Like several other Eastern retailers, Chris Kelley, co-owner of Kelley’s Boards in Baltimore, Maryland, says he’d have to look at his books to see exactly what kind of margins he made on hardgoods, but clothes are always the best moneymakers.
That affects his buying to some extent, but as a ‘core shop, he says he wants to focus on hardgoods. Two big sellers last season were Never Summer boards and Burton bindings. Kelley’s sticking primarily to strap bindings, he says, because his customers, mostly in the eighteen- to 28-year-old bracket, can’t afford bindings that only work with one kind of boots.
Apparel was also the big seller in other regions of the East Coast. “Clothing was very strong for us,” says Brian Foster, manager of Appalachian Outdoors in State College, Pennsylvania. As for hardgoods, Foster notes that Joyride and Nitro did very well. “Margins don’t really affect our buying decisions,” he continues. “This year we were down about ten to fifteen percent in overall sales.” He blames this decrease on warm weather and poor snow conditions.
Another culprit for bad sales is discounters. “We’re a college town,” Foster says. “We had a guy who bought off-price boards and was selling them out of his dorm room.”
Nick Pedmonti, owner and manager of Cutting Edge in Bennington, Vermont, pinpoints the problem: “There are so many people selling boards now.”
His hardgoods numbers were down a bit, but like other shop owners, he was pleased with his softgoods sales. “Clothing always has a higher markup,” he says. “It does better than hardgoods, as far as margins go.” Burton, Sessions, Special Blend, and Bonfire are the four main clothing names he carries. “Burton is the strongest for us, being based in Vermont,” he continues.
Clothing and boots provided the best margin at Concrete Wave in Wocester, Massachusetts, according to Owner Brian Hansen: “We didn’t mark them down at all. We doubled our money in clothes, and made about 40 percent on boots.” Boards from Ride, Joyride, Forum, Lib Tech, and Sims sold well until “the snow got short.” What he orders for next year will depend, at least to some degree, on how much Concrete Wave can clear out in the spring. His order for next season is up slightly for boards, boots, and clothing. Hansen also notes that women’s and children’s stuff sold well last season.
Scott Chapman, snowboard manager at Putnam’s in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, says the problem with hardgoods is “the margins aren’t that great.” The shop did well with K2 and, “Burton always does well,” he adds. For next year, Chapman is excited about the Rossignol Imperial: “It’s a good, inexpensive board. I know we’ll do well with that.” He’s also expecting Heelside boots to give the shop good margins next season: “For next year, we plan to find some things that have better margins. If we can get good deals through bigger companies, we’ll do that.” When asked about softgoods, Chapman says, “Black Dot. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
He actually did have more to say, noting that Black Dot had the best and quickest sell-through at the best margins. He isn’t planning to jump his order astronomically next year, but says he will buy more.