In the Rocky Mountain region, the Internet question seems to go beyond whether or not shops have online access. The matter at hand is now that they’re hooked up, how are they going to use it?
In Denver, Owner Matt Hupperts of Edgeworks hopes to incorporate the shop’s Web site, edge-works.com, into the operation of the shop as an extension of services and as a tool for rental customers.
This year, employees will work with their Ride rep on developing their snowboard rental site, so that potential renters can even check out the graphics on the board they will ride. But Hupperts also wants to provide an arena for dialogue and provide an informational source.
“I’d like it to be a place for people to get started,” he explains, “and have an interactive question-and-answer section for people who are interested in doing their own work.”
Craig Cohen at Polar Revolution in Vail, Colorado uses both a Web site and personal e-mail to optimize convenience and business. He says he uses e-mail a great deal for fast connections to products through CD-ROM catalogs. He’s hoping the show’s Web site this year will expedite rentals and promote sales. “We’ll prebook rentals, use it as straight advertising and possibly sales,” he says.
Cohen says mention of his Web site location is now a standard addition to radio advertisements when Polar Revolution sponsors local events.
The staff at Colorado Boarder in Crested Butte, Colorado are also catching the electronic wave. Curtis Ritchie, who runs the shop in the summer while Owner Seth Weiner sells motorcycles in Gunnison, says he doesn’t take orders over the Internet, but the shop’s site provides important information for tourists who are pre-planning their trips.
“Through Rocky Mountain Internet they can get a general reservation form if they need equipment,” he says.
Ritchie adds that the forms are part of a service offered to the whole area. In their shop, it helps to know what kind of numbers to expect during specific times so they can prepare for various occupancy levels around Crested Butte.
While the Internet is expanding into a more and more critical outlet for moving products, Mike Croke, owner of the Village Ski Loft in Incline Village, Nevada, sees its informational function as equally–if not more important–than sales.
“I want our Web site to be a reflection of the business,” he says. “I want it to be educational.”
Croke feels strongly that while the Internet provides a huge consumer resource, there will always be a stronger allure to personally visiting a store to actually check out the merchandise–especially when throwing down “hard-earned dollars.” With this reasoning, he hopes to maintain a personal relationship with his clients in the store and use the Internet to answer questions.
In Snowbird, Utah, Jeff Evans, director of retail operations for the resort, says merchandise sold on their Web site is limited to Snowbird logo items such as caps, T-shirts, and fleece. He says they don’t distribute other items online, and many of the manufacturers actually specify that they don’t want stores to sell this way.
The site for their shop, Snowbird Ultimate Mountain Outfitters, can be accessed through Snowbird’s main page, where guests are led on virtual tours of the resort. After checking out guest rooms or five-day weather forecasts, they can link to the retail site and learn about various services such as rentals.
“They can get information on the type of service, equipment choices, and our 1-800 number,” explains Evans.
Evans says the shop’s retail location has become a hub for the activity center, where guests can book anything from dinner reservations to massages. “All of these services are important ccomponents for the guests’ vacations that can be conveyed on the Internet prior to departure, providing an additional summon to the shop once they arrive at the resort,” he says.