Name: Hillcrest Ski and Sports
Owner/Mgr.: Dexter Hill
# of storefronts: 1
Square footage: 7000
Hillcrest Ski and Sports has been a must-stop destination on your way to Mt. Hood since opening its doors in 1976. Conveniently located on Hwy. 26, the shop is directly on the route for Portland area skiers & snowboarders heading to Mt. Hood. As the shop begins to gear up for the upcoming winter, owner Dexter Hill sits down with TransWorld Business to discuss growing online sales, recent buying trends, and serving the Mt. Hood community for over 3o years.
Background on how/when/why you started this business. How did you choose the location?
Hillcrest started selling ski's in 1976 in the Mt. Hood area. Began selling snowboards in 1983. I chose the store's location because it is located on Hwy 26 on the way to Mt. Hood if you are coming from Portland or Vancouver.
What were you doing before running this business?
Painting houses/working retail and ski areas
How would you describe your shop? What makes it unique? What do you think you're best known for?
We are a specialty and full service shop that carries the leading brands for skiing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and skateboarding. We specialize in 1-on-1 customer service and custom boot fitting. We offer rentals and demo gear from 1 day to a whole season.
How many employees do you generally have at one time?
Between 6 and 15 depending on the time of year. Definitely have the most around the holiday season.
How do you recruit, train, and retain good employees?
We hire people who love the sport. We have several applicants and choose the ones who have the skills we need to provide excellent customer service.
Do you have an online storefront (e-commerce)?
Describe your typical customer. If you don't have a one specific type of customer, please define or break down your customer base:
We have a variety of customers. From the first time skier or snowboarder that is renting gear all the way up to pro level athletes that come in for custom boot fitting or binding mounting. We have worked on skis and boots for athletes like Nick Goepper and Eric Pollard. We even outfitted Devun Walsh one time after his gear was stolen while staying in Portland. I'd say that most of our customers are just your average skier or snowboarder looking for quality gear to have fun on the mountain. Its our goal to outfit them with the best product possible that fits their riding/skiing style and their budget.
What percentage of your inventory is dedicated to…
Hardgoods – 60%
Men's Apparel – 10%
Women's/Juniors Apparel – 10%
Footwear – 5%
Accessories – 15%
What brands have you carried the longest?
Rossignol, K2, Lange, Volkl, Marker, Salomon, Burton, Ride, Rome, Lib Tech, and Hyperlite.
What's your overall impression of the local market over the past year?
We are still recovering from the worst snow year we have had since 1976. So our customers are still cautious to buy new gear.
What are some things that brands are doing to help your business?
Window displays, sales contests for employees, reps helping out during our events, building quality product that customers want to buy.
What brand(s) has/have stood out as the best overall "partner" since you've been in business?
Rossignol and Smith
How have you altered the way you buy over the past few seasons?
Yes, due to the lack of snow we have had to cut our open to buy.
Are you altering the way you buy for next year?
Are there any profound trends that you're noticing right now in your region? Overall?
Seems like more and more people are buying product online.
What are your expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months? 1-3 years?
6-12 months – We are focusing our efforts on growing our online presence while continuing to maintain in-store sales.
1-3 years – We are trying to grow in store sales and online business.
Where are you seeing the best margins?
The accessory category
What brands are consumers coming in and asking for the most?
Dragon, Oakley, Salomon, Rossignol, Capita and more
Name the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special:
Barcus Evans with Dragon. He stops in on a regular basis and helps merchandise his product and takes really good care of us. Bob Riviello, he is always there for our big events and sometimes he comes in on busy Saturdays just to help sell product. Shane Lebsack, one of the most friendly and helpful of them all.
What's one key lesson that you've learned through running this business?
Write your orders in pencil and have an eraser close by.
What is your top concern for your business and/or the industry as a whole right now?
Brands selling direct to consumers, snow levels, internet and web sales.
What makes you optimistic about your business and/or the industry right now?
We are doing a better job of capturing some online sales.
What are the standout events that you host or programs that you run for consumers?
We have a race night for local race teams and special ski club nights.
Last specific moment that really made you love your job?
Helping a kid of 7-8 years old buy his first set of gear and then selling him a new set up every other year until he is 18 or so, watching him grow up over the years and keep coming back. Also just seeing some customers get so excited about buying some new gear that they almost seem like they are floating on air.
Do you sponsor a shop team? Who are some of your standouts?
Yes we have a small team. Jonny Sischo, Corey Caswell, and Joey Van Der Meer are the standouts.