Warehouse One are a large multi-boardsport retailer based in Düsseldorf, Germany but doing the lion’s share of their business online. After sharing some waves and good times with their retail manager, Mike at Adventure Parc Snowdonia (formerly known as Surf Snowdonia) during a recent K2 Snowboarding trip, we saw these guys know their stuff when it comes to brand and product selection. Warehouse One is the biggest wakeboard dealer in Europe and their watersports buyer Fabian Uhlig fills this issue’s Buyer Science slot.
Tell us about Warehouse One and the people behind it.
Warehouse One was founded in 1996. We’ve been in business for over 20 years now.
The founder worked as a windsurf teacher in Fuerteventura. I think this is the best background to start a surf shop business. Today he is addicted to every fun and trend sport – especially to watersports like kiteboarding and wakeboarding. Since our first steps, Warehouse One has been owner managed. About 10 years later the management team was expanded by the owner’s brother. He is also a watersports lover, like most people working at Warehouse One.
How much of your business is done online?
Since we only have one showroom in Düsseldorf, I would say the online business is the most important part. Often people place their order online and use the option to pick up the order at our showroom in Düsseldorf. And of course, sometimes they change their mind after talking to our trained employees. So the first purchase impulse was online.
What’s the breakdown in percentage between categories?
Surfing is always around but there are no big surf spots in Germany. It wasn’t that big of a deal until all these wave pools and stationary waves were built. River surfing is becoming more popular and a lot of Germans are addicted to surfing. ‘Van Life’ lifestyle is a big deal in Germany right now and, of course, they all want to live the surf life too. All brands that we have sold for more than two years are performing well, otherwise we wouldn’t offer these brands.
Looking back at past seasons, what have been your biggest lessons on writing orders and selling products?
When you offer this huge assortment like we do, you have to realise that every season has its own rules. Things that work for snowboarding do not automatically work for wakeboarding and vice versa. The Step-On bindings are a perfect example: Burton introduced the new Step-On binding system two years ago and it became a very big thing. Many people like to have the “new” kind of bindings. On the other hand, there was a new technology for wakeboard bindings introduced but this hype was not that big. Different sports mean different mindsets. Even if there is a person who rides snowboards and wakeboards, they think differently depending on the season they want to buy new stuff for. This is hard to calculate and you have to know your customers and all scenes and industries as best as you can.
What has sold well for you in summer 2019?
Over the last five years wakeboarding has been the favourite, but kiteboarding and stand up paddling are becoming more and more popular. And of course there are the classics like inline skates and longboards. A big surprise was the hype of Onewheels – an electronic board with one wheel that allows a surf feeling out of the water. It took some time but in 2019 the hype is real, and the community is growing.
We hear you do well in wakeboards…
This is absolutely correct. Wakeboarding is our main business during the summer season. In Germany you can find about 100 different wake parks and you can reach at least ten wake parks within an hour of our HQ. Germany is a pilgrimage for all wakeboarders. In our shop you will find all boards and bindings from the top wakeboard brands worldwide. It is the exact counterpart to snowboarding during the winter season.
How much of your business is domestically Vs internationally?
These days it’s hard to differentiate between domestic and international business. Of course we sell our products on eBay and Amazon parallel to our own online shop, so the international business is daily business. It also depends on the seasons and the different type of sports. Maybe you could say that our target group is the German-speaking area, and our customer group is international.
How has business been for you in recent years with fluctuations in currencies and trading tariffs? Are you finding it harder to buy from the US/Asia/Australia due to currency issues? What about Brexit – will this affect your business or the Eurozone in your opinion? Is there anything you can do to safeguard against future trade/currency issues?
Most companies we deal with and the brands we offer have sales departments in Germany or in the Euro-Zone. So, the problem of different currencies and trading tariffs are no big deal for us. The point which makes doing business with the US or other countries outside of Europe difficult are the different ways in which business is done. This is a thing you have to deal with, and as you can see it’s worked for the last 20 years – and it still does!
Of course, Brexit is a step back in all aspects – we do not have to talk about that. But I think nothing will change for our business. We do business with brands in the United States, in Asia etc. and everything works. So, after some time the business will go on as usual, just with some more aspects to take note of. I think it will be the same as purchasing items from Switzerland.