Editor's Note: As snowboarding season gets underway, we're launching a new series taking an up-close look at each section of the US's shred market. The series combined information and insight from industry leaders, mixed with in-depth research, for a broad perspective on the scene. As an industry, the more we know, the more we can grow.

Check out all of the other regions HERE.

Midwest Regional Profile

North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio

 By Margaux Elliot

Back in the day, I moved from Southern California to New York and when I experienced real winter, I'd always see the weather and think "Well, I'm glad I'm not in Chicago."  No disrespect to Chicago, but damn, you guys get some cold weather…Gotta gear up for that!

The Customer

You have to be pretty tough to survive the winters in the Midwest.  Not only that, but you need to really want to participate in snow sports. Rght in the middle of this region is Illinois, one of the flattest states in the country.  This isn't the Western Backcountry—but the Midwest has some major talent when it comes to street style. When you don't have the vertical, the focus and fun shifts to park or there's a lot of travel involved.  Because of this, the style is heavily skate influenced.  Mike Pettit from The Youth Shelter Supply says this style "can relate to park and rails more than big mountain freeriding or…pow".

There are a few things going on with style here: there are the "trends" and there's what is selling for the shops.  Snowboarders are divided—going for either the slim/skinny fit, or the super loose "Yo" fit as a friend of mine calls it.  Pettit sees colors “trending back towards more neutral, warm, soft colors.  Less all over print and crazy colors, more timeless and traditional colorways and fashion."  Honestly, I'm seeing this as a general rule everywhere for a few reasons, but mostly that we've come out of a difficult economic period and don't want to buy a crazy print $200 jacket that we'll be sick of by the end of the season.  People are picking products that will last and can be worn on and off the mountain.  So what's actually selling for the shops in masses are standard fits at a reasonable price that can go season to season and from the mountain to the bar.

Waterproofing and breathability does not have to be as high here.  Keep price points down, without sacrificing quality and put out styles that can be worn off the mountain. Insulation goes a long way in a cold region, but stay tuned as more people are turning to layering. When it comes to hardgoods, quality is important with some strong marketing on features (make it sound cool and the kids will run with it). "Anything that is practical and makes snowboarding better and more fun” is key, according to Pettit.

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Marketing

Even if a brand has everything that this customer is looking for, they still have to go that extra step. Showing up to summer camps and keeping a pulse in the area on the offseason is critical to get loyalty and awareness up. Having a local presence and strong dealer support to develop a lasting relationships will go a long way in this region.  This is a region that is supportive of anyone in the industry. Sales Rep Dan Copeland (Airblaster, Banshee Bungee, Chrome, Drake, Dang Shades, 4FRNT, GoPro, Handsome Cycles, L1, L1TA, Magical GoGo, Nitro, Northwave, Raiden, Recon Instruments, Spacecraft, Sessions; Chicago, Illinois) says it "doesn't matter what brand you are working for, we all help to grow the industry here in the Great Lakes.” That kind of attitude permeates throughout the region and keeps the vibes friendly. I would use that to understand the region and build from those principles.

Sales

Respect and sympathy goes out to reps here—this is a gigantic region.  Hopefully there's a Great Lakes separation or plenty of sub rep support, but generally this is treated as a bundle.  But if you can pull it off, there's some serious money to be made here.  The highest sales are in apparel (44% of total sales).

Here are totals from the 2011/12 Season:

  • Total Snow Equipment Sales[1] in the Northwest: $135,777,000
  • Total Snow Apparel Sales[2] in the Northwest: $206,679,000
  • Total Snow Accessory Sales in Northwest: $129,387,270

midwest snowboard sales

Top Five States in this region for sales:

  1. Michigan
  2. Minnesota
  3. Illinois
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Ohio

These states have the greatest purchasing power in the region by a long shot…check out the graph below.

 

midwest snowboard sales

The region has a huge presence of specialty retailers including The Youth Shelter Supply, Damage, Zombie Board Shop, Martini, Central Board Shop, Moda 3, Shred Shop, The Alt, Cal Surf, FL Project, People Skate and Snow, Ride 4 Ever, The Gnar Spot, Savvy, Rhythm, Pinewskis, Focus, and Expo Supply.

Major Big Box and chain Retailers in the area are Eriks Bike and Board, The House, Scheels, REI, Dicks, Hoigaards, and Sports Authority.

Brands

The Interior Plain Project is a favorite up-and-coming local brand.  If you haven't heard of them, you should have so go check it out.  Definitely stop by House of 1817 for some great local edits. The more established Bald E-Gal productions is based out of Minnesota, as well.

Brands you'll be likely to see on the mountain here are:

  • Hardgoods: K2, Signal, Burton, ThirtyTwo, Nitro, Rome, Flow, Line, 4FRNT, Capita, Union
  • Softgoods: Volcom, Burton, Special Blend, Northface, Analog, ThirtyTwo, L1, Airblaster, Holden

Weather

It's cold here, very cold. However, this is a huge region so weather varies greatly.  Generally, there is a lot of chill around the Great Lakes and as you get farther north, closer to the mountains.  Resorts are putting their money into snow-making equipment to keep the seasons rolling as long as possible.

Finding Your Way Around

The best of…[3]

  • Destination Resorts: Lutsen, Boyne Mountain, Mt. Bohemia
  • Local Resorts: Powder Ridge, Welch Village, Trollhaugen, Wild Mountain, Buckhill, Wilmont Mountain, Indian Head, Marquette Mountain, Cannonsburg, Chestnut
  • Backcountry: Mt. Bohemia, Granite Peak
  • Street: Minneapolis, Chicago…as long as there's snow, there's plenty of great street riding.
  • Aprés: If you're around St. Cloud, Minnesota—head to McRudy's Pub for a drink.

Industry Events:

December 4-6 MRA December Market Lansing, MI
January 8-10 MWSRA January Show Madison, WI
February 12-14 MWSRA February Show Madison, WI
February 19-21 MRA Winter Indoor Market Lansing, MI
February 26-28 MRA On Hill Demo Boyne Mountain

Margaux Jo Elliott is specialized in Technical and Performance Product Management. [email protected].

 


[1] Includes Alpine, Snowboard and Nordic Equipment Sales

[2] Includes Alpine and Snowboard Apparel Sales

[3] Based on survey sent out to industry professionals and additional research.