Rome Snowboard Design Syndicate
Questions answered by Director of Sales, Dan Sullivan:
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
For Rome, the approach that drives what we do is simultaneously creating innovative technologies that make snowboarding more fun and integrating art that inspires and jumps off the shelf. This approach is found in a wide variety of additions to the line: the boards with the new NoHang-Ups Pop camber that blend responsiveness with finesse, the new lightweight Mob Boss that delivers customizable canting, or the new Double Agent split board for riders who take a freestyle approach to backcountry adventures. So what’s the “trend” that we continue to follow? It’s great looking product that responds to how different snowboarders want it to.
What is the greatest change affecting your brand since last season?
We continue to work in the camber space to create new ideas like 3D rocker camber, as well as to expand our design concepts in our all-plastic Unibody binding division.
As for external forces, the cost of sourcing in China continues to be something that needs to be addressed. With labor costs rising consistently in China, and expected to continue rising, sourcing is an area that demands even more focus than ever.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
The market continues to demand what it wants, when it wants it, and at the price they want it. This market trend was clearly driven to higher levels by the Internet channel of sales over the last few years, and the Internet continues to be a major force in reinforcing these buying habits. The strong traditional shops are addressing this by delivering the things the Internet can’t—local evangelism of snowboarding and advanced customer service. More than ever, snowboarding needs local shops to drive excitement of the sport in their own backyards.
How has sales forecasting changed for your company?
We forecast earlier in order to deliver as early as possible.
What lessons have you learned with bookings and production for this season and how will you apply those to next?
We were able to get the bulk of our pre-season orders in by our deadlines, which enabled us to put our production orders in by the necessary dates. After that, it’s a matter of closely managing the vendors. We’ll probably get a bit stricter with our internal deadlines in order to put as much inventory into retail by 8/1/2012 as possible.
How large are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers confused by too many different stories?
The new line is a bit bigger with some new additions. However, all the new boards carry a similar base story to introduce and market.
Regarding diversity of options/different stories, you need to balance simplicity with the hard reality that snowboarders come in many different shapes, sizes, and style preferences. Is there one type of street clothing that fits all people—last we looked, this isn’t Communist China with everyone wearing the same blue Mao suit and riding the same black bike. Is there one type of car that fits all people—try to make a contractor who needs a truck buy a small hybrid. Snowboarding is no different. There are riders who ride pow almost exclusively. There are riders who never leave the park. There are riders who like to mix it up. And, yes, there are riders who just want to carve a turn. The idea that there is one size that fits all is at complete odds with reality. Anyone claiming one-size-fits all is selling snake oil in our minds.
That said, things need to be made as simple as possible for retailers and consumers. There is some limit to the number of stories that can be understood and retained (though all the stories may be justified by distinct “market segments”). We’ve simplified some of our camber stories for 2013, as camber profiles has been the area of the market with the most varied stories over the last four years.
With the shifting landscape of production abroad, are you reevaluating where you produce your hardgoods? If so, why?
We are constantly evaluating where we get product made. The first test is whether a vendor can produce our unique designs at the high quality we demand. After that, it’s a matter of cost and timeliness to market. With the cost consequences of China’s 10% annual growth rate and the varying strength of the US dollar vis-à-vis the Euro, the ideal place to produce hardgoods is shifting on a yearly basis.
What opportunities do you see for growing hardgoods sales? Please explain. (Are you increasing your focus on kids, women, core retailers, chains, rental sales, internet sales, entry-level products, splitboards, etc.?)
In line with the diversity of snowboard market, many of the growth opportunities relate to sub-segments of snowboarders (a reality at odds with over-simplifying the line). Split boards are definitely an opportunity that we are experiencing right now and are expanding on in the coming season—we are adding the market’s first freestyle-oriented split board in the Double Agent, a women’s specific split called the Powder Room, and we’re developing a swallowtail split to our Whiteroom series. Camber innovation continues to drive growth opportunities in both the freestyle and the entry-level markets. For the latter, our new Tour and Romp boards feature the progression-friendly technology of our NoHang-Ups camber that we introduced last year for the youth market. Finally, in bindings, rider preference for hybrid (aluminum and plastic combo bindings) and all-plastic bindings is a reality and we are expanding our offerings in both areas for both men and women.
What do you anticipate prices doing next season?
There will probably be some increase. With production costs rising around the world, it is unnatural to keep snowboarding immune to the inflationary pressures on the products. With that said, we will balance these pressures with meeting the needs of riders.
What does your company hope to contribute to snowboarding?
Products, events and experiences that deepen the fixation and addiction felt by people who already snowboard, and to give new riders the first taste of how the fun of snowboarding will give them a lifelong habit.
What are the biggest forces shaping the changes and developments you’ve made to your boards?
Snowboarders of many walks of life are the biggest force in our line—testing new concepts with local riders, our regional sponsored riders, and, of course, our team riders. Talking with shop employees around the country who understand snowboarding also helps. In these sessions we focus on figuring out what boards are more fun to ride. Out of this process came the slew of new boards we have this year: The Crossrocket, Butterknife, Shank and Tour, all featuring the two different varieties of our NoHang-Ups three dimensional rocker camber.
It’s also from this process that we’ve evolved and maintained a few positive camber boards in our line. Like most teams of pro riders, our team still prefers positive camber boards like the Mod, Agent and Artifact. Also, a ton of the shop employees that are in our network prefer the poppy feeling of positive camber. Most consumer interest continues to be in rocker camber variations, but we can’t walk away from the fact that pros and shop insiders lean towards positive camber.
In the end, the driving forces are a wide variety of snowboarders whose ideas of fun vary from loose, playful boards to super poppy boards.
To what degree are you emphasizing camber shape in your lineup?
Camber options, and new camber options, are a massive part of our line. Unique geometry has always been a cornerstone of Rome’s board design process and 2013 is no different. Our big story for the new year is NoHang-Ups camber, which we are offering in two varieties. One that accentuates the level of loose, playfulness in a board and one that combines a forgiving feel for jumps and slow-speed riding with a ton of powerful pop for high-speed mountain shredding.
Are you cooking up any new materials or construction techniques?
Geometrically, in addition to the NoHang-Ups three dimensional camber profiling, we are introducing our new Skatecore profile and ButterOut Transition Zones. Skatecore Profiling uses a unique approach to core thickness to create a board that turns, ollies and blunts more like a skateboard. ButterOut Transition Zones expand an idea we introduced nine years ago to the point where the transition zones are extra elongated in order to enhance the buttery, catch-free performance of park and jib boards.
As for materials, we’ve added Bambooster Technology which is a bamboo version of our HotRod tech so we can deliver extra pop to boards lower in the price range. And regarding HotRods, we’ve evolved how they are used and altered their configurations to add targeted pop to both rocker and non-rocker boards. For rocker boards, HotRods are the essential additive that takes the playful vibe of the Mod Rocker and gives a kick off the lip. Built especially for the riders who like a rocked out board with a high-energy response.
What themes are you seeing for graphics?
Our line is very diverse, so our art tends to be diverse as well. We integrate art from a wide range of artists. We have models with bold colors, some with intricate fine art, and lines with irreverent graphical themes.