World Boards. Bozeman, Montana. Photo: Moore.

World Boards

601 W. Main St. Bozeman, MT 59715

Owner: Jay Moore

Manager: Jeff "Coops" Cooper

# of storefronts: 1

Square footage: 1,425

It's impossible to hang out at World Boards without getting excited to go ride. For over 20 years, Jay Moore has cultivated that genuine vibe through authenticity and his enthusiasm for the sport. A founding Commission Shop and former Transworld Business retailer of the year, World Boards is as synonymous with Bozeman's snowboarding scene as the local mountains themselves. Vintage snowboards and one-of-a-kind memorabilia blend into beautiful custom product displays featuring a deep inventory of carefully curated gear. The most notable recent addition to the shop's décor is a highly coveted gold duct tape trophy, which the owner himself secured last season by winning the grand master's division of The Legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom.

Jay is blunt about the challenges facing specialty retail in all regions, saying that "nationwide, we are all in this together," and pointing out that tough times anywhere can lead to a flood of off-price merchandise online and decreased margins for everyone. While snowfall fluctuates, he feels that oversupply problems are chronic and "showrooming" continues to plague a business model built around superior customer service that often shares valuable expertise in good faith only to eventually lose the final sale to the lowest online bid. Although a realist about the troubles with snowboarding's business climate, Jay is noting but positive when it comes to talking about riding itself and maintains the upbeat personality of someone who has paired their passion with their life's work. Just last weekend he battled through seven heats of boardercross to eventually earn a top-three finish against some much younger riders at the Nate Chute Classic at Whitefish.

How did you choose the location?

In this space from1991-93 was a poor excuse for a board shop, which we bought out and renamed. We changed everything about it but the great location which is in the middle of town.

What were you doing before World Boards?

I was a partner of a construction business building houses.

How would you describe your shop? What makes it unique? What do you think you're best known for?

Inside World Boards you will find lots of heart, knowledge, and passion housed in a 120-year-old building. We are unique in some ways like having so much selection, especially for such a small shop in such a small town. I have been splitting boards for 20 years. Oh, and our in-store service is great as well as our amazing repair tech shop. We have history in both skate and snow since we have made history in both. Prior to opening the store I had a lot of up close and personal experience and in skate and snowboarding.

How many employees do you generally have at one time?

3-8

How do you recruit, train, and retain good employees?

I have been blessed by some good timing and have had and currently have some great key employees. Getting the entire group to flow and work together is the hardest part. In the shop we train by doing all tasks; it is very hands on. We also know our product since we use it; we skate and snowboard a lot. Under promise over deliver!

Inside World Boards in Bozeman, Montana. Photo: Hawkins.

What have been some key milestones in the shop's history since you opened?

2002 (inagural) TWSnowboarding Business shop of the year. Multiple times, locally, best ski shop in Bozeman… we don't even sell skis. We purchased our space in 2010. Surviving till now through thieving managers, poor snow years, and the whoring out of our industry. Designed and raised money for the first concrete skatepark in Montana in 2002. There's more…I'm thinking…

Do you have an online storefront (e-commerce)?

Not anymore. If you don't have a back door or parent company to supply the infrastructure, and data, and backend, online is an energy and time suck. Keeping up with the price war is a race to the bottom. There is no service online and what we do best is real service. Oh, by the way, we have always matched in-store or online pricing anyway and you can call us toll free or shoot us an email off our web site anyway. Whether purchased through an indy store or online giant, the product gets packed and shipped to a customer.

Do you operate a private label brand?

In skate, Main Street is TM and was/is our answer to the blank and shop deck days. It is a real brand with a real team we even did a few videos in the hay day. We continue with it as a great alternative to blanks supporting a few team guys consistently. In snow, I designed the Mountainslayer that Never Summer builds for us. They do such a great job, it is pretty incredible!

Are your private label sales a significant percentage of your business? If so, what percentage?

