The Board Room: 2011 TransWorld Business Southern Retailer Of The Year

Nathan Phillips

After working for 12 years at a local ski and outdoor store, Nathan Phillips decided it was time to head out on his own. In September 2008, Phillips opened The Board Room in Knoxville, Tennessee, focusing on what Phillips saw as an underserved action sports niche, selling snowboards, twin tip skis, skateboards, long boards,  watersports, and lifestyle apparel.

By partnering with stand out brands like Never Summer, Capita, 686, Airblaster, Electric, Dragon, Ashbury, Rome, Volcom, LRG, Dunkelvolk, Neff, Coal, Candy Grind, Reef, and Brackish, The Board Room earned the TransWorld Business Retailer of the Year Award for the South in just its fourth year in business.

We caught up with Phillips to see how he got there.

What's the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and customers?
We tend to carry less mainstream brands and build a following for them. We love the fact that you’re not going to go into other stores and see the same brands. I think our customers appreciate the lengths that we go to seek out unique gear and are happy to rep it. Besides, who wants to be standing in a lift line looking like everyone else?

What's your philosophy on the role of core retailers?
It is up to us to set the trends, whether it be in technology, fashion, or style. Reverse camber/regular camber, wide stance/narrow stance, skinny fit/baggy fit. Box stores are more likely to jump on the bandwagon as trends catch on. It’s our job to seek out what's new and get behind it.

What makes your shop different?
Customer service! We work hard to deliver a high level of customer service. Our staff is very passionate about the product and gear they sell and use. I expect a lot out of my employees and they do a great job. We also have created a laid back atmosphere where our customers feel welcome to come in, hang out on the couch, play on the X-Box or catch whatever DVD is on the tube. We also host movie premieres in our parking lot in the fall showcasing the latest videos being released for the winter season. It’s a great way to get everyone together and get them stoked on the season. We work very closely with our local mountains Ober Gatlinburg and Cataloochee Ski Resort, hosting park event, snow demos, and movie premieres. We take a grass roots approach to connect with our customers.

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Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?
Passion, drive, determination, and focus. Our efforts to connect with our customer base by attending and promoting events: Skate contests, TN INT Wakeboard tour, PWT Pro Wakeboard Tour, terrain park events—taking that extra step to connect with our demographic on a core level.

What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2011?
Highlight: Increase in sales for back to school and Holiday.
Lowlight: What the hell is going on with the skate shoe category?

What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year's past?
We opened our doors September 2008, we’ve been dealing with the recession since day one. It’s been a learning process and we’ve made a few mistakes here and there but we’ve been able to take advantage of things like social media, including Facebook, and our blog. Being interactive with our customers, taking polls, and keeping it fresh.  We try to keep our advertising budget under control.

What are your predictions for 2012?
Shit's gonna be off the chain!

I would like to thank our customers! I would like to thank my wife, Regina Phillips, and all of my employees/family for helping my dream become reality. I would like to thank all the sales reps who opened me with accounts early on and believed in me.  We have worked so hard for the past 3 years and everyone has contributed so much to our success.