Jan Mönch has been working as a sports buyer for eight years now and for the last two of which, Jan has been heading up the buying division for Planet Sports. SOURCE has spoken with Jan to find out the method behind his buying strategies and he gives us insight into the ever-changing retail landscape.
How long have you been a buyer for Planet Sports and how did you end up in this position?
I joined the Planet Sports buying team two years ago. During the acquisition by the 21sportsgroup, functions changed a little bit, and now I am in the position as the hardgoods buyer for snowboarding, surf, skate, wake, wetsuits and protection for Planet Sports and for bike for 21run.com. Before this, I was a buyer for six years for another big sports retailer based in Munich.
Looking back at past seasons, what have been your biggest lessons on writing orders and selling products?
Looking back at eight years of sports buying experience, the biggest lesson is that everything is getting faster and more extreme. Trends are more short-lived: they are popping up more and more quickly and disappear much faster. At the same time, these trends are stronger; the volumes we can sell during single trends are getting higher. It’s a challenge to forecast the duration and possible volumes, without any sales experience on these new trends. Even the end of a trend is more a hard cut, than fading away. Often just cutting down the order in upcoming seasons is not enough. To be profitable is much more difficult, than in the past.
Talking figures, what have you learned from specific snowboard product categories in the last two years?
Thankfully snowboarding is a constant for us. We are growing in every main category; boards, bindings and boots. Of course we know that the snowboarding market is not growing. I think the main reason is that most of the big sports stores have disregarded or even given up on snowboarding in the last few years. We can benefit from this now.
The best performing brands and products are the ones with additional value. These are often small brands that don’t produce volumes like big brands such as Burton, but high average sales prices, resulting in higher sales per customer make them interesting to us. What’s terrifying is the lack of kids products. It’s well known that snowboarding has a serious shortage of young people. I hope that our sale figures are not representative for the whole sport in this sector.
Over the past years, have you changed your brand line-up and main brands?
We have scaled down the range of brands in most categories. Below the line, many small brands were not profitable. And we tried to avoid too many substitute products and comparable brands. As a result, we have more budget for new products and can guarantee better stock availability on top sellers.
What’s your process for finding new brands?
That varies: Magazines, tradeshows, discussions with customers, colleagues, friends, industry and “being on the mountain/in the water”. In recent years, online research has become more important; information about customers and their buying behaviour and interests may result in finding a new brand.
Which tradeshows do you attend, how important are they for your decision-making and how much product do you actually get to test before buying?
For me as a hardgoods buyer, ISPO and the Shop’s1stTry are important for our winter categories. The softgoods and shoe buyers also go to fashion tradeshows in Berlin. In order to get a better idea about real innovations, I visit additional tradeshows like the Outdoor show and this year I have been to PaddleExpo. Testing products is still very important and I enjoy it. I test about 20 Snowboards every Season. Not in order to find the best product, it’s more to check if all these innovations work or if they are only a marketing story.
American action sports retail has been through a tough few months – do you see this dripping into the European market? What can you do to safeguard against it?
We noticed a slight shift from retail to online in previous months – but nothing alarming. For sure, the purchase behaviour is changing. Mobile possibilities grant easier and faster access to products for the customers. A masterplan to safeguard against this situation does not exist for anybody. The challenge is to adapt to these changes. Being part of the 21sportsgroup will help PlanetSport a lot for being prepared for the future.