Snowboard Industry Zoom Conference Report: Part 3

We hosted a Zoom conference with over 30 snowboard industry brand and retail employees to serve as a breeding ground for ideas during these tough times. With 4.5 hours of audio resulting from the call, we decided to publish a series of reports to inform the rest of the industry, with this being the third and final report. Make sure to read Part 1: Financial Support Offered To Retailers By Snowboard Brands and Part 2: Product Support (Carry-over Model) Offered.

In this, the third and final report we look at the marketing support brands are offering to retailers and also see what shops would like from brands. We also explore how the ‘new normal’ is looking very local and dig into some of the fears and opportunities presenting themselves.

SOURCE would like to say a big thank you to all brands and retailers who took part in the Zoom. We will be expanding on this format in the future. Report by SOURCE Editor Harry Mitchell Thompson.

MARKETING SUPPORT

Our third and final topic discussed was the marketing support being made available to retailers by brands. Many brands said they are reducing the number of campaigns they’ll be doing due to budget cuts, but they’ll be sharpening their focus with the ones remaining. One brand said, “we will invest a lot of money in September to promote snowboarding, to encourage people to do our sport,” continuing “I think this is an initiative we could run with multiple brands and shops, a big ‘go riding’ campaign to inject energy into our sport.”

With many retailers using the end of season to shoot product assets for next winter, a big obstacle being faced is this lack of visual resources for retailers next winter. One retailer said, “we really don’t want to be marketing global content. What we’d ask of the brands is if we could take any of their raw footage, unfinished content and use freelancers to edit it down and get your approval. Also, if you want to engage with our customers directly, we’re open to live Stories and athlete connections. Behind the scenes, TiKTok challenges etc.” Many brands were on the same page, with one seeing the “opportunity to exchange with retail partners to work with mutual store/team riders to produce content through a combined lens.” Following on from this another brand rep said, “I think for a few years brands have been jumping straight to the consumer and forgetting about the retailer, so we are going to provide more marketing to our core shops. And also help these shops with their digital marketing, social media and website. Create strategies to see the product first on Instagram and then find the product in their stores.”

Many brands wanted to send the message to shops that if they have content, “get it over to us and we will be more than happy to share it. Behind the scenes stuff, collections of boards, funny videos etc. We’re always stoked to share content from retailers.”

FEARS, OPTIMISM & LOCALISM

Following on from the three topics we proposed, some new topics naturally occurred throughout the Zoom calls and we thought it pertinent to share them here. Naturally there’s a fair amount of skepticism in the market at present with many unknowns. “We’re lucky as it did hit quite late, so we did get around ¾ of the winter in the books, but when is the second wave going to hit?” One retailer asked, continuing “there’s a lot of unanswered questions; will there be flights next winter? Will the resorts be open?” Another retailer says “I’m not optimistic about the state of the business for next winter. Internally we are talking about minus 50% for next winter, but that is because we’re in a resort.” On the brand side, one representative said, “we hope next winter will be better than in our forecast, because our forecasts are a loss of 20%.”

Topping that wine glass up to half full from half empty, there’s a strong sentiment that the lost riding days of the 19/20 season should fuel the fire next winter, “maybe it’s optimistic,” one brand exec said, “but I believe winter will be back. People will want to spend money. Young practitioners will want to go out snowboarding. And we as retailers and brands have an obligation to supply them with the right gear and I think that’s a key message.” Another brand representative said, “having spoken with a lot of ski resorts, everyone is confident for next winter and people are already booking trips. And there will be pent up frustration, from the lack of spring snowboarding and hopefully they will be ready to spend by next winter.”

Both retailers and brands are keen to see how the upcoming southern hemisphere winter unfolds and the lessons it will deliver in everything from sales to operations and infrastructure changes needed.

Looking closer to home, it’s commonly thought that consumerism will become a lot more local. With borders potentially closed and the inability to move freely from one country to another, many foresee a whole new breed of localism. What remains to be seen is whether people driving to visit their local mountains instead of flying abroad, and potentially visiting for shorter trips, not spending money on expensive hotels, equates to more money being spent on snowboard gear. One of the Zoom attendees gave some interesting insight into a Swiss scheme called the Magic pass. “You pay 399 CHF and get access for one year to 30 resorts and the increase in numbers has been huge. It shows that Swiss people are ready to spend their time locally. We need to look locally within our region.” This was echoed by another brand employee, who says after speaking with “a few French retailers, they feel that due to the travel/border restrictions, there will be a surge in localism with the French market supporting the French retailers, the same in the UK, Germany, Swiss etc.”

STORE RE-OPENINGS

We had retailers spanning different territories and heard accounts from some of them as to how they’re re-opening business in accordance with new government legislation. One shop re-opened May 11th and says face mask wearing is optional, but that they were “a bit excited, but also a bit nervous about whether people will actually come.” Another retailer said “we’re being told that we aren’t allowed to have customers touch clothing garments. Apparently if someone tries on a pair of gloves or a t-shirt, that product then has to be quarantined. I can’t imagine running a shop like that. So it’s hardgoods only for us for the next month of so.” One brand exec told us the day their home country’s lockdown was lifted, “my phone started ringing again and emails started to come in too. So it seems like retailers are starting to come back and are starting to communicate again. The shops reopening gave a lot of optimism to the industry.”

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