Blue Tomato was founded in 1994 by European Snowboard Champion Gerfried Schuller, who opened his first little shop for snowboarders in Schladming. It started off as a snowboard school, spreading the “boarder love,” but soon realized the great potential of online shopping. In 1997, Schuller launched his website blue-tomato.com, which has catapulted the snowboarder-turned-entrepreneur into a whole new business that is gaining him some attention in European action sports retail, and internationally following Zumiez acquisition of his business in June.
Today, Blue Tomato has several bricks-and-mortar locations in Vienna, Haus, Obertauern, and Graz, and Schuller still finds time to manage his snowboard schools and test centers in Obertauern and Schladming/Planai.
Currently Blue Tomato has more than 100 employees, including 60 dedicated solely to the online division, according to Schuller. The product range covers more than 450,000 SKUs from more than 400 well-known brands such as Burton, Volcom, Billabong, Quiksilver, Vans, DC, Roxy, Nikita, Nike 6.0, Bench, and many more.
We caught up with Schuller to hear more details on his business, and how sales have been in the European market.
Why did you decide to move forward with the Zumiez acquisition? What does that mean for Blue Tomato and how will things change?
We are super excited about the possibility to combine our European expertise with the guaranteed business model of Zumiez in order to build a global presence, setting the tone as an action sports and lifestyle retailer.
Major agreements between Blue Tomato and Zumiez on product strategy and business philosophy, as well as cultural values, will create immediate synergies. Zumiez shares our values in the respect of competition and fun, as well as active support of the scene and the fact that we return something to it.
In the European market, we have positioned ourselves as a sustainable, acknowledged brand and with our growth plans and the financial support of Zumiez, we are preparing to become THE action sports and lifestyle retailer of Europe.
To give our US readers a better idea of who Blue Tomato is, let’s look at what you carry and some more info on the shop. You’re primarily online, correct? What percentage of your business is online versus brick and mortar?
75% online, 25% shops.
What are your top three most profitable product categories this summer?
Accessories, streetwear, and eyewear.
What has been the single best-selling brand over the past six months?
Who are the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special?
Simone Mittendorfer (Zimtstern), Magdalena Asen (Roxy), Andrea Steiner (Vans). Their strengths are in product knowledge, farsightedness, knowledge about the different retail structures, and quick and uncomplicated service.
What is your overall impression of the local market over the past six months?
We had a weak start in last winter season because it was very warm but at the end of December we got loads of snow and finally had a very good winter season. Spring/Summer has also done very well.
What store (or multiple stores) are your closest competition?
Planet Sports, Skate Deluxe, Moreboards
Overall expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months?
We’d like to see an increase in international growth.
Is your shop working closer with any particular brands?
Burton, Billabong, Atomic, and Nitro at the moment.
Do you have a Team? If so who’s in it?
Yes we have quite a big team:
Snowboard: Mathieu Crepel, Marc Swoboda, Anne-Flore Marxer, Mathias Weissenbacher, Clemens Schattschneider, Ville Uotila, Dominik Wagner, Herby Thaler, Phips Gruber, Flo Galler, Kareem El Rafie, Uska Pribosic, Anna Gasser, Vanessa Waldenhofer, Viktor Szigeti, Tobi Grünwald, Max Grünwald, Tuomas Pohjonen, Gergori Mihaylov, Franki Wörndl, Marco Hafez, Paz Gruber, Adam Granqvist, Hansi Kainz, Roli Scharmer, Diz Pichler
Freeski: Josh Absenger, Matrin Hauck, Alexander Moser, Stefanie De Menech, Flo Wieser, Daniel Walchofer, Lisi Fram, Luca Tribondeau
Summer (Skate & Surf) Philipp Schuster, Mathieu Crepel, Lisa Veith, Tom Kozissnik, Ralf Marl, Martin Roll, Mathias Haas, Armin Walcher, Petra Bernhard, Norbert Grunt, Daniel Fetz, Joachim Arno Habart, Boris Tetzlaff, Markus Pekoll
Is there anything you wish you knew when you opened the store that you know now?
We always knew that the internet would change our business, that’s why we started selling there really early.