Questions answered by Sales Manager Chad Perrin (CP) and Brand Manager Alex Warburton (AW):
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
AW: I think snowboarding has finally evolved to the point where people are accepting of just about anything. Whether the influences are past or future; and I think that's healthy. There is no single, dominant trend anymore.
Of course, the rocker/camber story is still a big part of the sales floor but more importantly it has taught the industry to pick up the board and view it from a different angle. This was a paradigm shift in our retail culture that will affect the market beyond the camber story.
We've been playing with the board's volume and how that can have an effect beyond the standard lengths we're used to. Of course we're not the first to do this – don't forget the 93' Morrow Lunch Tray – and urban shreds have been running shorter lengths to get the mobility they need for over a decade. The Public, piloted by Frank April, is our take on this.
And similarly with The 420, we take some pretty obvious cues from the modern powsurfing movement and early 80's shapes to express our own take on how volume, not just length will work in pow.
What is the greatest change affecting your brand since last season?
CP: A big one is growth, as it never comes easy and when you grow you get all the pains associated with the growth, more production, more marketing, more expenses and more to do altogether, all of which are good things, but those are some of the changes that are affecting our brand.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
CP: I think retailers have become more aware of their buys so they are still buying narrow and deep, this helps them offer more without having to chew their arms off with too much inventory. At the same time brands have become leaner as well, reducing skus and focusing on what their customers want and need, all the while developing innovative products that will enhance the sport.
How has sales forecasting changed for your company?
CP: We have not changed the way we forecast, we have not magical equation other than we communicate with our retailers directly to get an idea of what our brand looks like in the future. We take that info and develop our forecast as well as our sales plans.
What lessons have you learned with bookings and production for this season and how will you apply those to next?
CP: We have a pretty simple approach, we book our production based on initial forecasting then we finalize our production with our prebooks and factor in some additional units for proforms and reorders. We do not go overboard, we produce enough product to keep our inventories lean.
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?
CP: Ensuring that each shops gets the right selection of product that is suited best for their store is key. We do our best to have an understanding of what each retailers customer profile looks like so that we are selling them the correct product assortments. Basically we will not sell them a product that we feel will sit on the floor, we want to ensure solid sell through by knowing what they are good at selling. We do not over saturate in our distribution, we keep a guarded watch on who sells our products both online and B&M, we want to ensure success by having an even-keeled distribution model to hlpe keep it a fair game all around.
How large are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers confused by too many different stories?
CP: Too many products and stories are always confusing. The trick for us is to keep things as simple as we can without becoming stale or not responding to a rider-type that matters to us. In the end, we have expanded our offering while maintaining the same number of SKUs.
Alex Warburton, our brand manager has helped streamline our line – honing in on what is selling from models to sizes. It is a more educated and organic lineup for us moving into the 12-13 season. If I could pick one word for where we are going in terms of overall lineup it would be "focused".
With the shifting landscape of production abroad, are you reevaluating where you produce your hardgoods? If so, why?
CP: All of our products are produced by Nidecker, whom has a huge heritage in snowboarding and they own multiple factories in which our products are built at. At this point we have no plans on changing that focus.
What opportunities do you see for growing hardgoods sales? Please explain. (Are you increasing your focus on kids, women, core retailers, chains, rental sales, internet sales, entry-level products, splitboards, etc.?)
CP: We are core retailer focused for the most part and we see our growth coming from within our existing retailers base both online and B&M. As a rider driven company we have the luxury of having solid relationships with our retailers and the key to our success and growth is working with each retailer individually to help fuel not only our growth but theirs as well. From a brand standpoint our focus on growth will be from our focused product stories and retail marketing efforts driven from within the YES brand.
Additionally we will be testing the waters of a small segmented line of products offered only through our website in the US and Canada.
What do you anticipate prices doing next season?
Hopefully we will not see any more upticks as we did in the last few years, but I think we all still feeling and responding to the effects of a number of different factors. For the past 20 years we've been an industry that has cannibalized it's self and taught people that they can expect more for less; year after year. Despite the fact that our operating, raw material and labor costs have steadily gone up over this same timeframe.
Of course we'll always have to be price sensitive if we want the sport to grow and no one left in this game is here to get rich off the customer, but I think it's naive to not expect our product to at least follow inflation.
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact? If so, what are some of these steps?
CP: Our boards are built using the environmentally safe processes as well as our wood cores are FSC farmed cores. It is in our brand DNA to contribute to the environment and the YES crew has contributed volunteer time on many occasions in helping out such as some cleanup in a local village in Chile after a natural disaster for instance, DCP is very involved with . We will always do our part to help our environment and to look at ways we can sustain our winters moving forward.
What does your company hope to contribute to snowboarding?
AW: An alternative to brands spending most of their marketing dollars trying to convince you of their authenticity.
What are the biggest forces shaping the changes and developments you've made to your boards?
AW: With YES. we have a unique foundation made up of a core group of owners that have quite literally, had a heavy hand in defining what modern snowboarding is. And they're still out there charging it every winter. These guys are as eclectic as the sport itself, so by focusing on their needs and inspirations we have the luxury of skipping trend reports and wondering what the kids want. Their travels, attitudes, talents, interests and influences are what shape the brand and drive the product.
To what degree are you emphasizing camber shape in your lineup?
AW: I would say it's as important, but no more so, than sidecut, core profiling, flex, materials, etc. It's another critical tool in a designer's arsenal to develop a product solution. So depending on whom the board is targeted and how its intended to perform, will dictate the camber/rocker story.
Are you cooking up any new materials or construction techniques?
AW: We have a few we're testing, but this year's focus was primarily on refining our exiting models and introducing two new shapes into the line.
What themes are you seeing for graphics?
AW: Graphic development is both fun and challenging – especially now a day with the available technologies on one hand and the pressures of a fragile economy on the other.
At YES. we try make each model graphic relevant to the both the target shred while always reflecting the brands ideals – namely the look and feel that represent RDM, DCP, JPS and TDF. We also value the relationships we have with a number of talented graphic artists that feel a connection with the brand. All these factors and influences drive the graphic trends for us as much as any pre-set brief.