The SIA Board’s Boarders: Catching Up With Rome’s Dan Sullivan

Editor’s Note: When most people hear "SIA" they immediately think of the trade show, but SnowSports Industries America is much more than that. As a not-for-profit trade organization, it is run by its members and Board of Directors, of whom a third are from core snowboard brands with well over 100 years of collective industry experience. The SIA Board meets regularly to steer the organization's goals, like increasing participation; services, like in-depth research data; and, yes, it's trade show, to ensure SIA meets the needs of brands and retailers today, and in year's to come.

As part of our series on the SIA Board’s Boarders, we caught up with SIA Board Member and Director of Sales at Rome Snowboards Dan Sullivan.

When and why did you join the SIA board?

SIA board members are actually elected to the position by the membership. I was elected in January of 2010. I accepted the nomination in the hopes that my voice as a so called 'veteran' of the snowboard industry would strengthen the SIA's knowledge on snowboard related issues and topics.

What are your goals in steering SIA’s direction to better support the sport of snowboarding and its retailers and brands?

My overriding goal on the board is to grow participation in snowboarding and to keep snow sports healthy and competitive in the modern landscape. SIA board meetings cover a wide spectrum of topics that are directly related to snowboarding's big picture. This touches on such areas as trade shows, production, shipping, sales data, marketing, and the list goes on. For me, all of these topics come back to how can we work together as an industry to get more people sliding on snow, and how can we best compete against the myriad of ways consumers are now being marketed to spend their recreation dollars.

In my view, every decision we make needs to, in some way, positively impact the sustainability of snowboarding. As an example, if a topic has to do with tariffs on snowboarding boots, this might seem distant from my stated goal, but everything is connected. If more tariffs mean that fewer people can buy snowboarding boots, then it is import to fight for.

What resources does SIA offer retailers that they might not know about?

This is an interesting question because I will put myself in the seat of a person, whom prior to serving on the SIA board, simply saw The SIA as a trade show organization. 'SIA' and 'Vegas' were synonymous to me. I am guessing that many others in the snowboard community think this same way and see SIA only as a physical trade show.

What I quickly found out by serving on the board was the SIA is first and foremost owned by its membership and a long standing not-for-profit trade organization which tirelessly works on promoting all snow sports. The amount of initiatives and resources that are directly used towards educating retailers, reaching out to consumers, and waving the flag of snow sports is impressive.

Outside of hosting the SIA show in Denver, which is a major annual event, SIA is pretty much the sole provider of snow sport related sales trending data and statistics. It provides this through its annual sales audits and reporting. This data provides manufacturers and retailers with critical knowledge about consumer purchasing habits and trends. SIA is the only organization worldwide that provides such specific information about snow sports.

SIA is also a major supporter of many initiatives aimed at growing participation. 'Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month' and 'Bring a Friend' are just two initiatives that SIA earmarks funding towards. Both of these are industry initiatives aimed directly at growing participation in snowboarding and snow sports. If suppliers and retailers don't know about these programs, they should. These are national programs related to bringing new customers to the sport and having them spend their recreational dollars with us.

Many people were upset when the SIA show moved from Vegas to Denver several years ago. What very few know about that move is that a major catalyst of that relocation was based on the windfall of press snowboarding would receive as a direct benefit of being hosted in a 'snow centric' city; a city where snow sports are integral to their culture and economy. The SIA show in Denver ranks as a major tradeshow for that city while in Vegas we were just a small, insignificant show. Because we are significant to Denver, the city has aided in the SIA show being open and promoted to third party press. The stories that are generated from the press at this show have increased immensely over the last three years. In a world where it is difficult to speak to and reach the general public, this is a great way to increase our touches to an audience that would generally not think about such activities as snowboarding. The guy that is reading a piece in Popular Science about new snowboarding technology, or the passenger that is traveling in an airplane and reads a story about snowboarding in Colorado in his Hemispheres magazine, are all really import ways for us to increase participation. Getting snowboarding in front of the general population is a huge challenge and the move has allowed a lot more of this to happen.

SIA has also recently provided retailers with a marketing piece aimed at growing sales. It is the 'Retailer to Consumer Marketing Guide'. This is a tool that might provide retailers with ideas and resources that are relevant to today's approach to retailing. Many shops don't have the time to think about such things as social media. This piece, which is created and funded by SIA, gives some ideas on this kind of marketing.

SIA manages websites, like that are directly geared at beginners and tries to provide new riders answers to many of the basic questions they can't easily obtain. Providing riders with a non-pretentious way to seek out information on the simplest of questions relevant to snowboarding is not easily found on the internet and this site is aimed towards that.

These are just a few of the things SIA does outside of hosting the largest snow specific trade show.

How has the snowboard side of the show changed since you began coming and what are your goals for the future?

Man. Well, I was attending the show the first year that the 'Snowboard Hall' was created in Las Vegas. As those that were there recall, if you had some graphics, an order form, and access to a foreign retailer you were an instant successful snowboard brand. There were so many small companies it was crazy. Obviously, the energy this created was awesome and set the bar for all future shows. This energy is always revisited and used as a barometer for the current snowboard area of the show. Anyone that walks the show can feel the noticeable energy change when they enter this region of the show. There are fewer snowboard companies now, but still plenty of them flying the flag of the rebellious early days. You still never know what you are going to encounter in the snowboard zone.

As far what the goals are for the future, it is to ensure that the SIA show remains the foremost place to see all snowboard brands, big and small, have the opportunity to meet, greet, and speak with company heads that do not attend regional trade shows, and allow buyers to get a solid jump on their buying season. There are so many shows out there now competing for everyone's time, it's made the SIA show that much more important as a place where you can see everything under one roof. Add to this the ability to attend the SIA On-snow demo where you can test the gear on the slopes of Colorado, and that's a huge thing. I'm always curious as to who doesn't want to snowboard in Colorado?

What tips do you have for retailers attending the show to make the most of it?

The most common complaint I hear about the show is the time constraints in being able to attend it. Shop owners are busy all the time. I like to give the advice to those people that have fewer days available to attend the show to go to day three and day four of the show, rather than the first two days. Since these days are generally less hectic and offer a more robust time to set up meetings, use this to your advantage. Also take one more day and attend day one of the on-snow. The result will be a four or five day trip in which they attend two days of the show and test the gear on the slopes of Colorado.