State Of The Union: evo Founder Bryce Phillips

Editors’ Note: For our annual State Of The Union feature in the January issue of TransWorld Business, we checked in with industry leaders at the brand and retail level to hear about their wins, loses, opportunities, and challenges throughout 2013, and where they are turning their focus for 2014. To see the entire story, grab a copy of the January issue, available this week at the SIA Snow Show in Denver.

The past 12 months have been good ones for Bryce Phillips, founder of evo. The retailer has seen growth in the face of the economy and a weakened winter gear market.  For evo, the past year was marked with the opening of its brand new flagship location in Seattle,  and it appears that 2014 will follow that same pattern of success. The 12-year-old retailer announced earlier this month the opening of brand new location in Portland, Oregon, inside an historical Salvation Army headquarters, and anticipates doors will open in Fall of this year.

The retailer also helped Grindline  build the only indoor skatepark in Seattle, All Together Skatepark, which finished construction in late November last year after an outpouring of support from industry brands and crowdsourcing through an campaign.

We caught up with Phillips, who stepped back into the role of evo CEO in July last year, to hear his thoughts on brick-and-mortar and e-commerce sales, what challenges the snow retail space is up against, and where he sees the industry headed.

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With the recent investment in a new shop at the brick-and-mortar level, what do you foresee as specifics (brands, product categories, POP, other strategies) that will lead the way in success and sales for retail next year and into the future?

First and foremost, we are focused on creating extraordinary customer experiences. With that in mind, we are passionate about executing this both in store and on the web believing that key for evo moving forward is to continue to differentiate in ways that are entirely unique not just in our market but far beyond. Our new store is great example of designing a dynamic space that keys in on much more than just a great product assortment. Details including how it is set up for music events, movie premiers, gallery openings, fundraisers and a multitude of other ways that we can engage our customers in a meaningful way have really made our new store different from anything else out there.

Our aesthetic and the emphasis on amazing architecture and a building tightly integrated with other great concepts (restaurants & All Together Skatepark), of course all plays into this as well. Moreover, there is no question that we also see ways to work more closely with our brands when it comes to telling their story in the context of evo on the web, leveraging social and our traffic, partnering in ways that add to the creation of this highly distinguished customer experience. I could go on but we are also very proud of our frontline team and how much knowledge they bring to the table on the phones and in our store. Not only do we have a group of people that can help customers with highly technical products, but they do so with the spirit of bringing everyone into the evo fold no matter their ability level or how immersed they have been historically in the lifestyle.

Your e-commerce platform seems to be doing well, and gaining market share. What are three key lessons you’ve learned for generating successful revenue through online sales? What specific challenges are there in this space?

This could be a book in itself and I’ll preface saying that we do some things well and we have a long, long way to go on a number of fronts. Specifically for evo, we can improve dramatically when it comes to better communicating our brand on the web, always trying to balance this when there is so much emphasis on price. E-commerce used to be looked at as the holy grail but we are all realizing that it is incredibly challenging to execute and those who are doing it well and profitably are becoming fewer and fewer. It is changing so quickly and the ante--still riddled with plenty of risk even when you can come up with it--is so high that it will be interesting to see where e-commerce goes and who emerges in a competitive landscape that is changing by the day.

That said, I’ve said this before and it may be looked at as overly optimistic but the amazon effect will illuminate how special great brands and thoughtfully crafted customer experiences are. Yes, a lot of people will get wiped out but those who are doing something different, and are engaging their respective communities in a compelling way, will rise up, capturing demand and gaining market share. We are especially bullish on the combination of store and web and how we can optimize for the two channels. It’s still very early not just in action sports but in retail so I expect that we’ll see a dramatic evolution in the years to come.