Not really, in 2014 we only did 324,000 skate decks and 45,000 snowboards….hahahahahaha…jokes!! It is significant but not the main portion by any means. We are trying to hold onto some margin and these items help the bottom line.

CUSTOMERS

Describe your typical customer. If you don't have a one specific type of customer, please define or break down your customer base.

Typically it is the local who we skate and ride with day in and day out. We hike with them and get face shots together! Some come out to ride the ramp at my house and of course the local skatepark and road trippin a bit. We have good tourist traffic usually so that helps depending on the snow amount or if we are having fires in the summer. MSU students also make up a good chunk of our customers!

 

BRANDS/PRODUCTS

Discuss your current product mix. How is it influenced by your region?

Well, you don't find a large selection of short jib boards…much. Freeride and big mountain freestyle is the basis of our annual collection. Tons of Splitboards and some specialty shaped stuff and artisan Noboards, etc. As a founding member of the Snowboard Commission we are working with brands to build "value add" goods that are built to the piece and sold only in our stores. We are trying to keep snowboarding in the hands of the lifers. It makes us sick to our stomachs that snowboards are even sold in ski shops and big box. It's a train wreck that all could have been avoided. Why let sports shops leach the life out of snowboarding when WE built it? I could go on and on as to why over-distribution and over-production is a huge contributor to the recent "death of snowboarding."

What percentage of your inventory is dedicated to…

Hardgoods 55%

Men's Apparel 20%

Women's/Juniors Apparel 5%

Footwear 15%

Accessories 5%

 

What brands have you carried the longest?

Nitro, Burton, Etnies, Vans, Never Summer…I am forgetting some… were around prior to our store opening. The rest started when we did or shortly thereafter and we have had them the entire time. i.e. Volcom, Nixon, 32, Emerica, Arbor, Sector 9, Capita, Union, 686, Spark R &D, etc.

What are currently your three most profitable product categories?

Snowboard boots. We do a great job fitting and many people happily purchase boots from us. It is something where we are a bit insulated from the idiotic point and click nature of online. Fit this online? What a tragic reality!!

Have they changed within the past year? If so, how?

Not really. Whatever categories are eroded by showrooming, those are the ones we lose sales in. Whatever is less showroomable we continue to do well with.

What has been your best selling brand over the past 6 months?

Never Summer. No drama, solid boards, loyalty, proper distribution and for that we thank them!

What's your overall impression of the local market over the past year?

We are getting eaten alive as each person has a phone/computer in their pocket. They showroom us then walk out to think about it and research. They then filter by price after sucking data and getting the right fit on my dime. All the while we ALWAYS match in store and online pricing. The dynamics of salesmanship are huge here but suffice it to say we usually lose. Human nature is such that most people don't want to ask us to match; few want to "be THAT guy". And since they don't have signs on them stating their intent we are at a loss how to not sound like a charity. We give great service to everyone and some milk us and leave and filter and purchase by price. No reason to ruffle feathers, hey it's the 90's get with it you slackers!!! Something could also be said about the online onslaught and persistence of pop ups on screens. A friend just said at lunch today, "it's bordering on creepy." It is as if you can't say no enough and the incessant pounding makes people give in. And when they do we lose. I wish I had a parent company granting me this access to sell sell sell!! Man it drives me nuts that this special small community we call snowboarding has gotten so blown out! C'mon guys, go away and leave us alone.

What are some things that brands are doing to help your business?

Not a lot. Please help us we are struggling. Does anyone notice? Thanks to those who do fully support us.

Are there any brands or programs that really stand out?

Never Summer, Venture, Homeschool, Nitro!

What brand(s) has/have stood out as the best overall "partner" since you've been in business.

Never Summer!

 

BUYING/PREDICTIONS/TRENDS

How have you altered the way you buy over the past few seasons?

