Women’s Market Heats Up

From pro riders to retailers, the women’s force is coming on even stronger for the 2001/2002 season. At the 2001 TransWorld Media Riders’ Poll Awards, Victoria Jealouse graciously accepted her award for Best Female Big-Mountain Rider by encouraging more photographers and filmers to get women in front of the camera. Girls in snowboarding aren’t Frou Frou any more, and after talking with dealers and designers, the industry is starting to catch on.

Burton has a long history with women’s products, and according to Burton’s Scott Rivers, the expansion of its women’s offerings across the board is indicative of what’s happening both in the shops and on the hill: “One example is the Japanese market where the ‘snowboarding because it’s cool’ thing has pretty much gone away. But it’s still growing because women are legitimately getting into the sport. They’re not just doing it because their friends are doing it, but because they love it.

“We’re seeing that in America as well,” Rivers continues. “Some girls are probably still getting into snowboarding because their friends think it’s cool to do, but definitely the stronger aspect of it is women are sticking to snowboarding because they’re athletic, and they love it.”

Last season Burton introduced its OSI line of apparel. It was the first time it offered women’s-specific apparel. This year it expanded the line into three divisions: Radar, OSI, and Formula. “Going from one specific line to three shows, we’re making a ton of stuff for women because there are a lot of women demanding more product. It’s the fastest-growing aspect of snowboarding right now.”

K2 Snowboards has also increased its efforts by diversifying its women’s product offering by increasing outerwear to three lines, adding a new, higher-end board, and advancing the technology of its women’s boots.

“I think retailers are just becoming more aware that women want specific products for them and are buying accordingly,” says Haley Martin, K2 marketing director. “Women are willing to pay more to have a better fit. And not just a better fit for comfort¿they don’t have to sacrifice technology.

“The retailers are becoming more educated because women are coming into their shops looking for higher-end stuff.”

Chorus Snowboards, launching for the 2001/02 season, is in a unique situation¿it only offers boards for women. “I think people are definitely interested in the women’s market, and I think the dealers can see the growth in the surf industry and the skate industry for women’s-specific products as well,” says Georell Bracelin, marketing director for Chorus. “That’s kind of set the stage for us.”

Unlike some women-specific companies in the past, Chorus is focused around a strong team of high-profile professional riders. “Because we’re so different than anybody else, and we have such a strong team, it’s easy to see where we’re positioning ourselves, the kind of product we’re offering, and what type of image we’re setting up for.”

So is Chorus a pioneer for women, or are they just in the right place at the right time? According to Bracelin, it’s a bit of both: “We’re hoping to help pioneer the market. The philosophy behind the girls who helped start the company¿the teamriders¿is exactly that. They want to inspire women to ride, push themselves, and have a voice among snowboarders.”

From the dealer’s perspective, there’re definitely more girls of all ages getting into the sport, so women’s products are selling out faster than ever. Marc Loreau, snowboard buyer for Surfride Surf Shops in Oceanside and Solana Beach, California, says he is increasing his orders for women’s products. “We’re ordering more than last year for girls,” he says. “They’re riding as hard as guys now, and they want what the guys are riding. We had more girl customers last year, and we had a great sell-through in all our women’s products.”

“Foor us it’s a little bit different because our stuff is so feminine,” says Darcy Lee, owner of Cold As Ice women’s snowboard apparel. Lee has been in the women’s market since its infancy and has seen the progression first hand.

“As far as the women’s snowboard market, I was kind of thinking it had settled down from a hype standpoint,” Lee says. “But this year we’ve had even more ‘core shops interested in the line than we’ve had in the past.

“It could be any combination of a lot of things,” she continues. “The retailers might also be looking for more customers. If you only have one thing for the women to choose from, they’re not going to come into your shop. Shop owners have also gotten smarter and are realizing girls spend money.”

¿Robyn Hakes