For the fourth consecutive year, Dogfunk.com has been awarded TransWorld Business’ Online Retailer of the Year. We caught up with Karen Craig, Dogfunk Director/GMM who, with help from Dogfunk Buyer Colin Edwards and Divisional Merchandise Manager of action sports Rebecca Beauchman, gave us the skinny on what it means to be named TransWorld Business’ Online Retailer of the Year 2012.
What’s the secret to keeping things so consistent with your brand and rep partners?
It’s safe to say that we’re a pretty honest group of individuals, so we tend to keep an open communication with our family of brands at all times. Internally, our buying team is the same consistent team we’ve had in place for the past four seasons, with the addition of some new key players who come to us with reputable experience across the action sports and outdoor industries. I may have said something similar last year, but there’s no need to BS each other when we’re all in this together.
How has the online landscape changed this year and what are you doing to meet those changes and steer them?
With more retailers in the online space, both endemic and non-endemic, we have definitely had to consider how to best position and differentiate ourselves for the future. Coming off a disappointing winter nationwide, coupled with economic challenges, pricing has become a lot more competitive as well. We continue to look for unique opportunities to highlight and promote through different marketing channels.
What sales trends stood out this year?
Full price sales have been off to a slow start this year, as customers came off a dull winter and don’t have the early season appetite they did after winter 2011. Last season’s gear might still be in its original wrap, just waiting to get out this year. We have, however, seen some sales highlights outside of new outerwear and gear sales. Spring and summer apparel continue to gain share across our overall business, and swimwear has had a really strong year. We’ve still seen an increase in demand for unique brands and products that customers can’t find just anywhere. The young trendsetters remain excited to express their individuality through the products they buy. Each year, it’s funny to see what progresses from fad to trend to an all-time staple.
What’s the most rewarding thing about working with your brands and customers?
We are very fortunate to work with such a talented, creative, and active group of friends and athletes in this industry. We remind people that you can be professional and still stay true to your passions. How many times have you met up with old friends who are tied up in cubicles 24/7, who remind you of this? At least our’s are made of recycled wood, and some meetings happen at 10,000 feet, right? We’re lucky.
What’s your philosophy on the role of core retailers?
“Core” comes in many forms when it comes to this industry. Major props to all of the core specialty brick and mortar retailers who continue to find creative ways to differentiate, offer strong selections, support young athletes, and bring communities together. Core retailers and brands who support these businesses are the bloodline and role models of this industry. At Dogfunk, we bring this experience to the table as well, and often discuss how we can portray this more through the ecommerce environment, as well as local event opportunities.
What makes Dogfunk different?
Dogfunk always focuses on the customer experience. Bottom line is that we want them to be stoked so they keep coming back. We do this first of all by serving them up enough expertise and guidance through our site and through our gearheads (service team) so they can find what’s best for them. We also offer a huge product selection and superfast fulfillment. This year, we also kicked off a new relationship with Alli Sports, as their official retail partner. This has been an amazing partnership that truly aligns our brand with theirs, and puts us on the ground with a big presence at their outstanding events.
Why do you think your brands nominated you for this award?
We probably have the most beards and moustaches.
What have been the biggest highlights and lowlights of 2012?
Lowlights: We really need snow. From a hype perspective, we’re bummed to see Forum go away. There were a lot of roots in snowboarding behind that brand, and some personal attachment internally here. From a business standpoint, we were surprised to see discounting of major influential brands online, where in-season sale pricing is usually prohibited.
Highlights: We love this industry, and appreciate the ongoing support from our key partners. That’s a huge highlight for us. Another, on a much less big-picture level, was recently getting chased off one of our photo shoots by three moose. They were not happy.
This year was another tough one for core retailers. What have been the keys to your success through the recession and what have you done differently than in year’s past?
We’ve been focusing in on every single success and keeping a positive outlook. Our relationship with Alli has been one of those successes. Being at these events, in the mix with our community, seeing firsthand their passion for our sports and their reaction to our brand, all has been so rewarding.
What are your predictions for 2013?
‘Outdoor’ and original brand heritage continues to inspire action sport apparel and outerwear design, and vice-versa. Smaller brands will continue to have a big influence across hard goods, and those who are focused on one category continue to keep the excitement going. At Dogfunk, we really appreciate those who support a cause behind snowboarding, to reach new audiences while also affecting broader issues like climate change. Pro involvement with local grassroots events is really good for this industry, and also seems to be on the rise for 2013.