Person being interviewed: Kara Flietstra, Marketing and Operations Assistant
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
For 2013-2014 Flux Bindings focused on making the most durable, functional, lightweight bindings possible without compromising the fit and feel we are notorious for.
What is the greatest change affecting your brand since last season?
Although durability and fit still remain our top priorities, the greatest change affecting Flux this year is our focus on aesthetics. For 2013-2014 we have put an increased emphasis on making the best looking bindings on the market. By using new, high quality finishes and imaginative patterns we were able to make some awesome looking foot clamps. We have also collaborated with James Haunt and JSLV, and also Raw Rolling Papers to create two unique designs.
There are several new features that upgraded our bindings this year. Although the winged highback isn't a new invention, we have greatly improved the design and developed a semi-winged highback. This design gives you increased leverage that you get with a wing, in an extremely lightweight package.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
People seem to be more interested in the tech associated with each binding, which is great for Flux. Instead of buying the binding on sale, we see more customers diving into what binding would fit their riding style and setup the best.
How has sales forecasting changed for your company?
We will continue to create demand by being aggressive with our sales and marketing programs.
What lessons have you learned with bookings and production for this season and how will you apply those to next?
We have learned that although there are many competitors in the binding market, it is not wise to push volume onto retailers. Stocking conservatively helps to build demand.
How are you working with retailers to help ensure strong margins, the right amount of product in the marketplace, and terms that set them up for success?
We work hard to make retailers happy by putting the right amount of product in stores to ensure they sell and keep their margins. We also make sure each shop has an accurate assortment for their territories demographics. We don't push volume onto retailers and want to see all our dealers sell out of inventory without having to discount. On top of a high performing product, by employing creative marketing programs and providing our retailers and consumers excellent customer service and support, we are sure that you'll be a Flux fan for life.
How large are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers confused by too many different stories?
Our line offering is perfect. It is simple and has worked for us, so we don't need a larger line than what we have going now. We have two product meetings throughout the year to hear feedback from consumers through reps, distributors, and key accounts, and are confident we have models that fit anyone's specifications. We work hard to educate consumers and feel like our line is very easy to understand.
From your perspective, what does it take to create a meaningful relationship with customers? In 2013/2014, what do you think customers will expect from the brands they back?
With social networks exploding, creating a meaningful relationship with customers is more important than ever. We are active on facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr, pinterest, and have our own blog. We frequently hold contests to reward our Flux fans and work hard to build a personality through these networks. On the other hand, we like to call and visit as many retailers as possible to be more available for support and feedback.
With the shifting landscape of production abroad, are you reevaluating where you produce your hardgoods? If so, why?
Flux Bindings' headquarters is in Japan. All bindings are designed, engineered and tested in-house making it easier for us to implement new technologies. We exclusively produce Flux Bindings in our own factory to be at the forefront of binding innovation.
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.?)
Our existing accounts continue to grow and we have increased in both core and chain stores. Internet sales have grown and we focus on staying in the best retail stores. Flux advanced our women's line by offering a new women's specific model for 2013-2014. We have trickled down our tech and are confident they are the best bindings you can buy for the price.
What do you anticipate prices doing next season?
We are committed to making bindings for every rider's budget. Although the price of materials and labor is going up, we are willing to take the hit to keep prices fairly consistent from year to year.
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact? If so, what are some of these steps?
We constantly are conscious of our environmental impact and are committed to finding ways to keep Mama Earth happy without compromising durability and performance of product. Two years ago we were motivated to make a change to and have greatly modified our work in-house to do so. We have greatly decreased the use of paper by electronically processing orders and by using recycled paper for our catalogs and cartons.
What are you doing to promote the growth of snowboarding and the next generation of riders (making kids gear, offering educational programs, developing innovative rental offerings, etc.)?
This past season, we donated bindings and funded a bus to take 40 of our local teens up to Mountain High, in Wrightwood, CA, for the day, and will do so again this year. We think it is important to get kids out on the snow and wanted to start with our local community.
What does your company hope to contribute to snowboarding?
Flux Bindings aims to give you a natural, uninhibited, connection to the snow. We work to create a positive relationship with customers and retailers and provide a great product that you can enjoy. We want to make sure the market is alive and healthy by promoting snowboarding as something positive, and we will keep doing it.
What are the top three developments and trends in next year's bindings?
We continue to focus on light weight bindings that are durable, comfortable, and versatile. For 2013-2014 Flux has introduced a new baseplate with custom stabilizers, a new lightweight, semi-winged highback, and a new ladies highback.
Are you using any new materials?
Flux continues to test new materials and designs that will better unite you to the pow under your board. This season, we have used Titanium hardware on the DM and DL for durability and weight reduction. Our baseplates are made with variable amounts of glass, fiber, and carbon blends suited for each model's response and flexibility specifications. Because we are confident with these materials, we are able to offer a lifetime warranty on our 2013-2014 basepaltes.
What new technologies are you introducing to your line?
We have created a lightweight version of the winged highback for added leverage and control. We have also developed a new, lightweight women's specific highback.
In order to reduce weight, Flux has eliminated the traditional forward lean adjuster in most models and now relies on a series of mounting options on the baseplate to provide a range of forward lean angles. This allows pressure to be distributed more evenly across the heel cup and maximizes power transfer.
We have incorporated a new grip strap for a better fit and hold in the ankle straps, and are using new hybrid footbeds. The freestyle footbed in the DL and DS have a softer inside flex and stiffer outside flex, and the freeride footbed in the SF and DM has a stiffer toe and heelside for edge response.
Flux's new baseplate comes with custom stabilizers so you can tailor the edges to be rigid or rolled for different rides.
What trends do you anticipate in the realm of graphics, themes, and colors?
For the 2013/2014 line, Flux continues to design bold and vibrant bindings and we are excited about the collaborative designs with James Haunt of JSLV, Raw Rolling Paper, and also Japanese artist, Horizon.