Jono Zacharias, VP of Sales:
What are the three biggest trends you see shaping the market and what you are doing to meet them?
Snowboarding apparel is the fusion of many genres of influence: from music to sports to the latest high fashion runway designs. Trends come and go but in the long run you have to do what works for you and your customer. We don’t emulate others, we do what works for us and always want to keep things new and fun. In terms of outerwear trends, the three biggest right now are modern silhouettes, work wear fashion appeal and brand value. 686 is meeting each trend by offering more jacket and pant styles with varied fits (longer lengths, tailored silhouettes and ergonomic cut lines), and presenting an updated line of multi-purpose, classically modern and technically sound snow-specific apparel via our 686 X Dickies collection and key categories like Smarty, Reserved and Mannual. We’re also keeping our prices low and our feature list high in relation to other brands.
As far as the marketplace goes, the trends we’re seeing with consumers are that they have less disposable income, want individual styling, and gravitate to new and fresh products in the market. We offer good quality products at a value oriented price to help meet the needs of the cash strapped consumer. We have many different styles in our line, so we can cater to the individual who wants 686 but does not want to look like the next guy or gal. Finally, we offer new and fresh never before done products every year for the market, so it gives the consumer something to get excited about when purchasing 686 season after season.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
The snowboarding apparel market, like ready-to-wear fashion, is ever-changing and ever-evolving to the next level. Many genres of influence affect our sport: from music to celebrities to world events and yes, even the latest high fashion runway shows. Trends come and go but in the long run, 686 will always offer core snow-related product that works best for us and our target customer. It all boils down to this, how can we make a good thing even better? Better performance, better looking, better feeling and of course, better value. 686’s mantra is pushing the limits of innovation with unique methods while maintaining high quality workmanship. We have built the brand by offering the best products at the best price. This is our reputation and what we stand for.
Has sales forecasting changed for your company? If so, how has it changed?
Sales forecasting has definitely changed. As a company you need to be aware of what is happening in the market place with your products and with your competition. You need to know what is selling first and what is not checking, as well as what will be your hot new styles for the next season. We have picked out a percentage of accounts on a regional and national level that can provide this data to us and we review selling reports to get a look at what is truly selling. We also do early line previews to get an opinion from the retailer, and we look at historical data. That way, we can get a solid idea of what our retailers will be focusing on as well as identify trends. This enables us to start to forecast our future orders and deliveries.
What lessons have you learned with bookings for this season and how will you apply those to next?
The best lesson we’ve learned is to make sure you have solid collection at the right price!
Have you changed your production or distribution models at all from last season? If so, why and how have you changed them?
We continue to work within channels that understand our business model and truly have a 686 customer walking through their door. Working with partners that allow us to showcase our brand image and brand message is very important to us. It has enhanced our sales in a majority of accounts and has allowed us not to have to change our distribution strategy.
How are you working with retailers to help ensure strong margins, the right amount of product in the marketplace, and terms that set them up for success?
We collect selling data and review historical data constantly to make sure the retailer has the correct product and inventory levels. We don’t over saturate the market with product either, and this allows all of our accounts to make full price sales and retain a solid margin throughout the entire season with our brand. The key to the puzzle is to not over-distribute.
What fabrics, colors, fits, and technologies are you focusing on for next season?
Riders and Retailers have always looked towards 686 in terms of innovation. Over the past 20 years, we’ve been able to progress in our own direction by doing things that are unique. Smarty Technology is one example which has stood the test of time and is the #1 best selling snowboard specific pant. This year, we felt it needed an overhaul and decided to re-invent the category by offering the world’s first ultra 4-way stretch pant with a removable thermagraph “compression” Smarty pant liner. The engineered liner contours, supports and heats the lower body muscles while the 4-way stretch shell accommodates your every twist, turn and bend. Besides the insane tech features it offers, we still had to keep it looking fresh and not like a boring ski pant.
686 also offers a multitude of fabrics every season, specific to every collection. Denim plays a big part in this role, and we are offering every look from acid washed to waxed. We even offer an array of textile weaves like dobby, faille, flannel, houndstooth, herringbone, plaid and space-dye [yarns] each with its own modern spin. To complement our rich assortment of textured fabrications, our color palette must offer everything from classic neutrals to earth tones to playful brights. Diversity is key to presenting a well-rounded assortment of merchandising options. Another important element is updating garment silhouettes consistent to market trends. For example, 686 offers key bottoms in different inseam lengths like tall and short and has newly revamped our pant fits under the street [slim], expedition [engineered] and all-access [regular] cuts. As for jackets, 686 has designed a collection complete with drop tails, angled hemlines, parka-lengths, fitted waistlines for the ladies and plenty of roomy options for comfort and layering.
For the techies out there, our new “Death Grip” system is a patent pending ergonomic cuff tab system that functions in two ways, either keeping your sleeves in place or cinching the cuff opening around the wrist-guaranteed to grip! Keeping the season’s pass holder in mind, 686 had added more pass pockets to our jackets than ever. We have several versions, stealthily incorporated into the design of the garments. Whether it’s our patented Smarty cuff tab pass pocket or our Reserved “fast pass”, we’ll have an option that riders can appreciate. With 686, even the little details are important and have a purpose. Every single one of our outerwear garments has a couple of attachment clips, a pocket bungee loop and exposed grommet. Need a safe place for your car key? Look inside your right hand pocket. Check out the jacket’s powderskirt flap or pant’s left front belt loop. The list goes on and on…
What are pricepoints doing?
Our pricepoints are set-up so that each category offers something for the high end customer all the way to the value-oriented customer. We have many different people that wear 686 and we like to offer something for everyone.
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact? If so, what are some of these steps?
The 686 Reclaim Project leads the way for a fresh, stylish twist on the reduce, reuse and recycle mentality. Every season, we reclaim countless resources of unwanted fabric and trims otherwise destined for the landfill and turn those materials into one-of-a-kind outerwear garments. Through our Match One Foundation, for every Reclaim Project jacket we sell, a second is made and given away to those in need. Not only does this program reduce environmental impact, it reaches out to humanity as well.
What’s in your crystal ball for 2012-2013?
The market place will continue to be challenging, and as a company we must remain vigilant to the needs of the market place. Prices, supply chain, economics and politics will all still be heavily in play in regards to any consumer based goods. Fresh concepts, high quality products and value are what will keep our brand exciting and on top of the competition while the economy goes through another ride.