I’ve known Dave for a few years and he holds it down at the Jib Shop over in Pennsylvania. Working in a shop that has a major metropolitan area to draw from as well as a satelite store right by Seven Springs has given him an insightful look into the snowboard industry. Check out what he has to say regarding our industry.What difficulties are you experiencing with keeping your customers coming back to your store and not hunting around online?
The most difficult time for us is late season when online shops drop their prices pretty much down to cost. As a brick and mortar store we have a lot more costs associated with running our business than an online specific shop. We do what we can to price match, but sometimes customers find a price that is lower than what we paid for the item. The math just doesn’t add up, if you sell an item for less than you paid, clearly you aren’t making any money. On a counter point however, I think that a lot of our customers who come in are looking not specifically for the best price but more for the best value. As a storefront that people can actually come visit and speak face to face with a salesperson, I think we are able to make products more valuable to the customers. One of our shops is located at the base of the local mountain (7 Springs Mountain Resort) and our customers know that if they have any problems with the equipment, there is a place they can take it and know that they will be taken care of. All in all its a tough thing to manage, but I think that despite online shops being cheaper in the late season, we keep a pretty loyal customer base.
How relevant is social media like Facebook, blogging, and twitter for engaging your customers?
A lot of our customers are families that have been shopping at our stores for many years. Currently we don’t engage in much social networking so I can’t say it helps or hurts us very much. We do a bit of blogging about products and writing reviews but I don’t think it plays a very major role in our day to day sales.
If there was one brand you could bring in to your shop what would that be and why? Why haven’t you brought it in? How hard is it for a new brand to get itself into your shop?
The hardest part about bringing in a new brand is determining if a brand is hot because its popular at the time or if it is something that would be worth carrying for the long term. You build relationships with the sales reps of the brands you carry and from a business standpoint it doesn’t make sense to pick up a brand, carry it for two or three years and then drop it again until it picks back up. If there is something that I have learned over time it is that loyalty and relationships carry a lot of weight in this industry.
As for bringing in new brands there isn’t anything right now that I am dying to bring into the store. I think that the products we carry fit our consumers well and that we are doing a good job of meeting their demands. Sure there are brands that I would like to have just so that I would have access to pro-forms and be able to use their company’s gear but at the end of the day I don’t keep the store in business, our customers do and their needs are what have to be met.
Trends come and go, right now which one has the hardest sell? Which one would you say is the easiest?
Trends are inherently not that hard. Trendy items are those things that the customers come in asking for because its the new coolest thing, so I don’t find selling them all that difficult. Things I would consider to be trendy right now are reverse camber/rocker/banana and various brands each season. These are things that people come in asking for, whether the product is good or not, the brand makes a good product or not, people want it. Usually its due to magazine or online hype or a sales rep working their brand hard at the local mountain and events. Sometimes these products stay popular for a long time and sometimes they fall off the map within a season or two. I’m interested to see where the camber game goes, but I suppose I’ll get to that in an upcoming question.
How relevant is “being core” whether its you, your shop, or a brand in the grand scheme of snowboarding? Is it just an over used marketing ploy?
The whole concept of “core” to me is kind of funny. It all starts out with a small grassroots type brand that people want to support because they are “core.” Whether that means rider owned, or small, or that they put a lot of profits back into the local scene… it doesn’t matter, as long as its “core.” Well this brand starts to gain popularity because its group of supporters pushes the brand and creates a lot of hype around it. Well the brand gets bigger and it starts to look not so “core” anymore because they sold out and started earning profits. All of the sudden your small little “core” brand is one of the top 5 brands in the market, makes awesome product and the same kids start hating on it because they aren’t “core” anymore. Its dumb, just like people who stop listening to their favorite band because they “sold out.” I think people don’t understand that at the end of the day its still a business and you get into it with the idea of making a few bucks and hopefully putting a quality product on the market. God forbid you actually be successful at what you are doing and the supporters turn into haters.
I think that being “core” is a label that I hope I never have and that my shop never has. We do plenty to support the local mountain, local scene, and local events without being a “core” shop. I think that at the end of the day being considered a “core” shop puts you on a pedestal and at some point you will have to come down from it.
As a marketing ploy it just seems funny to me. Companies that turn some profit and are less “core” actually have the extra cash kicking around to put into R & D in order to build better products for the next season. They have the extra boards around to make sure they have a solid warranty department to handle any product issues they have. They can pay someone to answer your e-mails and ship orders within a day or so of their placement instead of waiting 2 weeks to get an answer to an e-mail and another 2 weeks to get a shipping confirmation. Now obviously this doesn’t apply to all smaller companies and I don’t think that the only people worth supporting are the bigger companies, I just think that the small companies and shops that concentrate all their efforts on being “core” are missing the point by a long shot.
Is reverse camber/ rocker the real deal or the greatest marketing ploy in the snowboard world?
My entire quiver is reverse camber and rocker in several of its different forms. Either its the real deal or I too have been douped by the greatest marketing ploy ever.
What do you feel is the biggest aspect with getting and keeping people in snowboarding?
From a shop standpoint I think that one of the biggest aspects is making sure that you are welcoming and helpful to anyone who comes into the store looking to learn about our sport and lifestyle. I have been into too many shops where the employees seem to cool to want to help people out. I can’t stand that, I think one of the best parts of my job is getting to talk to people from all walks of life about their involvement with snowboarding as a sport and culture. I had a guy come into the shop after winning a Yeungling snowboard at a bar, he had never ridden in his life but he wanted to learn so he bought boots and bindings and went out to ride. He was back 3 weeks later 100% hooked. He had his girlfriend and her daughter with him and bought them both full setups so they could some out and experience it with him. They had taken one lesson and both of them decided to get into riding as well. Had I brushed them off because they didn’t seem cool to me or didn’t look like they were good at riding, those guys might not have ever gotten into riding.
This continues on the mountain as well, I try not to be a dick to people on the hill who are learning how to ride. There are definitely limits to that when it comes to people going into parks well before they are ready to and don’t know anything about park etiquette. People get hurt badly because there is someone laying in the landing of a jump or the kickers onto rails are rutted out from people jumping off the sides of them. Its dangerous not only for the people who shouldn’t be there but for those of us who are riding the park and trying to avoid them. To sum it all up I try to be as supportive of new riders as possible whether its in the shop or on the hill. I think that new riders look up to the dudes on the mountain who are good riders and being dicks to them is just going to turn them off to the sport in general.
Which companies do you feel are really trying to get new riders to try snowboarding and keep them involved with their message/marketing?
I honestly don’t think there are many companies out there placing ads directed at new riders and I can’t say I blame them. Nobody wants to advertise a $299 board and a $110 boot in a magazine. You advertise some of your focal and top of the line products to get people interested. I think where companies are doing the most to get new riders involved are the ones who are incorporating high end tech into their lower end products to make them easier to ride. A big part of this is putting rocker/banana/reverse camber/convex bases on beginner and entry level boards. It makes turning easier and riding more fun helping these people spend more time on the hill having a good time as opposed to slamming their face off the snow and sitting in the bar all day.