We talked with Eddie Lee, Vans’ Snow Product Line Manager, to hear more:
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
Retro styling with some clean classic and traditional outdoor influences as well as sustainable materials and construction methods.
What is the greatest change affecting your brand since last season?
Weather, manufacturing costs and 20 years in the snow biz.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
For the most part the shops and brands that are still committed to snowboarding are in it for the right reasons. It's a challenging business to manage and requires passion for the sport to stay the course. Ultimately this will be good for snowboarding in the long run as those are the type of people you want representing what it's all about and sharing the experience of why we all fell in love with it in the first place.
How has sales forecasting changed for your company?
What lessons have you learned with bookings and production for this season and how will you apply those to next?
We're continuing our conservative approach with regards to inventory and hope other brands will do the same. We saw first hand last season what can happen when you have a strong year followed by a snow challenged season. It certainly wont be the last time. A scarcity of product in the marketplace can help everyone in the long run with increased demand, reduced discounting and higher margins.
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 don't sell our boots direct to consumers choosing instead to focus our efforts on driving traffic to our key retail partners. We don't over produce or over distribute. We provide a high quality performance product at a good value from a known and trusted brand and we support it all with innovative marketing and solid service to help maximize sell through during the critical full price sales window.
How large are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers confused by too many different stories?
The boot line is slightly smaller than last season with key stories focusing on our classic styles, our variety of closure systems and overall performance. We try to keep our messaging interesting and exciting but clear and understandable.
From your perspective, what does it take to create a meaningful relationship with customers?
Good communication with our customers is key, listening to their feedback, providing the right types of product for their particular shop that meets the needs of their customers. Regional programs that help drive traffic into their doors and tools at the point of sale that best showcase the brand and product.
In 2013/2014, what do you think customers will expect from the brands they back?
Value, quality, performance and great customer service.
With the shifting landscape of production abroad, are you reevaluating where you produce your hardgoods? If so, why?
We continually evaluate various sourcing and production options.
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.?)
Get more people to try snowboarding and keep those that try it coming back for more. Those of us know once you get hooked you're in for life. Part of that winning formula is making sure they have the best equipment for their needs. Product that improves the riding experience and gives snowboarders a compelling reason to upgrade or update their gear.
What do you anticipate prices doing next season?
With labor and raw material prices continuing to increase there are only a few options left on the table. Brands can take a hit on an already low margin business which is not a great long term or sustainable solution, de-spec their product which is not a desirable option for the end user and doesn't move the industry forward or raise prices.
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact? If so, what are some of these steps?
We continue to explore alternative materials and construction options. Vans operates under lean manufacturing standards that reduce waste, improve efficiency and adhere to global restricted substance initiatives that greatly reduce toxic emissions into the environment. Our boot line is PVC free. Every style is made with water based cements in lieu of petroleum-based glues. All styles are constructed using a combination of recycled materials and we continue to expand the use of waste saving injection-molded outsoles.
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.)?
Making product that caters to every style of rider out there whether you're young, old, a beginner, intermediate or an advanced rider. We're dedicated to producing product that will help riders advance their skills as well as enjoy the experience of snowboarding. We introduced our regional Hi-Standard Am Events that are fun and inclusive and reward riders for good style and not who can pull a triple cork.
What does your company hope to contribute to snowboarding?
We hope to contribute to the fun and progression of snowboarding. It's hard to have a good day if you're boots are uncomfortable or if your feet are cold and wet. We want riders to forget they even have boots on so they can just enjoy the experience of riding. It's also hard to push the limits of snowboarding if you can't rely on your equipment. We want to provide reliable and innovative product that gives riders the tools they need to continue to explore and evolve the art of sliding sideways.
What overall trends are you seeing in the boot market?
A little bit of everything including crazy colors, neon's mixed with outdoors inspired styling and a mix of some retro styling. We don't chase trends as much as stay true to who Vans is as a brand and draft off of styling from our footwear categories.
Has your approach to lacing systems evolved in the past few years? If so, how?
Yes and no. We don't want to put out another "me-too" story out there so we're taking the time to put the energy into offering smart ideas as well as customizing your boots to your liking. There are so many configurations out there and we want to offer a system that works well and meets the demands of the consumer.
Being the first brand to work with BOA Vans was at the forefront of the whole lace system explosion. We feel strongly that with what is currently available in the market that there is no better alternative to the advantages that the BOA system offers. Our approach has been to apply the BOA system in various configurations to provide options that address the preferences of different riders. 1 zone, 2 zone, 3 zone, BOA + traditional lace. Something for everyone.
What new construction techniques, technologies, or fabrics do you anticipate breaking out next year?
New closure configurations, temperature and moisture management materials.
What trends do you anticipate in the realm of graphics and colors?
Material and textural contrasts, relevant prints and graphics on some key story pieces. Patterning and color use to highlight relevant technologies.
Have you seen any new trends in market segmentation?