Midwest Regional Report

By John Maynard

At Let It Ride snowboard shop in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, Manager Scott Wingate says the shop is trying to catch up to the 90s: “I'm personally not too friendly with computers, but we're currently in the process of putting together a shop Web site.”

Though the site is not yet ready, Wingate expects that it will be loaded with a ton of graphics, e-mail access, and links to other industry-related Web sites.

Bad Boyz Toyz, in Orland Park, Illinois is also jumping on the Internet bandwagon. Angie Miller, manager of the skate and snowboard shop, says that the store's Web site is in the works.

Miller says that Bad Boyz Toyz' site will have all the standard features that click-happy browsers ask for: hot-links, e-mail, and product pictures and information. Though the shop's proposed Web site doesn't include an e-commerce option, Miller says Bad Boyz Toyz will offer retail items online.

“Eventually they customers be doing the works through the Internet, including buying,” says Miller.

While Web surfers await the arrival of Bad Boyz Toyz' new site, the Internet savvy have already found Bill & Paul's Sporthaus' Web site address (www.bill&pauls.com).

Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the store has had its site for a year and a half, but Manager Ron Hausmann says he is unsure if it has actually improved his business. “We've seen an increase in hits over the past year, but I don't know by what percentage since the site is so new,” says Hausmann.

The shop's site is primarily informative–product information, manufacturer links, e-mail addresses–and Hausmann says there are no plans to sell products online in the future.

Mark Zitzer, owner of Phase II Clothing and Skate located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, doesn't foresee that his three locations will be doing any online sales. “With places like CCS California Cheap Skates, there's no way a small company can be competitive online,” Zitzer says.

While Phase II doesn't plan on doing any e-commerce, Zitzer adds that he's in the process of putting together a single Web site for the shop's three locations. “The Web site will be mostly informative. It's a good idea for the local kids who maybe don't have anything to do when they're sitting around at home. It will also be good for travelers who may be coming to the area and looking for a snowboard shop.”

Although the Web site may increase shop awareness, Zitzer says he doesn't know whether or not it will help increase business.

Tom Swarsen, Owner of Hubbard Woods Ski Chalet in Winnetka, Illinois, says that he's been relatively unhappy with his shop's Web site: “We've had a shop site for almost a year–tied into sidewalk.com–and, quite honestly, I don't think we're benefiting from the big expenditure.”

Hubbard Woods pays sidewalk.com more than 100 dollars per month to have a link on its Web site, and Swarsen says he hasn't gotten the results he'd hoped for.

“They sidewalk.com kind of screwed up some of the links on our page,” Swarsen says, “and it took me about four months to get things straightened out.”

When sidewalk.com fixed the problem, Swarsen says that the site worked well and was a good resource for people who wanted to go further into the snow industry. Nonetheless, the site has been ineffective for the shop's purposes.

“In order for a Web site to be valuable, you have to be big enough,” Swarsen says. “I don't have enough employee-power to hire someone and tell them, 'Okay, your job for the next year is to keep our Web site up-to-date.'”