Forty years ago Leon Buckman opened a small ski shop in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania. In 1987, the Buckman family opened its second store in King of Prussia. Over the next five years they added three more stores throughout the Philadelphia suburbs and this June they expanded with a sixth store in Allentown.
While this historical jaunt is a great tale, what set Buckman's on a trajectory to earn the 2011 TransWorld Business Mid Atlantic Retailer of the Year Award was the decision in 1988 to begin carrying snowboard equipment and clothing.
"Buckman’s was one of the first shops in our area to do so," says Co-owner Brad Buckman. "Now, we carry all the top snowboard brands in the industry. Because of our brand selection, our stores reach a very broad spectrum of customers. We really do have anything for everyone from seasoned, expert skiers and snowboarders to beginners of any age! We also pride ourselves on having every price point covered for our customers."
After learning more about the shop's history, we asked Brad Buckman to tell us more about what’s going down in PA currently.
What's the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and customers?
It is really great being able to work with the best brands in the ski and snowboard industry. We were honored to have Jake Burton come down for the day in October and stop in three of our stores to meet our staff and just see what we are all about. Overall, our brands are supportive and want to help us grow. They are always looking for ways to keep the staff excited about new products and the sports as a whole. Our customers definitely see this excitement and love the fact that our employees are active participants in the sports they love.
What's your philosophy on the role of core retailers?
Core retailers are the ones that built this industry and helped get it to where it is today. They are the ones with their “thumb on the pulse” and know what is really going on in the retail world and what the consumer is buying and looking for. Core retailers are where the customers go to for help and knowledge, and they trust the retailer and their staff to direct them to making the correct purchase for their needs.
What makes your shop different?
I would say customer service and brand selection. We take great pride in doing whatever it takes to make sure the customer has a great experience when they come in any of our stores or shop at Buckmans.com. We train our employees to always be looking for ways to “wow” the customer and go above and beyond their expectations. We have a great staff that has been with us for a long time, many of them over 10 years! They know the products and also have built relationships with customers over the years. As far as the brands, we have all the major players and are always looking for the new and greatest product that might have just come out. We are not afraid to bring an expensive or different product in to try it out. The employees and customers like seeing those types of things because your average shop or big box store won’t carry them.
Take a virtual tour of Buckman’s stores:
Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?
First off, we are extremely honored to be nominated! I think that brands recognize how we are different from other shops. We are always looking for new ways to grow; we take calculated risks and aren't afraid to try new things. This keeps everyone excited about the ski and snowboard industry!
What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2011?
The biggest highlight by far was the Grand Opening of our new store in Whitehall. We had about 30 of the industry's best snowboarders and skiers at the store to sign autographs and meet/greet our customers! JP Walker, Louie Vito, Mason Aguirre, Seth Morrison, Jake Blauvelt, Jussi Oksanen, Mikey Rencz, Terje Haakonsen, Pep Fujas, Danny Kass, Dingo, Glen Plake, Sebastien Toutant, Bjorn Leines, Todd Richards, Bobby Brown, Aaron Biittner, Iikka Backstrom, Tom Wallisch, Chris Benchetler, Jed Anderson, Bode Merrill, Erin Comstock, Joe Sexton, Chris Grenier, Louif Paradis, Pat McCarthy, and Parker White all attended and it was crazy! We had hundreds of customers/fans in the store that day to meet their favorite snowboarder or skier and help celebrate the Grand Opening! It was a great way to kick off our 40th season and celebrate the opening of our newest store.
Thankfully we have not really had any lowlights this year…
This year was tough for core retailers. What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year's past?
I think one of the biggest keys to our success is how consistently outstanding our customer service is. We also try to be smart with our buy each year and watch our inventory very closely. We have a team of 12 buyers – several people work as a team to buy ski outerwear, others work to buy snowboard outerwear, etc. This system allows the buyers to really dial in their buy each year. We also transfer products around between our six stores to make sure the inventory levels are where they should be. If a certain brand or product is really selling in one store and not the other, then we will move it to the store where it is selling better.
What are your predictions for 2012?
I think manufactures are still going to want their orders earlier and earlier to help predict their buy for them. Also, I'm thinking there will continue to be a lack of “closeouts” from manufactures and unfortunately, more of the larger brands will jump on the trend of selling direct to customers.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks to all our brands and customers for the support these 40 great years!
Something most people don't know about us is that ski/snowboard retail isn't our primary business. The larger side of our company is Buckman's Inc., a leading supplier and distributor of water treatment chemicals, pool chemicals, and ice melt products (Buckmansinc.com). Through that industry, we have installed solar energy to make us more efficient and now five of our six stores have solar panels on them, thus making them energy neutral. Going Green to save some “Green!"