How do you train more than 1,100 employees to sell snowboards when maybe only 70 percent visit a resort once a year? Add to that the realization only 30 to 4O percent actually makes regular trips up to the mountain? Moreover, how is a manager of a retail chain store like Zumiez expected to train employees in snowboard sales when they themselves are not a part of the buying process? Which then leaves the manager with little concrete knowledge of the products to be sold within the store they are managing. These types of questions have plagued the officials at Zumiez Boardshops year after year.

After largely unsuccessful attempts at holding company-wide training sessions on snowboard sales, Zumiez has come up with a new plan. Instead of flying in two or three people from each of its stores once a year, Zumiez is building off of the regional sales representative used by board companies throughout the industry.

The new program began as a shared idea between Zumiez Vice President of Retail Operations Steve Nygreen and Jim Bob Hume, Zumiez U.S. snowboard buyer. Through a competitive application process, fourteen employees were chosen to participate in Zumiez new snow¿tech program. The selected participants were then flown to Seattle from May 30 through June 2 to attend sales clinics and provide input for what is to become Zumiez new snow-sales training program.

Hailing from eleven states, the candidates seemed stoked on the task of training such a large base of employees. The group was composed of twelve guys all dedicated to changing the image of Zumiez Boardshops from one of a trendy mall store to one with employees rivaling the knowledge and success of a ‘core store. While in Seattle, the crew attended three days of sales clinics ranging from a tour at Mervin Manufacturing, to short product reviews in meeting rooms scattered around Seattle. The final day of the conference was held at Zumiez home office in Everett, Washington. There the group assembled their newfound knowledge and determined how they would filter the information to the shop employees in each region.

After the instruction program each snow-tech will be responsible for training and choosing capable snowboard salespeople within each of the Zumiez stores in their selected region. Additionally the program gives Zumiez home office a chain of command to take care of unresolved snowboard issues. “This way if there are any localized problems concerning snowboard product, I can get on the phone and have a snow-tech in the store the next day,” says Hume.

“Through the new training program, as a company, we hope to alleviate some worries knowing the techs are capable while still maintaining a quality level of growth,” adds Nygreen.

As a retail store with a corporate structure, Zumiez has 71 store locations in malls across the country. This number is scheduled to increase with the addition of seven stores in California, and four stores in New York opening in November.

¿Leah Stassen