Jared Bevens, Director of Action Sports Footwear & Equipment :
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
Sex sells and so does innovation. Camber, don’t call it a comeback.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing for next?
Tighter more focused assortments both from what brands have to offer to what is being merchandised in store. Average selling prices continuing to creep up at the shop level as surplus product is slowly flushed out and inventory declines from both suppliers and shops. Increased prices from suppliers as manufacturing and material costs continue to rise.
What lessons have you learned with bookings for this season and how will you apply those to next?
We’ve taken a very conservative approach to what we produce for a long time now and that isn’t going to change. We are fortunate to have a very healthy year round footwear and apparel business so we are not looking to gamble on snow reorder business. Selling more for less is not a sustainable long term strategy.
How are you working with retailers to help ensure strong margins and the right amount of product in the marketplace?
We build what we book. We don’t sell our boots direct to consumers choosing instead to focus our efforts on driving traffic to our key retail partners. We provide quality performance boots that offer great value and we back them with a comprehensive marketing and service program that helps maximize sell through for our retail partners during that critical full price sales window.
How big are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers being confused by too many different stories?
We had already scaled back our sku count and feel comfortable with where it’s at. Our line offers enough variety and performance options to cover the needs of most riders. No question there is an overload of information each season for customers to try and digest. Catch phrase this, tag line that, plenty of smoke and mirrors to navigate. We try and keep our seasonal and new technology stories as clear and concise as possible so you don’t need to be a mechanical engineer or have a sixty page manual to understand them. Real features with real benefits that make the riding experience more enjoyable.
Are you rethinking where you make product with the current difficulties in China?
Our sourcing and development teams are continually evaluating viable alternative locations for manufacturing however quality control and manufacturing expertise are key criteria. We’re not talking about making t-shirts. We’re building a performance product that we’re not willing to trade off quality for cost savings.
What opportunities do you see for growing hardgoods sales? (are you focusing more on kids, women, rentals, core retailers, chains, Internet, entry level product, high end, split boards, etc., etc.) Please explain
Expanding the customer base. Making snowboarding more accessible to a larger demographic pool and making sure those people transform from first timers to lifers. Innovation that makes riding better and better is going to mean different things to different people. Product that improves the riding experience and gives snowboarders a compelling reason to upgrade their gear. Emerging markets will continue to provide additional opportunity for growth. We are focused on making the best product we can while staying true to who we are as a brand.
We have been hearing a lot of green stories in all product categories. Is this something you are focusing on for hardgoods?
Our goal is to continue to make progress each season through increased recycled material use, cleaner more efficient processes and supporting programs that directly affect the winter sports community such as Protect Our Winters.
Must have, new technologies have been about the only things selling at full ticket. What are you introducing that shop staff can demonstrate to customers and convince them that they have to have?
We’re introducing a flex control system that allows riders to adjust the support characteristics of their boots. We’ve always been firm believers in delivering boots that allow riders to tune them to their preferred fit and performance needs. This new technology takes rider customization to the next level.
What overall trends are you seeing in the boot market?
Clean skate shoe inspired styling. Tonal colorways. Reduced weight but not at the cost of performance or durability. Variations in lacing and closure systems. Most of the leading brands now have a higher percentage of lacing systems than traditional lace options. Technologies that allow for rider customization. Anything from heat moldable liners, adjustable heel pocket shape or retention. Broader use of temperature and moisture management technologies because cold wet feet suck…
What new construction techniques, technologies, or fabrics do you see breaking out next year?
Increased use of recycled material content. Evolution in lacing and closure systems. Rider customization and adjustability is key. Feet are like finger prints, every person’s are unique and boots need to be adaptable to a wide range of shapes, sizes and rider preferences.
What about graphic treatments and colors?
Other than an amazing piece of art from Jamie on his signature boot we’ve steered away from any substantial graphic treatments. We’ve focused more on texture and rich material contrast rather than bold all over prints. As far as color goes we’ve decided not to make any black boots this season because we feel like that trend has really run its course. Not really, just wanted to see if you were paying attention! For color you’ll see several variations on black along with a blend of earth tones along with some classic Vans footwear inspired brights with minimal color blocking.