of “another nail in the coffin of snowboarding” was uttured by many. That was followed up with the typical knee jerk reactions of ‘FUCK ONLINE‘ or something about how big box department stores are destroying the snowboarding culture by those that feel slighted by this stores demise.
Yet after the initial rallying of everyone that felt compelled to voice their opinion, there is no answer to the problem of the shrinking world of snowboarding retail or the core culture. In fact everyone will go back to doing things exactly how they have done them as the ship keeps on sinking. Nothing is going to change because people are content to bury their head in the sand to ignore the bigger problems. Is it sad that people or most notably the snowboard industry is so apathetic to actually address the changing times and the demise of a cornerstone of the culture? From my perspective, damn right it is! Does this make you angry? Good that means you’re still alive and haven’t gone extinct yet.
Social Darwinism is defined as a theory that inherent dynamic forces allow only the fittest persons or organizations to prosper in a competitive environment or situation. We’re experiencing this first hand and much like the Dodo certain aspects of snowboarding are going to go extinct because of their failure to adapt.
Change is hard to accept especially when a certain model has worked for so long. The snowboarding industry especially hates change. You see it in interviews, like this one from Videograsses Justin Meyer where he said, “You can’t be nostalgic with a web video or just video part, it’s better if it has a physical place to live. What I’d rather see is special content that has meaning- that contributes to snowboarding.” Who says you can’t be nostalgic on a web part? A kid can’t download this to his phone or tablet and watch it every day as he gets ready to ride? Any content that gets someone stoked on snowboarding contributes to the over all health of it, but what makes content special? We’re in an age when anyone could theoretically create ‘special’ content. Maybe the bigger issues is the distribution models of this content as well as the fact every notable website has become part of the problem due to regurgitating the same content, of which I too am part of the problem.
This thinking is what is causing the demise of snowboarding, there’s a complete lack of thinking outside the box or looking towards the future of digital trends. Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, and Amazon Fire should have snowboard movies on them. Or at least more than Art of Flight, Naturally, Horgasm, That’s It That’s All, and True To This (All are available currently on Netflix). After you’ve done your run of DVD’s and iTunes digital downloads why wouldn’t you put the movies on there? Look at that user base, those are the people that keep snowboarding alive not this belief that the “core” community does. Stoke those people out, sell them on the lifestyle of snowboarding so it doesn’t become this regimented sport of coaches, snowboard parents, and mainstream consumerism. Let them know there is far more to it than quadruple corks and half pipes.
The other dangerous way of thinking is that there is blame to be put on the consumer, why? What did they do? Why should they be shamed to shop at only certain locations? It’s called capitalism and they have the right to buy from wherever they want. If that means sitting around on their tablet in their underwear ordering a jacket so be it. Snowboarding isn’t cheap and just because they wanted to save a few bucks they should be shamed for that?
Back to the point of brick and mortar snowboard shops what can be said that hasn’t been said before? It seems that regardless of what people say no one pays attention to it which creates the the whirlpool of complacency where nothing ever changes. Do shops need to embrace online? Definitely, it should be a complimentary story to their already existent physical location. What they should be offering though is the ability to send product to people that come into the store and it wasn’t available, ‘oh here let us try and order that for you and ship it directly to you’. On top of that an aggressive social media campaign needs to be invested in. This is single handily one of the greatest tools of our time if you’re not creating daily posts as well as original shop only content via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter you’re blowing it. Maybe it’s time to partner with an established website or create content that can be sent out to websites in hopes of creating interest in your shop. Engage your consumer base, let them know who you are and what you do.
Is your local shop carrying all the same brands you can find cheaper online? Why? Are they a great showroom for trying something on you’ll buy online? They realistically need to be carrying smaller brands to compliment the big ones so people aren’t doing this. Don’t rely on what has worked in the past the times are very different, adapt or die!
Sadly I don’t have all the answers, but I at least can see with the way things are going that the core communities culture is drastically in danger. Don’t believe me? Then lets look at this prime example of what is currently happening in snowboarding. We have brick and mortar shops dying because of Internet sales, this means that the big box stores and online sites are the ones thriving, yet on the horizon there is the looming direct sales market which brands are embracing. Lets look at the biggest brand in the industry, Burton. They’re doing just that and doing it well. Don’t like that they have flagship stores popping up in major metropolitan areas. There’s a reason for it, as it’s direct sales in both the physical capacity as well as allowing them to have a showroom for those that will buy online. If you or your shop sells a companies product that sells direct in your area or in general you should drop them, why? Because guess what you are nothing more than a show room to them at this point for their emerging direct sales market. Make them rethink their direct sales approach, prove to them that they should invest in supporting you!
Does this article make you mad? Good, maybe instead of sitting around and regurgitating the same anthem of ‘shop local, buy small brands, and support the core’ you’ll think of a better way to fix the future. Rather than just click like on the Facebook button you’ll actually share it. Perhaps you’ll actually leave a comment on what is working for you and why it’s working so others can learn. Hell, maybe you’ll tell me to fuck off for writing this because you don’t want things to change. Each are all options for you, but as long as it gets you to think and react maybe then it’s doing more than just regurgitation the same level of apathetic mediocrity that seems to have festered in the belly of this community we call snowboarding.