Dan Sullivan, director of sales:
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
Camber stories will continue to be the biggest trend in snowboard hardgoods. We'll be seeing a progression from the more standard rocker to many more hybrid camber stories which will use a blend of reverse camber, flat camber, and positive camber simultaneously. Riders definitely have mixed opinions of what they want for their different riding styles.
In bindings, canting, adjustability, and flex control are the primary trends that we are seeing. Our new 390 Boss and new VRod baseplate innovate in all of these areas.
In boots, lace systems will again make noise with new systems being introduced.
How have you responded to the industry-wide oversupply of last season?
We produced very closely to what we sold at pre-book time—this is something we do each year. This keeps the supply and demand of our products in check and protects us from having a glut of product added to the closeout shelf.
How are you working with retailers to help ensure strong margins?
First we encourage our shops to hold retail prices and command margin deep into the selling season—selling products which are in demand at a discount constitutes to giving away margin dollars.
We also are working hard on our end to keep consumer demand high. We have invested a great amount of time and resources into the digital element of our business. This has allowed end consumers to obtain more information directly from the brand and bring that knowledge to the cash register when they purchase our products. We are keeping our website very dynamic with hopes that we keep our customers engaged with the brand and keep their appetite ripe for purchasing our products as well as being excited about snowboarding in general.
How do you see the hardgoods marketplace evolving next year?
There is a chanc that we are still going to be seeing the hangover from last year's oversupply and heavy discount at retail. Once consumers are trained that they can wait and buy gear off price, it will take some time to have them again commit earlier and pay full price. So brands like ours need to work with retailers to re-train people to some degree. Scarcity of hot products will push this to happen in due time. The good news now is that the old product is moving through the system. By this time next year the industry should be in a much better position in relation to inline versus prior year products.
Also Internet purchases will continue to increase at a robust rate.
What are the biggest changes you've made to your hardgoods business model in the last year?
We’ve stepped up our push on innovation in all of our hardgoods categories–boards, bindings and boot. We have gotten more diligent in only making what we have sold during the pre-book time. Again, scarcity of products will ultimately allow us and the retailer to command more margins for our products.
What opportunities do you see for hardgoods sales?
We expect to grow sales within our current, healthy 'key dealer' base. Though we are having success in all of our product categories, many of our key accounts are still not purchasing all these categories from us. Many of our best shops still only buy our snowboards and bindings. Adding boots, gloves and outerwear into these shops allows us great potential to increase sales in these categories.
In terms of hot categories, we specifically are expecting our binding sales to grow significantly. As our binding collection has expanded in Sku count, it has allowed us to reach more price points at retail. This has allowed our bindings to be purchased not only to be mated with a Rome boards, but to also be put on other board brands. We expect retailers will continue to have Rome bindings be a greater percentage of their overall bindings buy—this is the same trend we've seen since we introduced the category.
What are price points doing?
Due to the current deflationary market, price points for products have been flat or dropping slightly. Expensive products are being challenged by closeout products—this unless technology is driving the sales of these more expensive products. Consumers have generally drawn a line in the sand that they don't want to pay more for products that have a likeness to the previous year. This has forced most manufactures into holding price on products, even if those products have become more expensive to manufacture. The exception to this is new technology—consumers are still paying a premium for this.
Must have, new technologies have been about the only things selling at full ticket. What are you introducing that shop staff can demonstrate to customers and convince them that they have to have?
We have many new products lined up for 2011. Some of these highlights are:
- PureFlex Lacing System—the innovation here is that we’ve designed a quick, convenient four-zone lacing system that using small, semi-traditional hardware at key points so that the natural flex of the boot is preserved. Additionally, since it is the only system that incorporates the internal cuff into the system, it is super fast because your internal cuff laces when you lace the shell.
- The VRod Baseplate–this is a new baseplate from us that narrows the footprint of the binding by elevating the lateral front corner and the medial rear corner of the binding. This lets the board flex more naturally, while still delivering power transmission through the “rod” that contacts the board. Additionally, we’ve designed a new InBase padding system into this binding that reduces weight and allows for independent toeward and heelward adjustments for better fit.
- The Yes, I Cant InBase System–featured on the 390 Boss and Targa, our new canting system allows riders to switch out three sets of interchangeable EVA pads for 0-degrees, 2-degrees or 3.5-degrees of canting. This gives more power over the tip and tail in general; it especially optimizes the performance of our Poprock Technology boards and other reverse camber boards.
- In boards, we have a bunch of new tech. First, there is our new sidecut technology–QuickGrip Technology. Integrating three sidecut radii with Mid-Board Contact Points just outside the bindings, the result is a board that rides short at slow speeds and rides long with added grip at higher speeds.
