GiGi Ruf Talks Slash A Year After Taking Full Control Of Brand
After taking complete control of his snowboard brand Slash one year ago Gigi Rüf’s seen a spike in orders, renewed the company’s focus in sustainable growth and adopted a fresh approach to business. We’ve spoken to snowboard legend Gigi to see what’s shaking.
How’s things going with Slash?
I now have the first year of 100% owning and operating Slash under my belt and my distributors increased their orders by 22%.
Please tell us about the finish of your relationship with Nidecker and then Spacecraft.
The Nidecker Family – alongside Ivan Zwahlen, who did agent work for me in the past – helped me launch Slash in 2012, allowing me to use their factories and facilities to independently shape custom moulds. I also had complete control of anything related to marketing, global strategy, and brand image of Slash by Gigi. In 2016 when speaking with Henry Nidecker about our business standing he told me that Slash was not profitable to the Nidecker Group. We agreed that he’d transfer the business to me in November 2016 complete with snowboard moulds, shapes, designs and trademarks related to the Slash brand. At the same time a rider developer role with Slash and the Capita Mothership was in discussion but it didn’t come to fruition.
While still in a rider’s mind-set where self-realization is done through the action of riding not selling, I didn’t feel like I could keep momentum going with distributors until Chad Perrin (Spacecraft) called. He was willing to provide his sales service, if I was to continue creating the boards. That was when I realized there was a certain dependency and support in the brand from my distributors. I got behind the figures preparing a two-year licensing agreement that put me into the driver’s seat. It was merely two months since Chad had called me and one of those months I’d spent in Alaska filming for the Union Bindings movie Stronger. Come May I had everything done and prepared; Sail Group (Spacecraft owners) signed the licensing agreement and Chad started collecting orders. As the first year passed selling my carry-forward collection, the manufacturer didn’t get paid for the delivered products. As the wheels kept turning I needed to tell the manufacturer not to deliver any more boards until the payments happened. By then I felt I’d done my time relying on other businesses and commenced trusting my own capabilities. And here we are now.
Have you employed anyone since we last spoke to help with the business side of things?
No employees as of yet; I have my brother as the engineer who gives help providing the blueprint of my ideas to the manufacturing site and Typegorilla out of Innsbruck does all the design work for Slash, handling deliverables and preparing production files from artwork that I collect.
Which products sold well for you during the buy-in season last winter and are there any early noticeable high performing boards for you this winter?
Freestyle and All Mountain models carry the character of the brand and are working well with good margins and the value based price point attached to them.
Can you tell us about the graphics on the boards.
Kate Zessel designed the Freeride models with original artwork. A brand new model called the Portal was shaped and designed by Slash Triberider Jay Hergert. I also reintroduced the Spectrum as requested by Triberider Andy Glader, returning with a soft camber and specifically designed graphic for him. Also both of my son’s artwork – which was actually the concept for my Dragon pro model goggle – was also used to create their own Splash kids board. The other riders involved in this year’s Ride and Play collection were Manuel Diaz, who did the catalogue cover art and stickers.
Could you talk to us about your relationship with Meditec in Tunisia?
Meditec is where it all started from and I can be proud to have maintained a trusting relationship with owner Stéphane Querinjean. We started out with quite a standard program and then added some top tier models where it was compelling to hit price points and deliver good options for retailers to fill voids.
What makes Meditec better than other manufacturers?
Meditec is not far off the southern coast of Europe and the free-trade agreement between Tunisia and the EU as well as the US and other countries makes exporting directly efficient and simple – connecting sea freight without detours to the key markets.
How are you working with retailers to drive sales?
I work throughout all of my 16 countries with regionally dedicated distributors.
Who’s on the pro team?
Jay Hergert USA
Andy Glader USA
Casey Mitchell USA
Benji Ewens New Zealand
Brooks Finlinson USA
Colin Whalen USA
Geoff Brown Canada
Gigi Rüf Austria
Jacco Bos Netherlands
Jona Rüf Austria
Jordon Frager USA
Kevin Holmes USA
Manuel Diaz Chile
Oskar Rüf Austria
Roli Tschoder Austria
Shogo Takai Japan
Simon Holzi Austria
Steffi Rüf-Kohler Austria
Will Jackways New Zealand
Yuta Kobayashi Japan
What marketing themes are you running this winter?
I come up with yearly themes. This year it’s Ride & Play.
Which trade show / on snow demos will the brand show at?
Shops 1st Try in Austria, Outdoor Retailer Show in Colorado, Interstyle in Japan.
What are you doing differently with snowboard shapes for 20/21?
This year I’ve started to work with NBL in Poland and I’m using this investment to create new shapes and fine-tune the collection to where I want to be. After a long extended business-learning period I can finally immerse myself into innovative thinking to create Slash’s new baseline.
What do you see for the future of snowboarding? Opportunities and threats?
Threats and opportunities always go hand in hand. We push for what only a few are actually willing to grasp, but those who are driven enough to find meaning in these challenges are sensitive enough to be guided by their own taste and intuition. The future for snowboarding is like in any other boardsport; to provide an outlet for those who crave self-expression