In order to exist we must have less exposure, a.k.a. hold less inventory. We have always bought right and tight but at this point we are trying to balance in-store instant gratification, with all the myriad of choices available to each person. Customers are often confused. Since we purchase the best of the best we are confident that our selection is best. But the kid who is computer brainwashed, and has been riding all of 2 years, knows best what he NEEDS. We are in a growing predicament to be sure! Kids believe the internet yet are often skeptical when seasoned pros help with good advice. It's all flipped on its head.

Are you altering the way you buy for next year?

Tighter yet and requiring agreements on concessions so we can remain profitable.

Are there any profound trends that you're noticing right now in your region? Overall?

Camber never died here since people actually try to turn. It is trending so hot right now. You should try it, it is refreshing and actually easier!

What are your expectations for your business over the next 6-12 months? 1-3 years?

Hang on for dear life unless the Vendor to Retailer agreements change. The retail complexion has changed and yet the arrangement of B & M to wholesaler has not. Having an actual store is an unbalanced and unfair business proposition at this juncture.

Where are you seeing the best margins?

Floss…jokes! Never Summer!

What brands are consumers coming in and asking for the most?

Stance. Never Summer

What new brands are gaining traction for you?

Nitro is hardly new but now with proper USA distribution in place they are coming up strong. The board shops reading this take head. The ski/sport shops….just ignore it.

You've got what has to be one of the most solid splitboarding selections anywhere. Does that category continue to show growth, or is it starting to stabilize? Are you seeing repeat business or is it a majority of first-timers?

The split business is flat. It has stabilized. The longevity of the equipment and the huge initial investment that it is makes replacement purchases few and far between. Online again is hurting us from attrition. Instead of keeping it in the hands of the shops who outfit people properly, companies are selling split goods to online outlets. Customers are pointing and clicking and getting ill-fit mismatch stuff without the guidance of the pro shop. We try to rectify their poor choices daily. We know what to do to make their day, but how much to charge for that adjustment and expert advice? This is hard to do since we did not make the initial sale. You have to live in my shoes to understand how much of a pickle it is to be professional and kind in speech when refereeing to those who are using us as a stepping stone. We do rent more and more split set ups year-to-year. People want to check it out prior to dropping sometimes up to $ 2,000 for an entire kit.

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Name the top three reps that service your store and what makes them special.

Josh Fisher: he cares and he rides and he rips and he is our bro! Tim Eberly: same emphasis on ripping!!! Joe Rizzo: all of the above just as we like it.

 

OVERALL

What's one key lesson that you've learned through running this business?

Life is hard, God is good!

What is your top concern for your business and/or the industry as a whole right now?

Funny you ask that. I have been stalwart in stating that I am trying to contribute to save the whole. If the whole is healthy we will be healthy.

What makes you optimistic about your business and/or the industry right now?

I am not optimistic I am a realist. Right now things suck and if they don't change the products will suck and the soul and stoke will die. I just poured that out of my full cup. Now it is ½ full of stoke!!

What are the standout events that you host or programs that you run for consumers?

Local stuff is the best like movie premiers, Hot Dogs and hot wax in the parking lot, local comps, supporting a team, etc. But just being plugged in and real stands out in this plastic economy.

Do you expect your business to grow over the next year?

I hope yes, but I don't expect it to.

Are you currently considering expanding or opening a second location?

Did that 17 years ago and almost lost everything. Focus Grasshopper!

Do you sponsor a shop team? Who are some of your standouts?

Yes. Rob Kingwill is presently in Nepal with Warren Miller. His Pow Wow board test is amazing. Todd Kirby slays it all. Chad & Kyle Cremers are the fastest "non racer" racers around. Kyle just won the Open Men Boardercross at Nate Chute as well as Dick's Ditch last year. Chad won Sluice Box again and got 2nd at Baker last year. Robin Hill is holding it down at the Subaru Freerides.

Last specific moment that really made you love your job?

Today. Multiple face shots at Bridger, of course while testing a board.