- Also in boards, we have three new pop-enhancing technology. HotRods are thin carbon tubes, PressurePop Tech are power-transmitting plates made of Kevlar or Basalt, and PowerBars are carbon bars pressed into a V cross-section. All increase pop in targeted areas by configuring them in our V, Reverse-V and Torque patterns.
What are the biggest forces shaping the changes and developments you've made to your boards?
Clearly right now there is a lot of consumer interest in (and confusion about) reverse camber so for the last few years we have spent a fair amount of development time on this area of snowboard design but I have to say focus for the 2011 Rome line has been driven by a reanalysis of how a modern snowboard should perform and addressing the compromises that have been inherent in snowboard designs for decades – e.g. soft and buttery boards designed to perform great on rails aren't often super solid for the biggest park jumps, boards that are highly maneuverable at slow speeds aren't typically super stable at higher speeds, boards that perform great in powder aren't automatically predictable and powerful performers on groomers, etc. So what is tying together and driving much of our snowboard design developments can be summed up as looking for ways to minimize compromise and broaden any particular board's performance range even if its design targets a specific rider profile, a particular type of riding or special terrains and conditions.
What's your philosophy on camber these days?
We support multiple types of camber because our riders, shop kids, and our testers all support a variety of reverse camber profiles and positive camber. We started exploring reverse camber a few years back with an eye on understanding what it does well and where it needed to be integrated with pop-enhancing technologies. The result of these explorations has been the development of multiple configurations of camber falling under the general "reverse camber" classification (Reverse-Jib, Reverse-Free and Reverse-MntPop), all of which utilize new technologies that work in conjunction with the flex, sidecut and camber to enhance each boards performance. This combination of geometry and technology is what creates our Poprock Technology. We’re also committed to positive camber for riders who prefer that feel, and we've also refined, developed and expanded upon camber profiles that don't necessarily fit well under that general categorization – like our Hybrid Camber profiles to our most surfy Powder S camber profile.
With the 2011 line it's likely we offer the most comprehensive selection of camber lines on the market, each of which have been developed with specific performance objectives in mind, and which I feel together cover the entire spectrum of snowboarding (as we know it today). The truth is that while we do many things to make our boards as versatile as possible, there is no one kill-it-all snowboard solution in construction, materials or design, and camber, reverse or otherwise, is no exception to this rule. We really make an effort to explain each of our camber profile's performance sweet spots in our catalogs and online so you can best match them up with your riding style for an optimal foundation
Any new materials or construction technologies?
For sure. The biggest story might be our new HotRod Technologies – 4 mm diameter hollow carbon tubes fitted into recesses in the core along the board's neutral axis, which offer up unprecedented responsiveness in our Mod and Anthem SS models. In the Reverse V configuration used in the Mod series boards, the HotRods extend all the way to the contact points in the tip and the tail giving this series the most dynamic tip and tail rebound (i.e. Ollie pop) we've ever developed in a board. In the Anthem SS the HotRod's are in our pre-loaded Torque configuration where they load up and return the energy riders put into the board during a turn more dynamically and efficiently than possible with a conventional laminate construction.
Throughout the majority of the 2011 line we have been able to introduce new technologies that strategically add power, control and durability with our new PressurePop Tech, our new PowerBars and new Impact Plate composite technologies all of which are seamlessly integrated into the boards laminate structure. All this has been achieved with a reduction in weight over the technology used to enhance similar performance objectives in prior year designs.
What themes are you seeing for graphics?
Graphically, the 2011 Line is the most diverse collection we have ever put out. We worked with several top artist to create some of this years graphics, notably Chuck Anderson/NoPattern on the Blue, Daren Newman on the Anthem and Kyle Sauter on the Label. Series like the Artifact and Artifact Rocker have stayed true to form, with irreverent 'Jerk Moves' on the Artifact, and 80's skate inspired top and base graphics on the Artifact Rocker series. Team involvement in this graphic collection was quite extensive this year as well, specifically on the LoFi and LoFi Rocker, where MFR worked directly with Rome's Art Director Michael Paddock to create the graphics for her favorite board. The Agent series got a much-needed facelift this year as well, but didn't stray to far from the 1/1 concept it's been focused on in years past. This year, there are 9 different top sheet backgrounds that rotate throughout the series at random. While every board is not 100% unique, the chances of you seeing the exact same Agent 152 or Agent Rocker 155 in your shop, or even at you local hill are very slim.
What market segment are you focusing on? How and why?
No one in particular and everyone – as always we're focusing on designing product to make snowboarding more fun for everyone regardless of some sales department market demographic study. Rome's 2011 line is our most diverse board line ever even as it consists of our most versatile board design