“The business of America is business,” said Calvin Coolidge, and who are we to argue? The business of a snowboard retailer is business too, attracting more and more of it to your store in ways that are cool, fun, and service all involved: the customer first, but also the manufacturers, suppliers, local mountains, store employees, and the sport and industry in general.
SNOWboarding Business wanted to find out if retailers had any devious promotional strategies for luring customers through their doors. Promotions ranged from the simple to the gargantuan. In between we found lots of ideas for snowboard retailers wanting to attract some attention and some dollars to their store.
The Swap Sale
Of all the promotions we found, the swap sale was one of the most popular. At O’Neill Surf Shop in Santa Cruz, California, Andrew Walford says swap sales work well for his shop. “Our swap is the weekend before Thanksgiving,” he says. “People bring in their old snowboards, boots, or other gear, and put them on consignment in the shop parking lot. If it sells we cut a check for them, or they can spend the money on in-house product. We’re providing them a service and they’re turning around and supporting the store.”
In Southern California, Hansen’s Boardroom employs the same strategy-although they take a little off the top. “We have a thing in October called the ski swap,” says Retail Sales Associate Kevin Cooper. “People bring their used ski and snowboard gear and we put our own tags on it. If they sell it we keep fifteen percent and they get the rest. We always put last year’s stuff out at a discount, which is a good way to get rid of extra inventory. Our ski swap attracts hundreds of people. They’re out looking at all the old stuff, but inside we have all the new stuff and a lot of times people just decide they want what’s current, so they’ll come in and buy. But it’s the ski swap that attracts them. It works.”
The Consumer Expo
A step up from the swap sale is the consumer expo. “We invite various manufacturers to come and set up ten-foot by ten-foot booths in front of our store,” says Anthony Scaturro of EZ Rider in Burlington, Massachusetts. “It’s set up like a buyer’s trade show, but geared toward consumer product. Along with the booths we have a barbecue, live bands, and DJs playing music all day long. We set up a street skateboarding course and the Waterville Valley Ski Resort brings down a halfpipe.”
The expo attracts approximately 2,500 people over two days. “The reps talk all day about their construction techniques and all the unique qualities of their product. The consumers get their heads filled with all the different materials, constructions, and styles of riding.”
When those people sort out all the information and decide to buy, they usually come back to EZ Rider. “It’s very successful and worth it all the way around,” says Scaturro. “People have a good time and learn a lot. They ask about it all year.”
Cal’s Pharmacy likes to be different, according to a store employee called Bird, and that distinctiveness extends to participating in a local Portland consumer expo.
“We do the show right before the holidays for the new season,” Bird says. “One year we built a Japanese garden with a little pond and a bridge with snowboards inside. Last year we did a big Russian Constructivism thing. It was a big building in the middle of the show. We had all our products on display inside, and it attracted a lot of attention to our store. We just try to be a little different, but I think people appreciate that.”
Princeton Ski Shop services the metropolitan New York area, so it has to think big. “We rent Giants Stadium the second week in November and have a huge ski and snowboard sale,” says Princeton Owner Jack Meyers. “We buy discontinued boards from manufacturers at reduced rates and sell them at ridiculous prices. The manufacturers send reps and we bring in celebrities from time to time. We have refreshments and it’s a pretty big sale.”
Princeton rents the Giants Club, which is an indoor space of about 50,000 square feet. Meyers estimates last year’s attendance at about 45,000 people. “We do it Monday through Saturday. We’d go into Sunday, too, but New Jersey still has Blue Laws, so we can’t be open on Sunday.” Meyers wouldn’t say how much money the sale raises, other than that it was, “a lot.”
The Easter Board Hunt
The Easter Board Hunt is the most unusual promotion we found, and one of the coolest. It is a mature version of the traditional Easter egg hunt. Marc Loebe, the owner of Boardroom of Jackson Hole, came up with the idea last winter, and has been congratulating himself for it ever since.
Last Easter, Loebe hid a Lib Tech Doughboy model snowboard in one of the patrol shacks on the mountain at Jackson Hole. He then left a series of seven clues scattered all over the mountain, one clue leading to the next, eventually leading to the hidden board.
