One result of the aging snowboard demographic is that more “mature” design tastes are taking over from the in-your-face board graphics of previous years.
“This past season, we noticed for the first time that snowboard graphics have become a significant factor in buying decisions,” says Ivan Penchansky at ZJ’s Boarding House. “Kids used to buy anything, but now older riders are more conservative and graphics can be the main reason they won’t buy a particular board.” This left ZJ’s buyers less than thrilled after viewing the graphics unveiled at Salt Lake City.
“We can’t believe that even large companies are putting out boards that will be bought by 30 year olds but have graphics designed for a thirteen year old,” he says. “We expressed our views to K2 about this year’s Fat Bob graphics. They’re now offering a second graphic option. A shop our size actually does have some power.”
However, K2 Marketing Director Haley Martin says the second graphics line didn’t come as a result of retailer pressure: “The Fat Bob is one of the best-selling boards in the country. The different graphics were neither a result of retailer pressure nor of us wanting to target an older market. We simply wanted to help boost mid-season sell-through.”
Martin adds that although the company has a graphic theme for each line, boards are aimed at particular riding styles rather than particular age groups.
“Our A-Star has a very plain graphic,” she continues. “But that’s because it was what the team riders wanted after we set up focus groups with them. Just because it’s cleaner doesn’t mean it’s for an older rider.”
However, other major manufacturers freely admit they’re incorporating age considerations into design.
“We assume certain lines, such as our top pricepoint Timeless, will be ridden by older riders,” says Ride Sport’s Communication Specialist Amy Ritchey. “So that board is plain and glossy, which focuses buyers on the technical story. The lower-priced boards are the ones we expect to sell to younger riders and have much brighter graphics.
“At the same time we assume older people will ride longer boards,” she continues, “so even within the same board lines, graphics for the longer boards are more restrained than at the shorter lengths.”
Mervin Manufacturing’s Vice President Peter Saari says that company has also toned down its graphics: “Anything radical presents a far greater risk. Stores are buying more conservatively, and the last thing we want to do for our brand is to put out a lemon that’ll just sit there in shops due to its graphics. The pressure to tone down is coming just as much from specialty stores as it is from chain stores. After all, it’s that much more important for a specialty store to get close to 100 percent sell-through.”