Reporting: Kailee Bradstreet, Mike Lewis
The SIA Snow Show wrapped up in Denver last weekend, and was followed by an eventful On-Snow Demo, that saw more than 2,800 attendees hit the slopes to test out the latest snowboard gear at Winter Park Resort in Colorado.
The show was full of industry launches, surprises, and a myriad events that went off over the course of four fun-filled days. All in all, it was the connection between retailers and brands and the business that was being conducted that people seemed to zero in on while walking the aisles.
For Mammoth Lakes, California-based Wave Rave Snowboard Shop, the highlight of the show was seeing a serious push into backcountry gear.
“What I’ve really noticed is a real resurgence in big mountain riding and big mountain riding equipment along with split boards,” says Wave Rave Owner Steve Klassen. “I’m seeing it everywhere. I’m seeing in people’s displays and people’s marketing efforts. I see that part of the sport coming up, the big mountain side. I’m just really seeing the big mountain influence make its way into every part of the companies.”
On the brand side of things, Jones Snowboards was definitely speaking to that audience, with a strong booth displaying its new boards for the season, including the debut of its Ultracraft splitboard, which provides a lighter, performance-driven board for big mountain riding.
“Jones Snowboards is having a solid year,” says Chad Perrin, Jones Snowboards global brand director. “Our dealers fully support our brand and we are seeing strong sell through.”
O’Neill is also launching some updates to its Jeremy Jones outerwear collection, tying directly back to the big mountain lifestyle with its new eco-friendly “Bomb Proof” fabric, and with 2% of all proceeds benefiting the Protect Our Winters (POW) organization.
Hardgoods definitely seemed to be a focus at the show for most, with the launch of innovative technology from several brands, including Burton’s new Family Tree Splitboard, and their whimsical “Push It Real Good” Salt-N-Pepa collaboration boards.
We also heard from many who were new to the show, like Rhythm and i.N.i. Cooperative, that they were receiving a solid response from retailers and buyers on the show floor. Smaller brands were also a hit as retailers continue to look for product that isn’t available on every street corner. Among those brands was Homeschool, which reported a really strong start to the show as well.
“We were able to spend some time at the Sourcing Snow and that was great for a smaller brand like us,” says Homeschool Product Development Manager Margaret Eder. “A lot of times you dont have as much pull to get vendors to come and meet with you, and you’re working with them remotely so it is great to meet with some of your current vendors face to face. It’s fun once you’ve been in the industry a while to catch up with a lot of people and see people that you only see once a year. We are here to do what we love. There is a good energy and vibe to that.”
The less-than-desirable past snow season and a slow start to this season in many regions definitely had a weighted effect on consumers’ buying patterns and directly impacted many retailers—a fact that has not gone unnoticed with most within the industry. Tactics Co-owner Matt Patton says the focus of the show for his shop was to hone in on inventory levels and the approach brand partners are taking for next season.
“We’ll look to put more dollars with those brands taking the long view in terms of production and distribution, and fewer dollars with those more interested in the quick high,” says Patton.
The crew from Dogfunk.com, one of the main e-tailers in the snow sports industry, were on the scene, utilizing the show from a different angle, but still making it a productive one as they move into next season.
“By the time we get to SIA, we have already completed our preseason buying cycle for Fall/Winter 2013, so it’s a good time for buyers to circle up with key partners to make sure their buys are strong, connect on key product and marketing stories for next season, and review current season business,” says Dogfunk Director and GMM Karen Craig. ” We’re always looking for new product, brand, or category opportunities that complement our business as well.”
Another huge area of conversation in the snowboard aisles was the fallout from mainstream media’s recent focus on decreasing participation in the sport and concerns over this becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversations were also ripe with concerns over discounting and a push to retool the industry’s buying cycle.
“We really need to elevate the conversation relating to the industry’s cycle starting in the summer with gear reviews, early ship dates etc.,” states evo Founder Bryce Phillips. “If the industry could all move forward 30 days, I know this is not easy, we alleviate the burning of many millions of dollars. Retail panics in November/early December if significant snowfall hasn’t hit the resorts. Moreover, MAP drop in February, only 45 days after most people start skiing for the season, is reflective of how we have done things, not the reality of the cycle. We are foregoing crucial profits that could make for a much healthier industry. The tail is wagging the dog and it’ll take a concerted, cross-section of people to make the needed shift.”