Retail Profiles: Royal Board Shop

Since first walking into a core skate/snow shop in 1988, Ryan Robertson dreamed of opening one of his own. Last October, Robertson and his wife Beverly decided to put up and that dream became a reality when the doors of Royal Board Shop in Calgary swung wide. While the economy's winds may not be blowing in his favor, when you talk with Robertson, who has been skating for 24 years and snowboarding 22, his passion, excitement, and innovation come blaring through, and with these and a little bit of luck, Royal’s future is looking bright.

After a lengthy four-month build out, they dialed in the look and feel of the shop and opened the 4,400 square foot shop on October 8, 2008.  “We wanted to give our customers a 'boutique look' without having to offer high-priced boutique items,” continues Robertson.  "Our customers are able to find value in our product selection without searching through overstocked sales racks.”

With the build out completed, Robertson began the search for a unique product mix to match. “Some of [our] brands are sold in only two or three shops in Canada, and others are just setting up their Canadian distribution. The staff and I are ecstatic about the brands we sell and the customer loyalty we have received in this short period of time. We continue to focus on the service we provide, the quality of brands we offer, and supporting the communities that support us.”

You must work closely with these brands then?

Being a new shop we have to work closely with our vendors, it's vital.  It's a two way street, building these relationships now is only going to further their business and mine.

Give us a couple examples.

At Royal we set up PK's with all our suppliers. We ask them before they ask us.  [We do] contests, video premieres, and fashion shows.  Being new, we have to get out in the public eye and hit our target market as much as possible. This is a win-win for both us and manufacturers at a reasonable expense. Also print ads – two can advertise cheaper than one!

Ryan Robertson and Team Maanger Steve Craig.

Have these efforts been helpful?

Huge! Waiting for customers to magically appear in your shop is crazy, we have to go out and get them guerrilla style.

What has been the best part about running your own shop?

Royal is a new shop and by no means out of the woods yet regarding business or even claiming success.  Way before Royal Board Shop was even thought about I studied the industry as a whole and made sure I knew the local market, as well as the manufacturing side of the business. Combine that with my passion for these sports and my outside sales background, I knew I would be wasting my life if I didn't give this a try. I'm excited to open the doors everyday and some days are slow and others we're running full tilt, but one thing's for sure Royal gets better everyday and that's the best thing about running my own shop.

What have been your top selling categories and brands?

Spring/Summer

Men's and women's Clothing – Spacecraft Clothing
Skateboards – Royal shop decks
Longboards – Sayshun

Fall/Winter

Snowboards – Signal Snowboards / Clyde Snowboards
Bindings – Flux
Men's Boots – Celsius

What lessons have you learned the easy way and the hard way?

Easy – Treat people better than you want to be treated. Thanks, Mark Rayner
Easy- Be a part and get involved with the communities that support your business. Thanks, Ken Achenbach
Easy – Focus on what you do best. When they hate, it means they're scared. Thanks, Scott Currie

Hard – Balancing business and family. Thank you Bev for your understanding

What differences do you see in the Canadian market right now? Is it easier to work with Canadian companies or American companies at the moment?

I guess I can say my suppliers are not calling me with drastic discounts if I would or could just buy more. Another thing I've notice with those declining sales in the U.S is the big brands haven't opened up the flood gates into Canada yet telling their reps to sell to whoever is breathing or looks like they got money so I guess it's not that bad.

Working with my American companies has been great. Ones that I would like to mention, and who have been really good, are Spacecraft out of Seattle, Imperial Motion again out of Seattle and Develop Clothing out of Denver.  I receive product direct out of the U.S. and it's going smoothly and cross border can be iffy at times. My Canadian companies are primarily distributors handling many product lines and that has gone smooth. I have two manufactures that are local, Clyde Snowboards and Sayshun Longboards – now that is easy. No shipping costs, higher margins, prompt service – who wouldn't want that? Thank you Jason and Scott.

What are some sales tips that you try and get your crew to work on to increase sales?

Listen to the customer; they may give you signals if you ask the right questions.

Don't ask "do you need sunglasses." Show them the new ones we got in yesterday. Tell them about the ones you just picked up and how you love them. People like to be shown the latest and greatest.  Just because you asked them to try them on doesn't mean they will buy, but you have a better chance then if you didn't.

Anything else you'd like to add about the shop, accessories, the economy, quantum physics, or Japanime?

Royal Board Shop's success is due to its staff. I have been blessed to work along side a crew that is not just here for a paycheck and free swag. In an economic down turn, customers are going to be demanding either low pricing or better service and right now providing the best customer service is what  Royal will build it's name on.  Big thanks again to the Royal Crew, Steve, Karine, Kyle, Sebi, Jon, Lisa and as well the Royal team. You know who you are!   My wife Beverly and my children Kolby and Keirstyn, thank you for your love and support.