Buyer Science: Tobias Andersson Explains The Theory Behind His Buying Decisions

A legend within the UK snowboarding industry, Tobias Andersson has been working at UK online retailer Surfdome for seven years now where he’s currently the man responsible for snowboard (and skate) buying. For our first snowboard issue of the 17/18 winter, we sat down with Tobias, who originally from Sweden, has lived in his adopted home of England almost 20 years now and knows a thing or two about snowboard retail…

Tobias Andersson

Tobias Andersson

How long have you been a snowboard/skateboard buyer for Surfdome and how did you end up in this position?
It’s just gone past the seven-year mark now working at Surfdome. I wanted to move from bricks ‘n’ mortar towards the online part of retail. Surfdome was hiring and it all went on from there really.

Looking at sales figures, what have you learned from specific snowboarding product categories in the last two years?
Everything goes in cycles and you just have to do your best to predict or react to them. We still have growth in all product categories for snowboarding but this is not necessarily due to snowboarding growing as a sport and more to do with less competition. For us the last two years has seen growth or a stable sales curve across all snowboard/snow categories and long may that continue!

If you could ask brands for support – what would it be for?
What I tend to ask for is access to all necessary info to place an order (line lists/price lists, catalogues) well ahead of deadline day. Time is always of the essence so the more time a brand can give me to pick my range and plan for the coming season the better. For marketing it’s normally better to just have an open dialogue on how to best push a certain brand, our marketing guys do a great job working closely with brands to the benefit of both sides for sure.

Over the past years, have you changed your brand line-up and main brands?
Brand line-up constantly evolves but yes we have made some changes, mainly reducing the brand count (and SKU count) a bit so we can work better and closer with the brands remaining. This is of course not just Surfdome but the snow industry as a whole seems to be on the same page with this one.

What’s your process for finding new brands?
No set process as such, I get influences and ideas as to what might work in our brand line up from various things. On-snow tests, tradeshows, social media, friends and just being aware of the products people around me (in the city or on the mountain) are using or buy into.

Do you have any advice to upcoming brands on how to be attractive to retail buyers?
Unless you are lucky enough to have a ground-breaking product that will pretty much sell itself you need to clearly state your case as to why I should buy your product instead of the more established equivalent brands. There always needs to be a good quality product to start it all off, but also something that makes them clearly stand out which is not always just the actual product.

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 snow it’s Avant Premiere, Shops 1st Try, Slide and ISPO. The first two are on-snow tests where I can try out pretty much all I would want, which is a huge help. Actually getting to ride and try product is key, without that my job would be very much harder – and less fun. Tradeshows (on-snow or not) are still hugely important for my decision-making and I can’t see that changing.

Could you give us a brief overview of what your deadlines look like for each category. How
have these changed over recent years?
Hahaha, yeah sure! Per product category they are pretty much bunched up in the same week. Clothing comes first, goggles/helmets after that and hardware shortly after that. Deadlines are earlier than previous years, which I don’t mind as such, it’s just that within the same product category they are all in the same week if not the same day! The workload and stress that comes with that sort of schedule would probably be horrible if you didn’t work with something you love, which luckily I do.

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