Tis’ the season. As most of us make time in our busy schedules to get out and do a little holiday shopping this month, it’s easy to forget where our money is going—especially if big box retailers are the ones offering the best deals. But today more than ever, people are taking a closer look at how they are allocating their hard-earned dollars, and what organizations or groups—if any— they are giving back to with their purchases.
Rome Snowboards‘ % For Snowboarding is one of the programs encouraging shoppers to put a little extra thought into entering their credit card number at the checkout. Developed by the small staff at Rome, including one of the founding employees and International Sales Manager Dan “Sully” Sullivan, the program concept was unveiled at SIA in January this year, and got off the ground for the brand starting last month.
After its initial hard launch, % For Snowboarding has continued to gain momentum as shopping for snowboard equipment increases in the early part of the season. Because of the program’s e-commerce platform, consumers have been gravitating to the brand’s 'harder to find' items, including softgoods like hoodies, T's, and beanies, as well as many of the peripheral harder to locate board, boot, and binding models and sizes, explains Sullivan. The result has been a win-win situation for retailers across the US and Canada, as the breadth of the program continues to grow from coast to coast, and as consumers continue to select local shops from Rome’s participating retail base to receive a portion of the brand’s online sales.
“Our sales team has been spreading the word about the program during their shop clinic tours,” says Sullivan. “By all reports, there are a lot of snowboard shops that are excited that Rome is including them financially in online purchases, and applaud the fact that Rome has put together a program that is in the best interest of snowboarding, snowboarders, and snowboard retailers.”
We caught up with Sullivan and Rome’s Sales Coordinator Anna Starr, who has spearheaded the initiative over the past several months, to hear more about the program, what their expectations are for it to grow, and why Rome thinks supporting local snowboard shops is so important.
What has been the evolution of the % for Snowboarding program?
Sully: We’ve had the concept for a while and then promoted Anna in a new role here, and one of the roles was to bring this concept to fruition.
This was something Co-founder Josh [Reid] and I had chatted about, and we had to look at whether it was financially possible to execute. About a year ago our answer was ‘yes, we can do it’ and we launched it.
How does the back-end process work for the customer?
Anna: It’s super easy for a customer to do. The site explains to the customer that they are picking a shop at no extra cost. You can select your favorite shop or the closest shop to your postal code. We weren’t sure if customers would want to go through the retailers selection process, but we have found that customers are stoked on it—we’ve been getting some great comments. A customer in Florida bought an item and gave credit to a shop in the Northeast, and someone in New York bought a board and gave credit to their local shop in Burlington.
Sully: That was always the fear— does the consumer really care about this? We didn’t bet on that being an asset, we were just doing it from the perspective of giving back due revenue to spokespersons for snowboarding in each region.
Anna: One thing we didn’t bet on was that people were going to buy based on that.
What sort of feedback and comments are you receiving?
Sully: As far as we know, the program is novel in the winter sports business. Our concept was completely internal here; everyone we spoke to hadn’t heard of a shared sale program where the customer could chose who they gave back to.
Do you have a team of people who are coordinating and helping make the program work?
Anna: We do it all in house; we do everything from start to finish here.
How much goes back to the local retailer?
Sully: We give a percentage of the sale so if it’s a bigger sale, than the retailer gets more. The cool part about it is that the rate is determined by each shop. The standard level is 30%, then an additional amount can be added on. To get the additional percent, it’s based on stuff the shop does to promote snowboarding in their area, like local snowboard events, organizing snow camps, film premieres, participating in Go Snowboarding month. It’s nothing to do with your orders, it’s just how much you support snowboarding in your local area.
Anna: The more a shop does, or if we can somehow lead that behavior to them doing more, that’s a good thing. The whole idea of participation, and creating more events, equates to more fun and more riders wanting to snowboard.
Sully: Some of the shops when we told them about it, they were like ‘Oh, we haven’t done any [events] but we should do that.’ We are hoping that more shops will do stuff like this and get involved. Now that it’s live and we are getting sales, it becomes real money for the shops. We were very modest in expectations of how much sales we would generate, but we knew one thing—we would make some. The only thing we could guarantee shops was that they would receive some benefits.
Which shops are on board at the moment?
Anna: A large percentage of our dealer base – it’s safe to say 98 percent of shops that are Rome dealers are participating.They have to be an official Rome dealer and customers have to pick shops that are participating when they make a purchase.
If someone doesn’t have a favorite shop, it will automatically default by zip code or by location. Even if a shop is not chosen, that sale is going to benefit somebody, you can’t go forward without selecting a shop so if you don’t care the system will pick one for you so a shop will get a percentage of the proceeds.
It sounds like a great concept for local retailers to get on board with.
Sully: We knew we were on to something good at the sales meeting last year, because the sales force got behind it. They will also benefit from this. We believe shops are important, but also the sales teams are important to educate the shops. The cool part is, let’s say the transaction happens and a New England shop is selected. The Rome NE [sales] rep is going to get a commission on it. So it’s a circle, just like our logo, which shows a three way signal. The sales team is completely behind this program, because they are basically behind the sales, and it supports them, too.
What regions are represented in the program?
Sully: Probably every state is represented; everywhere we have a shop, throughout North America, and in Canada, too, so we have blanket coverage for all retail accounts, from Vancouver, to Salty Peaks in Salt Lake, to Boardroom in Boise Idaho.
Why do you think it’s so important to give back to and support the local snowboard specialty shops?
Sully: I should speak to the fact that my wife, living in rural Vermont, when she does order online there is a sense of guilt for not supporting the local shoe store or local computer store. As a shopper, the same reality exists. For us, as a consumer in the snowboarding industry, there is a level of convenience, and the internet really changes the game. Now I look at it through the eyes of a consumer buying a computer—if I knew part of the purchase was to support a local retailer that also supports a local school, then I would buy it online because I had that peace of mind. I think there are more people who are looking to do this, too.
In snowboarding, most people do know their local shop and feel a certain attachment to it, especially someone who might have moved away from it. Why is someone from Florida supporting a shop in Vermont? It’s neat for that choice to be an option.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are excited here. It’s cool to do something different and even when it starts to impact even at a small level, it’s concretely impacting retail and it’s good for snowboarding.