What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for the next year?
"The one trend that seems to be shaping the market the most is the quality of product that's being demanded by the end user. Whether the customer is a Backcountry enthusiast, Park rider or just a Weekend Warrior, he or she is demanding a better performing product for his or her style of riding. At all riding and buying levels- there are so many good options for consumers today. Value and proper fit seem to be catching on, rather than pushing something cheap out the door."
-Kevin Addy, National Sales Director
What is the greatest change affecting your brand since last season?
"We have slept less, worked harder and rendered our best line ever. Go figure. But seriously, though we are all doing more with less, there is a certain cohesion and focus within the design, sales and marketing team and company as a whole. We are more motivated to design better products and to show them to the world. We want to put our best foot forward to show that, yes, these are tough economic times but we are resilient and we are still able to be creative. In many ways we are meaner and leaner, yet still rendering some of the best product innovations we as a company have ever put into to play."
– Anthony Scaturro, President/CEO
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
"The biggest evolution has been on the production side of things. Manufactures as a whole have been more responsible when placing their production orders, leading to a decrease in off-price product availability. This has put more demand on current seasons product and has allowed retailers to maximize the profit potential of their inline buys without feeling like they're going to be stuck with a lot of carry over products that they will have to compete against with other off-price offers." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Director
How has sales forecasting changed for your company?
"Forecasting is one of our highest priorities. It's always a battle to ensure that opportunities are not being missed while trying to maintain a responsible inventory level. This season we worked closer and earlier with our retail base to make sure we were ordering the right amounts of the right products and vice versa, making sure we didn't over produce models that were moving slower. Our excess inventory is at an all time low so making sure we have the correct models available is critical to our success." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Director
What lessons have you learned with bookings and production for this season and how will you apply these to the next?
"When it comes to bookings, it benefited us to work earlier with our retailers. This gave us the ability to take advantage of earlier production schedules and deliver a broader selection of our line to the market in August and September. As good as that worked for us though, there are still plenty of retailers that wait until the fall to place their orders or add to them and we're already seeing holes in our inventory that we won't be able to fill. Moving forward, we'll continue to work closely with our retail base to become even a more efficient brand." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Director
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've found that our retailers are more successful with Flow when they represent it as a complete brand. This season we offered incentives to grow retailer category selection as well as volume. We looked at each of our retailers individually and created a target order for them based on 2010 calendar year sales. This gave each of our retailers the opportunity to maximize their inline buy and discount with the right amount of products and, more importantly, the correct products for their business. Sales are missed when the right products are not in stock. Retailers end up chasing what's available which doesn't always lead to success. With our program, our retailers receive longer margins, the right amount of product and the right type of product." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Director
How large are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers confused by too many different stories?
"Our lines are going to be very similar in size but we're excited to be bringing new innovations to the market in all three hard good categories for next season. Brands in any industry tell different stories to convey their own brand story/message and their competitive advantage. Snowboarding is no different. Boots and bindings seem to be clear to most customers but I think confusion exists in boards right now. Every brand is offering subtle differences to similar technologies and renaming them. I think this is the most confusing thing out there. For the most part though, customers do a good job of sifting through it all to get to the meat of what they're buying." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Manager
With the shifting landscape of production abroad, are you reevaluating where you produce your hardgoods? If so, why?
"We are pretty clear on our manufacturing setup abroad. We have put a lot of effort into finding the best partners that can build the highest quality products and deliver reliably. This is not an easy undertaking. Moreover, we have tried to find partners which are in close proximity to each other so that we can leverage synergies- our design teams can be at their respective factories by day and be back in the same hotel at night to collaborate on designs or work through issues. This is important when you team spends weeks at a time in China. We also have a team of locals that are in the factories full time to make sure quality standards and production timelines are being met. China has its challenges but there are many benefits to doing business there as well. – Anthony Scaturro, President/CEO
What opportunities do you see for growing hardgoods sales?
