Longtime Volcom rep and Shelter Sales Company owner Emmet Klocker has been voted in as Midwest Rep of the Year 2012. We caught up with Klocker on his personal highlights of 2012, including getting married and an epic trip to Baldface, and his brands’ resilience through the economic rough patch.
What's the name of your sales agency and what brands do you represent?
My agency is Shelter Sales Co. and the brands I represent are Volcom Boardwear, Electric Visual, Coal Headwear, Capita Snowboards, Union Bindings, and Celtek Gloves.
How long have you been repping and how did you get into it?
I started repping Volcom when I was pretty young, around 1994 or ’95. I met Wooly, Troy Eckert, and Tucker Hall along with some of the early Volcom team guys at Mt. Hood one summer while I was attending High Cascade snowboard camp. I just made friends with the Volcom family when the brand was young and it eventually evolved into a job. Right around that time I also helped start a little board shop in my home town of St. Cloud, Minnesota called The Sticks with some buddies out of high school. We were buying Volcom for the shop and over time they started building their sales team. I guess I sort of caught lightening in a bottle at the start of the snowboard boom and my career evolved from there. At that time, I think I might have been one of the only people east of California who had even heard of Volcom. I was able to rep part time and work in the store the rest of the time.
We started The Youth Shelter Supply in 1998 with help from my family shortly after The Sticks closed its doors. We had a killer trio running the shop in those days. Adam Bovee, Midwest Vans rep and owner of Familia Skateshop in Minnesota, ran the skateboard side of the business, while Mike Thienes, the Current Co-Owner of Youth Shelter & Bald Egal Productions, ran the snowboard side. Between the three of us, we were able to build the kind of shop we always wished we had in our town when we were growing up. I eventually sold the Youth Shelter to Mike Thienes and his new partner Mike Pettit in 2006. As my sales agency grew, I became too busy to split time anymore, so I had to focus my attention.
What's the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and retailers?
Hell, I basically get to sell toys and cool clothes to people who are in the business of fun. I enjoy working with young, independent business people. That’s my background. My family owned a small restaurant business when I was growing up, so I guess I was raised an entrepreneur. Now I’m able to help other people build their businesses with great products from the brands I sell. I’d say it’s pretty rewarding when I can introduce my customers to something new and then see them profit from it. I enjoy brand building and developing products with the people I work for.
What's your philosophy on your role?
At the end of the day, we want to be the easiest vendor for our customers to do business with; we listen to our customers and operate with integrity. We try to guide our accounts into the products they actually need for their particular store, rather than just telling them what I think they should want. I don’t like to blow smoke up people’s asses.
Why do you think your retailers nominated you for this?
It’s pretty humbling really. I like to think that I have developed some solid relationships with my retailers over the years. Treat people right and hopefully they remember it. I really appreciate knowing my dealers are stoked on the work we are doing for them.
What do you think makes you excel in this role?
I’ve been on both sides of retail. I was a buyer and owned a store for along time. Now I’m a rep, but I think I still have a pretty good idea of what retailers go through every day. I think that builds some trust with my customers. I’ve also got a great assistant, Andy Conrad, who has been with me a long time. It would be pretty hard to service this region properly alone. I’m also lucky to have a very supportive wife who does an incredible job taking care of our daughter and home while I’m out on the road. The life of a traveling salesman can be a grind, so you’ve got you have a good support system to help keep you grounded.
What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2012?
Well, the lowlight was obviously the last snow season. Pretty crippling for winter sports retailers, which is obviously a huge part of the annual business in this territory. I’ve never seen anything like it in over 20 years of selling snowboard gear. Minnesota winter with no snow is pretty depressing, but we got through it.
On the positive side, our brands are still going strong and we came out of last year fairly unscathed. We’re looking forward to the fresh new season ahead. I think tough times force people to take a hard look at their business and refocus on what’s working while cutting out some of the peripheral distractions.
I also finally got married and made it up to Baldface Lodge in 2012, so on the personal side of things the year was incredible! The best party ever and the snowboard trip of all time in one year. Those were a couple lifetime highlights for me.
This year was another tough one for core retailers. How do you support your core accounts specifically?
Whatever we can do to help them build demand for our brands in their market. We try to help support various shop events with whatever promotional resources we have available. Whenever possible we try to leverage the marketing power of the brands we represent to help our accounts locally. We also spend a fair amount of effort helping to promote local riders and develop new talent for our brands. The Midwest region is so big that it’s hard to be in all of the stores as often as we would like, so we try to have somebody on the ground in each market flying the flag for our brands. Whether that be a shop employee or a team rider, you’ve got to plug in to the local scene if you want your brand to be relevant.
What are your predictions for 2013?
I’ve got to believe we will have a better snow season and maybe retail will bounce back a bit. I also think hometown boy Dan Brisse is going to three-peat for Gold in the X-Games Real Snow contest, because he’s a savage beast and can’t be stopped.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Many thanks to my customers who voted for me. Also to the folks at Volcom & C3 Worldwide who I have had the pleasure of growing up with. Over my years in this business I have been fortunate enough to find a home with some of the best brands in boardsports. Companies that are run the right way, by people with honest integrity. That’s something that’s not as easy to find as it should be for a sales rep. When you enjoy the people you work with, it’s pretty easy to go to work every morning.