By Iseult Devlin
Unlike the small crowd that waited since 5 am to get VIP passes to hang out with Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White at the new King of Prussia Mall, Burton Store, 18-year-old Reed Weimer showed up around 9 am and luckily scored the last pass. He brought a snowboard, already full of celebrity signatures and cool stickers, with him and was ready to go.
"This was my first board," said the high-school senior, adding that he started riding at age 10 and goes all over Pennsylvania and other spots like Vermont. He, along with 49 other fans, won an exclusive Shaun White VIP Experience in the Burton store, in which they got some one-on-one time with the star, autograph, photo session and great hors d'oeuvres.
Shaun White also did a Q&A session in the King of Prussia Mall, on a stage outside of J.C. Penney, for about 30 minutes, with autograph signings and giveaways.
"I went straight to the place where they make the best cheesesteak sandwiches," White told the local Philly audience of over 200 fans, including a lot of young kids. He shared stories about how he got started in snowboarding, at the age of six. "I used hard boots, which pushed me into my turns," he said. He told his story of how he made it big time, and encouraged kids in his audience to pursue their own riding.
After the Q&A, some fans were invited on stage and got a chance to play rock-paper-scissors and shoot with Shaun to try and win a few remaining VIP passes.
"It means a lot to our customers when they can connect to a pro rider they've admired for a long time," said Chris Mackanich, assistant manager for the Burton Store, which is a partner store with Buckman's Ski & Snowboard Shops, a 31-year-old retailer with six shops in Pennsylvania. Mackanich said he was pleased to see several families at the event who have been into the Burton store a lot. "It's great to see them having such a good time," he said, adding that some familiar faces won VIP passes.
Events like these help the Burton Store connect with younger kids, too, said Mackanich, who advertised the happening on the store's Facebook and Twitter sites. A couple of weeks after the grand-opening on September 7, 2012, Jake Burton came to check the new location out, talked to customers and the staff. "It's always good to have a snowboarding legend in your shop," remarked Mackanich.
The new mall store is the ninth partner store for Burton, which also has six flagship stores worldwide, one Channel Islands store and two outlets. King of Prussia Mall is the number-one grossing revenue mall in America, according to Mackanich, and the second largest in terms of square footage. "I think Mall of America only beats it because of the amusement park," he said.
"We definitely get a different customer than the standard specialty shop customer," he said, explaining that there has been a lot of general foot traffic from travelers passing through Philadelphia. "There have been a lot of international sales, especially in lifestyle apparel and travel bags."
Easy quick grabs like hoodies and T-shirts are highlighted for quick sales and shop décor is remerchandised constantly. For instance, since travel bags have been hot, they have been in the forefront and around the store. "We adjust the store layout as we see different trends of traffic and how sales are going. We try to highlight what's hot," Mackanich explained.
With a wood-clad exterior, large timbers and handcrafted details, Burton's merchandising and design team aimed to provide customers with a taste of Burton Snowboards and its Vermont headquarters. Many of the shelves, tables, and fixtures were custom-made in Vermont. Behind the counter, there is a history wall with archival boards and photos on display to help promote Burton's long heritage.
It is definitely an eye-catcher in this mall of approximately 250 stores.