"We see opportunity in multiple areas right now for hardgoods growth. First, we're continuing to push innovation throughout all of our categories. We'll have a diverse collection for customer's to choose from next season. Our new offerings will not be focused on any one demographic but instead trying to enhance the overall on-hill experience for all styles of riders. Secondly, we've seen huge growth in our Micron Jr. program and are going to continue to build on that momentum next season. It's not only important to get the kids snowboarding but we need to keep them coming back. Our Micron Packages our making it easier and more fun for the kids on the hill. With Boa Boots, Speed-Entry Bindings and Jr. specific boards, it's taking it out of the hands of the parents and putting into the hands of our future.
Lastly,we still haven't reached our potential in rentals. We introduced our PI rental technology 2 years ago and it's just now starting to gain steam. With our comprehensive rental packages and GRC program, it's allowing our customers to get more people through faster and more efficiently. This means more profit for them and, most importantly, the end user is having a great on-hill experience with comfortable and easy to use products which keeps them coming back." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Director
What do you anticipate prices doing next season?
"We believe you'll see pricing vary again this year from low to high. Most brands will focus their energy on trying to maintain prices in their core product selections but more than likely you'll see increases throughout the rest of their lines specifically in snowboard boots. The most important thing is for customers to find brands that have the highest value proposition (product, program and sell through) for them and not nickel and dime themselves into the wrong selections." -Kevin Addy, National Sales Manager
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact?
"We are always working to reduce our carbon footprint whether through the choice of material, packaging, printing or reduced material waste. We are continuously searching for eco-friendly materials and testing them thoroughly. It is not an easy feat for a hardgoods company. Delivering safety to our customers is first and foremost. Snowboarding can be a dangerous sport and people trust in Flow to build the best quality products that perform, are reliable and durable. If we can do this in an eco-friendly way then we are all over it." – Anthony Scaturro, President/CEO
What does your company hope to contribute to snowboarding?
"Flow Snowboarding's mission is to push the limits of design in order to maximize performance, comfort, convenience and most of all FUN for snowboarders worldwide. On a more personal level, we hope that our product designs will help to retain customers that are introduced to the sport of snowboarding. We aim to contribute to the sport's participation and in turn, create life experiences through snowboarding.
Flow is getting behind events that feed their addiction for fun. We are partnered with Tailgate Alaska and Tailgate BC. These events help to get people into the backcountry, teach them backcountry safety and allows them to take their first sled or heli ride. Once they watch a sunset over the Chugach mountain range, ride with a snowboard legend or have an unforgettable time with friends, then we have helped to create an agent of change in peoples lives.
Just as important, we want to work with the youth to help them see that snowboarding is a great sport; a positive outlet to express themselves. Our most aspirational goal is to keep kids out of trouble and away from drugs. We created the Team Micron program to sponsor young kids with riding skills [but] not necessarily to be the next Scotty Lago. I am sure we will likely find the next Scotty, however, we also want to show kids that life is more than being a great rider. It's about setting goals, achieving them and raising the bar for themselves. Its about getting and education, being respectful to their parents and to others." – Anthony Scaturro, President/CEO
The following questions were answered by Eric Luthardt, Product Manager/Boards:
What are the biggest forces shaping the changes and developments you've made to your boards?
Everybody offers a rocker story. Flow is standing out and pushing the envelope by offering new technology in construction.
To what degree are you emphasizing camber shape in your lineup?
We offer camber in nearly every model because having either a camber-like shape or areas of camber is crucial in our line to maximize pop, grip and power. 20% of our line is similar to traditional camber where we use Pop-Cam and Pow-Cam. These shapes are camber underfoot with flatter areas between the bindings. The other 80% of our line features different types of reverse camber profiles.
Are you cooking up any new material or construction techniques?
We are revealing our latest technology, Augmented Base Technology. ABT uses silicone between the core and base for the first technology that really adapts to any rider, terrain and condition naturally. The base between the feet can move 2mm up or down with light pressure so it truly adapts to anything without washing out. The ABT was originally developed for rails, but we realized that it is an all-mountain technology by softening icy landings and making rough terrain more fun.
What themes are you seeing for graphics?
Our graphics theme in 2012 is clean, sleek, fun and poppy. Customers have an array of tastes and we focus on making the best-looking boards so any rider can find what they line in the line.