Allbro’s – Toulouse, France
Allbro’s boardshop was launched in March 2010 by Tim and Luc Bourgeois, two brothers passionate about riding, with a special interest in snowboarding. They’re not about making big bucks from selling boards but more about sharing their passion through events that will motivate people to keep riding and discover board sports.
Please give a brief history of your store.
It all started when the biggest board-shop in Toulouse had decided to close at the end of 2009, I was customer of this store by that time. It was where I was buying my snowboards and clothes as well as the majority of the Toulousains concerned by this lifestyle. The store first closed following a fire incident in 2007. After the incident the store didn’t really make a good come back, the products were limited and they lost their communication with the riders. Therefore in 2009, the store fully closed.
Toulouse, the 4th biggest city in France was going to be without a solid board-shop. The market research was really quick and easy for my brother and I when we thought about taking their place.It was an easy decision and in March 2010 we seized the opportunity. This is where our journey began.
What percentage of your sales are from online business compared to your brick-and-mortar sales?
Less than 1%, we are focusing on local sales for the moment because we have a big market right here in Toulouse which is still growing. Moreover the competition on the internet is fierce so to be able to get an impacting amount of sales we would need to invest and employ at least 2 people. We don’t have the budget at this point in time.
What are the benefits of having a physical shop over simply having an online store?
Having a physical store represent a lot of benefits in different areas: Stock management, feedback , social..
About stock management, it’s easier to order your stock on a local market which you already know. That way you don’t order too much (thinking anyone in the world with a computer is potentially a customer) and ruin the market by selling the products with an important discount like most of online stores (which is really annoying because customers loose the sense of the real value of the products!). It’s also a benefit because your customers are real people that give you feedback about the products first hand. This is super interesting for us and for the brands when we meet them. We like to know the performance of the products they make and the needs of the market. It creates a good dynamic. Socially it’s also a benefit because we share our passion face-to-face, we give advice and it’s rewarding when customers come back to the store with big smiles to thank you. This is usually because they are having fun riding and enjoying the products they bought according to the advice and recommendation of the salesmen.
What are five products you couldn’t live without right now?
Snowboard gears : board + boots + bindings/ tee-shirts/ jackets/ shoes/ skateboards
What are your secrets for selling high-end products?
First you need a good knowledge of the advantages of those products. Knowing the technical features and how to get full use of them. Then you can explain to the customer how much better it is to use the higher end products. As they are able to try on, they can usually see it for themselves, from this point we can then advise. High end products are supposed to be good quality products that last a long time therefore we tell customers that it’s a worthy investment. Financially we are able to help the customers wishing to buy high end products. We can split the bill! They pay 50% the day they buy it and 50% the month after, if it’s necessary. We hope that this encourages our sales.
Are new lines important to your product mix?
New lines are important because it shows how the store and the brands are dynamic, up to date and constantly able to bring new customers and new needs to the market.
Did your store’s sales increase or decrease over last year? To what do you attribute your gain or loss in sales? What will you do to either maintain your growth or to reverse the decline?
The sales slightly decreased but we forecasted that and we were careful on the stock management (orders and sales). We spoke in length with the brands to help us with better commercial agreements. So, even though the turnover slightly decreased, the margin is better and we will have a better financial result eventually.
The economic crisis is still hitting France and the purchasing power is lessening so the customers are being more careful in what they buy. Moreover customers are getting in to bad habits of preferring the price over the quality and products that correspond their needs. I believe that this is because of the “pricing war” on the internet and in store. The permanently discounted prices offered by the brands means that it is becoming complicated to buy a product with any real worth. This is really bad for our market and in the end it will penalise everyone (stores will close because they don’t make enough margin to live -> brands lose retailers -> customers won’t have local stores to shop in and get professional advice and services).
To reverse the decline we will keep on focusing on a healthy stock management, creating events and communicating this to gain more customers. We may even start new lines of products to represent a new market.
What makes your store different and in what ways does your store excel beyond your competition?
As I said before, we like events and so do the people, we’re working to improve them each time to surprise the participants. For example 2 months ago we did a snowboarding event in downtown Toulouse which has never been done before in this city. More than 2000 people showed up and we all had a wicked time.
Our priority is to give the best advice we can to our customers. Everyone who’s working in our store is a passionate rider and has great knowledge and experience with the products. Conversing with the sales rep, the brands, technical magazines and being present at trade fairs such as ISPO gives us awesome exposure and allows potential customers to see what we are all about.
What kind of advice can you give other independent retailers who are trying to compete against the big box megastores?
Know your local market well, be careful with your stock management, order what’s the most on point and with diverse brands. Do focus on the advice and services you can give to your customers. If you have a good selection of brands and products displayed in your store that fits your target market that is half the battle. Paired with a good customer service, you can compete with the big-box megastores ; unless they screw up with the prices!
Does your store sponsor athletes, competitions, etc? If so, what are the benefits to the store and to the boardsports community?
We sponsor snowboarders, wakeboarders and skaters. We also try to be represented at local competitions as well as creating our own events. The riders will use their influence to recommend your store and send customers our way. This gives a good affiliation and image to our store and shows that we have great support the boardsports community. We care about promoting the sports and not just making more sales.
If you could go back five years what would you do differently?
I would manage my time better so I could be more efficient in store but above all, I would find more spare time to be able to ride more.