“We had about 50 people of all ages and sexes involved in this thing, and I wanted to make it fair,” says Loebe. “You had to ride at least one lift for every clue, and I made people go all over the mountain, and it’s a big mountain. There was a bit of luck and digging involved.”
Loebe adds that he didn’t feel any immediate effect on his business after the East Board Hunt, but that it created goodwill. “People had a lot of fun hunting down that board,” he says, “and I’ve been asked about it all year. I imagine next year’s hunt will be much larger.”
A Strong Team
George Johnston, general manager at Milo Sport in Salt Lake City, Utah, uses the straight forward technique. “I guess we’re kind of boring,” he says. “We do direct mail off our mailing list to people who have purchased from us before. We do a video premiere at the beginning of the season at the University of Utah,” he says
Johnston says that Milo’s strongest promotional asset is having a strong team. “As far as shop teams go we have one of the strongest in the country-J.P. Walker, Jeremy Jones, Jason Murphy, Brandon Ruff, Timmy Osler, Tanino Copene, Mikey Leblanc,” he continues. “These guys display Milo everywhere they go, and that creates word of mouth. We think there’s no better advertising than word of mouth.”
The Halloween Bash And The Thanksgiving Turkey
Jay Erickson of Alternative Bike and Board in Minneapolis, Minnesota believes sales are bad for the industry, so his store puts on a couple of fun, no-pressure bashes around the holidays to attract people and get them looking at new product.
“We have a newsletter called Whiteout that’s mailed to about 3,000 snowboarders in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” he says. “Whiteout promotes all the different things we do in our shop. Every year we have a Halloween bash. We don’t put any new product on sale. Only last year’s stuff is discounted. They’re more like parties-we offer free pop and candy.”
For the Halloween bash Erickson brings in a 720 skateboard arcade game. “It’s a relic from the 80s that uses a joystick and a button, but people really get into it, and we have competitions,” says Erickson. “We also put a trampoline out back and people compete with that. We do snowboard tune-ups while you wait and we hand out antenna balls and stickers.”
Shop-Sponsored Snowboard Trips
Pro Sports New York is a specialty skate, snow, surf, and wakeboard shop in the heart of New York City. Space is very tight and they’ve found the best way to promote the store and snowboarding is to provide one-day snowboard trips to the local mountains. “Once a season we’ll organize trips to the U.S. Open in Vermont at Stratton Mountain,” says store employee Daniel Benzaken. “But in the winter we provide one-day trips to Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, which is about a two-and-a- half hour bus ride from the city.”
PSNY charges 55 dollars for the Saturday trips, and that includes the bus ride, breakfast, and a lift ticket. “We use those big, lu
xury buses, which are comfortable, have bathrooms, and video screens. On the way up we’ll show snowboard videos and maybe raffle a snowboard or some other gear. If people need a lesson they can get that and a limited-access lift ticket for the same 55 dollars.”
Benzaken says the trips are very popular in New York City and are generally full through the winter. Other specials PSNY offers are 25-dollar snowboard rentals. Customers can apply three of those rentals toward the purchase of new equipment for a 75-dollar discount. PSNY also provides lifetime service for all the equipment they sell.
A video premiere is an inexpensive and fun way to get the blood pumping at the start of the season.
Greg Groves, owner of The New Ground in Edmonton, Alberta likes to host video premieres. “We rented a big movie theater in Edmonton and had about 200 people there,” he says. “Not crazy but a good stoke session none the less.
“Two seasons ago we showed Subject: Haakonsen, TB6, Simple Pleasures, and Steak and Lobster,” he continues. “We made it cheap, like four dollars, because it was just a promotion. We gave away snowboards and product and got everyone amped.”
Promoting a race or a freestyle event at a local mountain is a good way of putting the finish line at the door of your store. Boardsports of Eugene, Oregon does a variety of promotions: local advertising, a snow phone, and a snow update on the local radio station. Boardsports also likes to promote races on the local mountain, according to Rain Couture. “We’ve done everything from slalom to freestyle for people from five years old to 50. We did a couple GS events last winter, but people seem to like the freestyle events more.”