By Alixandra Gould
Retailers at the Eastern Winter Sports Reps Association on snow demo at Stratton got a chance to check out a wide variety of board, boots, bindings…and weather. First rain, then bitter cold and high winds kept most of the mountain closed for the first two days. But on the third day, the sun came out, the mountain opened up, and retailers and reps closed the demo out on a high note.
Not surprisingly though, manufacturers had a steady stream of business at their booths regardless of weather. Brands of all shapes and sizes were represented. Palmer showed off its high end, 850- dollar board (the Crown), while its neighbor Head Snowboards brought out its newest in board technology the Intelligence that is complete with a microchip in the board. Buyers were impressed with Nidecker’s pricepoint boards and the service provided by the Nidecker reps. K2 got a good response in the boot room for its T1 with the Boa lacing system on the liner, and Burton’s booth (manned with a small army of reps) had heavy traffic all three days.
“This is a pretty hardy bunch of people,” said Kurt Schuman, a sales rep for Burton. “If they’re going to travel all the way up here, they’re going to go out there and make turns no matter what the weather is. It’s rainy and cold, but we’re still having a very productive day. “
“I think there’s a curse on this demo,” said Jessica McMenamin, also from Burton. “Last year it was unbearably cold, the year before, it dumped water. This year, it dumped water yesterday and it’s extremely cold today. But our dealers are here, they’re coming out regardless of weather, and they’re making it happen.”
The real challenge for the retailers wasn’t the weather, it was covering so much product in so little time. “There really is a lot to take in. I think I might have tried to demo too much,” said Adam Stave, a snowboard manager at Pelican Ski Shop in East Brunswick, New Jersey. “You find that one board you want to hold on to, but you still have to go out and ride the boards you’re not going to have as much fun on-it’s part of the job.”
Some buyers have their own little systems that help them cover more ground. “Aaron Kinney, the snowboard manager at Village Skis and Bike in Woodbridge, VA. “We’d all like to ride the 1,000-dollar boards all day but you got to start out with what we have a better chance of selling. We don’t sell too many 1,000-dollar boards, but mostly 300-dollar boards.”
The reps behind the booths got rave reviews from their buyers for their solid product knowledge and typical enthusiasm. “It was nice getting a little schmoozed from the reps. I think us retail guys deserve it,” said Brian O’Rourke, the snowboard manager at Hickory and Tweed in Armonk, New York. “Everyone at the booths are gung-ho about getting you on a board and getting you out riding. It makes everything more smooth and more fun and the booths are manned with enthusiastic reps who care about you having a good time.”
“You can grab a board and go right up the mountain or you can stay and talk with your reps for a while,” said Stave. “You get to meet the voices on the phone.”
The demo also gave reps a chance to get crucial feedback on their product, whether it was good or bad. It was also a chance to see how their product measured up against the rest of next year’s stock. “You always want to know what’s going on out there in the industry and this is an ideal environment for that,” Schuman explained. “We send out people who go and check out the other product. I wouldn’t call them spies, I would call them very, very influential and intelligent product people.”
“We’re getting a very good response from our boards,” said Jason Rudnicki, riding out the cold behind the Palmer booth. “If they’re out having fun on our boards, we want to hear about it. And if they’re not, we still want to hear about it.”
Rain and not-so-stellar conditions are nothing new on the east coast. But everyone got their jobs done, walked awaay with three more days on the snow, and next year’s orders ready to go.