On snow demos can be hard work with so much choice and so many products to test in such little time. It’s these on snow demos that turn the theory into reality; you’ve heard the jargon from your sales rep, come the middle of January it’s time to strap in and test some snowboards.
If you’re reading this it means you’ve probably been to more board tests than you care to recall. In order to freshen things up a little SOURCE has spoken with some of Europe’s finest snowboard shops, event organisers from all three European on-snow snowboard demos and SOURCE’s very own in-house snowboard testers to allow you to see how your practices shape up when compared to theirs. By Harry Mitchell Thompson.
Please note, this is an old Retailer Help article from SOURCE issue 79 (December/January 2015/2016). While some of the context is dated, the theories and advice is still current.
MAKE A PLAN
All panel members agreed that the most important thing is to make a plan. This might seem like common sense, but entering an on-snow demo all guns blazing is a recipe for disaster.
If it’s dumped the night before a day of testing, all those around you will be losing their head, but a good check of the weather forecast before leaving home will mean you’re expecting it, and have planned accordingly. However, as you’ll already know, you need to make sure to get to the test centres early after snowfall. You’ll want to take out something to keep your nose above sea level, but pow-specific sleds disappear early and don’t often return until all the fluffy white stuff has been rinsed.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Don’t just make use of your sales reps at the demo, they’ll be keen as mustard to talk you through next year’s line before you get there. Tom from Zero G in Chamonix (now working for Nidecker) likes to get dialled in early: “We see a steady stream of pro riders passing through in early season, or industry heads who are stopping by town for their sales meetings in the autumn. We talk to these guys, we keep eyes on the blogs and key Instagram accounts and by the time Avant Premiere rolls around we have a pretty solid idea of what is exciting us and what we want to check out.”
Chris Shannon from TSA in the UK is of the same mind: “We’ll have already seen ranges prior to testing so you have a general idea of what’s interesting and what you want to ride.” So, now you’ve done your research it’s time to start playing the numbers game – how much of your buy do you allocate to new shapes?
You’re never going to know everything that will be at the show before you go, so be prepared for some little gems that’ll catch your eye at the demo.
Each retailer asked differs in the percentage of their snowboard buy they allow for new shapes, with Tom at Zero G plumbing for 20%, Ridersheaven in Germany at 25% and Jean-Charles Beau at Addicted in Lyon allowing 5-10% for new shapes.
Addicted’s Jean-Charles appreciates the importance of the on-snow demos, but he also likes to look at what’s previously sold well. He paws through previous sales figures before placing any orders to ensure he’s got product that he knows is going to sell well. And JC isn’t alone here, TSA’s Chris adds that, “just because something’s new or has a new shape doesn’t guarantee it a spot on the rack. It’s got to have a logical fit in our range.” But Chris is also quick to admit that, “there have been a couple of occasions when we have tested snowboards and we’ve been so stoked on how they ride that they had to have a place in the range.”
Tom at Zero G recalls the time he took a punt on Jones six years ago, and well, we all know how that’s turned out for him. This winter he’s done the same with Korua, and I have a feeling that could lead along the same lines… (Check out issue 99’s Big Wig to see just how well Korua worked out!)
MAKE USE OF REPS & PRO RIDERS
Sales reps are brimming full of product information, and the pro team have already ridden the product for an entire season. Don’t just bend their ear, twist their arm and get them on the chairlift with you, shred with them and let them pitch their product to you. No one knows the product better than these guys, and it makes for quite the sales pitch when you’re flogging it next season: “Yeah, I rode this puppy with JP Solberg at the on-snow, it goes pretty good.”
THE ULTIMATE QUESTION
Which products to test? Each retailer is going to have their own way of doing things here, but our experts have some tips that’ll make your three days of testing pay dividends for the duration of next season.
Looking at midline and beginner boards, Tom Wilson North tries “to identify categories which have been underperforming for us, and spend some time with those types of boards from different manufacturers so we can get a better understanding of where and how we need to optimise.”
SOURCE’s German Editor, Anna Langer representing the only female on the panel is an on-snow demo veteran and likes to let the reps do the talking: “I often give the brand the opportunity to pick a board for me – either one that they want to push marketing-wise, or if they know me, something they think I might like.”
Jean-Charles from Addicted in Lyon makes sure the first snowboards he tries are the new offerings from the brands he carries in his store, and after this he makes his way onto “other interesting brands”. Muck Müller from Shops 1st Try in Austria advises that retailers need to know prior to the event whether they are on the hunt for new brands, or if they want to stick by the brands that are already working for them.
Everyone has their own tried and tested methods for keeping tabs on their testing notes; Tom at Zero G compiles an overall summary on his phone, while Anna likes to talk about products on the chairlift with fellow testers, etching it into her memory.
At Shops 1st Try, Muck tells us about their Candy system that allows users to input information digitally each time they test a new product, which is then emailed to the user in an organised fashion. Mathieu Kurtz from Snow Avant Premiere (now Rock On Snow Pro) in France informs us about a new app they are working on: “We are working on an IOS and Android application to help retailers input info regarding a board, binding or anything else they test at SAP, and then they can find them on a personal web account.”
HOW MANY BOARDS TO TEST?
Marco Sampoli from Snow Shop Try in Italy gives the average number of snowboards per person, per day as six. And it would seem that statistic is felt throughout our panel, but as we all know, conditions have such a huge impact on what and how many snowboards are tested. Shannon from TSA reckons: “If there’s powder you may not test as many as you would like (there is far less switching up boards if there are freshies) but on the flip side, if there is no fresh snow you can race through them. I would normally like to test around three or four boards a day.”
Jean-Charles at Addicted tests between four to five boards per day, while the Ridersheaven crew average out at five to seven snowboards, each tested for four runs – now there’s some German efficiency for you!
MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES
Conditions, conditions, conditions. You’d be hard stretched to find a retailer standing in line to test out something with a wide nose and a swallow tail if it hasn’t snowed for a couple of weeks. And likewise, you’d be pulling the short straw if you’re stuck with something short and skinny while it’s dumping with the white stuff.
So, what are we to do if the weather doesn’t play along? “If it’s an unknown pow board that we think looks good,” Tom at Zero G offers, “we’ll give it a run on the groomers to see how horrible it is on hardpack. You can’t really understand a board’s personality without riding the thing.” But, the bottom line is that it needs to be ridden. All of our experts agree that they will put a request in with the rep to demo a product at a different time, should the conditions not play ball.
With the backcountry market still going in the right direction, Snow Shop Test’s Marco reckons that if the conditions aren’t great (heaven forbid), that we could see a fair bit of uphill action this January: “If we don’t have decent snowfall in the lead up to the demo it’s difficult to test freeride boards. If this is the case you can focus on splitboards, which are the new ‘cool thing’ your costumers would like to see and buy.”
TALK TO OTHER RETAILERS
It’s always a good idea to have a proper game plan drawn out listing the snowboards you definitely need to test. You can play it canny at the demos, and hook up with other retailers. Spread your workload; compare notes with other shops to see what they’ve made of different snowboards to help save time and effort. You’re not giving away trade secrets, just warning a friend and fellow shredder away from a disaster stick, or sharing some stoke on the next best thing.
READY, STEADY… SHRED!