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Brad Steward- Marketing Director:
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
We break the trends into three key areas; Riding Trends, Product Trends and Business Trends. When the three line up, we're golden. Unfortunately this season, those trends are all moving at different speeds. From a riding perspective we see a significant number of kids who snowboard everywhere they can. They're not constrained with the need of a resort, lift ticket or chair lift. We've responded by putting products, athletes and marketing energy in this direction with our Backyard initiative. Backyard products are super durable, basic and burly – made for people who skateboard on snow. For the All Mountain and Park/Freestyle consumer, versatility and value are key – so we've chosen to create a range with performance and killer benefits at every level. To address rocker , we've taken momentum in a totally different direction – and created something we call the Mustache Menu. Mustache Menu identifies our position that the best board isn't a matter of Rocker, or no Rocker – we break it down to a variety of profiles, so we can offer the best board profile specifically for a rider's needs. We feel this viewpoint expands versatility and gives you a better board for your buck.
How have you responded to the industry-wide oversupply of last season?
Before you address the response, you have to have a clear understanding of the cause. The oversupply of the market is the result of one brand in our sport having too much influence and controlling too much of the retailer inventory and mindshare. In a normal marketplace retailers have what we call the 'Coke and Pepsi' dynamic, where multiple brands have both an independent stake and independent perspective in shaping inventory. When 60% of the market overproduces via one company, other brands have to be dynamic in dealing with excess. We run tight inventory, limit close-outs to be within the standards retailers expect (and to a certain extent need). It's our stance that the so-called 'industry wide' oversupply, actually isn't what happened. We don't feel we overproduced last season.
How are you working with retailers to help ensure strong margins?
Strong margin is the result of strong consumer demand. Consumer demand has to happen on a territory-by-territory basis, so we're working with our rep's and retailers to focus our entire company on our Marketing and Sales Playbooks, which is our process for driving consumers to retail. Working this way allows us to start margin building on the ground at retail and work our way up. Each region of the U.S. has different local economic drivers, so we always focus on the local process for building margin.
How do you see the hardgoods marketplace evolving next year?
Retailers are waking up to the fact that the old model in our business is dead. The snowboard hardgood business used to be 60% specialty, 40% chain. Now, the new dynamic shaping for the majority of the market is suppliers with 1/3 of their business self-owned retail, 1/3 ecomm, 1/3 blended between specialty and chain. This reality will make it more difficult for retailers to identify clear hits in hardgoods and make margin. The market will evolve to become more complex, more lucrative to the companies that play it right and driven more by consumer choice than ever.
What are the biggest changes you've made to your hardgoods business model in the last year?
We've focused our products into the key price point zones and loaded these products with real rider benefits and value consumers can touch and feel. Our line is divided into the three directions we see snowboarding evolving, Backyard, Freestyle/Park and All Mountain. You'll continue to see us align athletes, consumer events and products in a way that assists retailers in planning their buy better and having sell through at full margin
What opportunities do you see for hardgoods sales?
Our number one opportunity is to be the brand that offers the specialty retailer a credible board, boot and binding offering for all riders. A real partnership based on quality sales, service and support. We will defend our position as the best fitting boot in the business. We'll be aggressive on properly priced bindings that are durable, attractive and a better value than the competition. We'll push hard on initiatives like the Salomonder, which is designed from top to bottom by Jed Anderson and Chris Grenier. The market dynamics don't allow for any one brand to make a push in a given area – consumers drive. They want the best product, specifically for the best use. Instead of trying to lead in Women's, or with Core or High-End or Low-End; we're going to create 'must have' products that shine above the market because they are legit, supported and designed by riders and have unique product traits you can't buy from other brands. Leave it to the microsofts of the world to make generic 'category classics' – we want to make standout products that shift perception.
What are price points doing?
Price points will remain stable, with an increased feature set and value. We're a global company and manage pricing in several areas of the world, so we can adjust for priority markets and bring a unique mix of consumer 'bang for the buck' and retailer driven margin.
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?
If you mean, "what's our Banana?" We don't see it that way. We're interested in creating the right benefit for the right rider and in general you don't see 'one size fits all' approaches to Salomon technology. We'll be working shops through our Mustache Menu, which is the widest range of base profiles in the industry. Equalizer sidecut gained a ton of traction at camp this past summer and we've got a blended version of Equalizer and Rocker we call Rocqualizer, which gives you the rocker feel with edge control. For bindings we have our new Viper Ratchet, with an extra long throw – and in our boot line you'll see a new cuff construction, the Reflex, which makes the boot powerful and flexible. These products are loaded with good sound bites for retailers, and we'll definitely hit the ground on that level; but more importantly, you'll see Salomon pushing a perspective and a way of making snowboards which is really our own – and not a version of someone else's marketing rehashed into our catalog.
What are the biggest forces shaping the changes and developments you've made to your boards?
Three things; The team, the team and the team.
What's your philosophy on camber these days?
Get a mustache.
Rian Rhoe- PR & Social Media Manager:
Any new materials or construction technologies?
Easy press core is a new technology we developed in a whole new way. We created the Butter-Bot, a robot that can do thousands of nose and tail presses every day. Robots aren't riders, so of course, we led the effort with the team – and then went all tech on the bot. Easy press core on the Salomonder is pretty crazy. It's flat camber and you can actually press it easier than a traditional rocker. It's pretty sick. It also has No Chip Tips to protect the tip and tail from de-lams and nose blowouts.
On the Eco side , Greencake is a fully recyclable board concept we're developing. Reps will have concept boards for people to check out, but the process needs to be refined before the boards are fully ready to ride.
What themes are you seeing for graphics?
Hand drawn or hand crafted. The salomonder is a combination of Grenier and Jed's drawings. Jed drew the graphics for the 48, Grenier drew the graphics for the 52 and the 54 wide is a combo of both their drawings. The Riot graphic started as a cut and paste collage and the Drift was inspired by graffiti markers. On the women's side, the Lily incorporates hand painted artwork mixed with computer graphics. Also skate inspired, the Sick Stick topsheet looks almost like a new skate deck with grip tape cut outs.
What market segment are you focusing on? How and why?
We make boards for snowboarders. We have great jib boards for the backyard kid, a killer offering in our freestyle mix for park riding and an All Mountain collection that throws down on any terrain from groomers to first descents. These three collections represent the kind of riding we've seen in snowboarding for the last ten years and it's where we see riding heading in the future.