Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's killing the core shop?

YoBeatz posted this headline when the sad news of SnoCon broke about being gone this week.  Transworld Business has done numerous articles with shops that have gone out of business and for the most part it's been a finger pointing game on why they went out of business and what caused it. Except for SnoCon. They told the real story and made no excuses for what happened.
I've been to the majority of these stores that closed, worked with the buyers, management and sold them product.  I've seen what their shops were an what they had become.  How the owners, staff, lifestyle and passion for the lifestyle change thru the years.  And I have a different view on what's killing the core store...
In my opinion there will always a place for stores and staff like Snocon had.  Always.  The chain store, internet, direct sales, over distribution and all that other crap are just factors for retail in general.  Either adapt to the direction the trains going or get left behind.  Don't get me wrong, I have problems with all the above myself and we're doing our part to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Bottom line though, one of the deciding reasons this went down with Snocon was that they got caught in the expansion game like a lot of people back in 07-08.  18 years of growth, moved to a new higher rent location, economy tanks, didn't adjust quick enough, got behind and then it was a deep hole to dig out of when the sales you enjoyed to keep all of that radness afloat weren't there because people are being tight with their money.  Seattle had only two great snowboard shops, SnoCon and evo.  There used to be 6.  Competition is down and our numbers at the hill are the highest they've ever been.  Look up the parking lot debacle at Stevens this winter.  They posted the most visits ever and it's at least a 50% snowboarders hill.  Problem is, people are holding on the gear longer, not turning it as quick, buying used, renting, demoing, closeout, and or stuff from other available sources.  It sucks.  John and crew were good for the lifestyle of snowboarding.  They are part of the culture.  They loved being on the floor, handing beers to people shopping, and made personal connections.  If a bad YELP review came up, Adam was on the phone, internet and rectifying the problem.  These guys cared.  Shit just changed too much that the overhead they were dealing with, didn’t match the income that was being generated. The banks and lenders wanted their debt to be paid. So John and Adam did what any person with a conscious, integrity and a respect for the relationships they had thru the years with the people they did business with would do.   Stop the bleeding.
So people on the interwebs keep asking this question, why are core stores going out of business?  Well for the most part (Snocon NOT included) the owners get over it.  People start shops to have an extension of a lifestyle they love, which is snowboarding, surfing, skating and or skiing.  But then they get older, change interests and this passion that was once snowboarding or skiing is now cocktail parties, Audi’s, golf, kids or whatever and it’s not snowboarding, skating, surfing or skiing, the store becomes a job.  And when that job doesn’t pay you what you need to support your new lifestyle, you need to look elsewhere.  Then you have someone “manage” your show while you go work a real job.  Snowboard shops need passion, personal attention, the owner working and oozing the lifestyle on the floor.  But now you got a paid monkey on the floor, not doing that, but doing a job.  We’ve got a big problem with heritage / legacy snowboard shops these days.   Dudes are aging, not shredding, not participating in a lifestyle that they helped create.  Getting scared investing back into their stores and wish things were like the old days.  Trust me, I thought a chain link fence in a store 20 years ago was cutting edge.  I wish it was like the old days, but its not, so lets make new days.  You want to be involved in something, involve yourself.  These guys are giving their retail establishments the bare minimum and expecting the maximum back.  That dog don’t hunt.  
There’s still a handful of legit stores that participate, live, breath, dream and build the lifestyle of snowboarding.  Snocon going down absolutely blows, it's a kick in the balls.  They just got backed into a corner they couldn’t get out of.  And plenty of us in the business wanted and more importantly, NEEDED them to exist.  Thanks John and Adam for having the respect, integrity and class in how things went down.  It would of been easy to jump in on the finger pointing band wagon, but then again that's not what SnoCon ever did.  Follow the pack.  Snowboarding needs more people like you.


  1. Anonymous6:36 PM

    Good points! but lay off some of the kool aid, plenty of vendors, are contributors to the problems. There are x amount of snowboarders, when you shift 25 to 30% of your distribution to people who could care less about
    the sport, you loose some of the soul, now the bulk of the public want it the cheapest, small guys can't survive on that low of margins. No matter how cool or exciting they are.
    We will have to agree to disagree.
    I think you have good points for both sides to think long and hard about who they are and what are doing. Its easy to say they need to invest, but when you continually have left over product because you got your ass kicked by Liberty Media corp at 40 to 60% off, its kinda hard to compete no matter how cool you are or were. You love to use cal surf as an example, and I really have only met them once, but judging from his instagram, he is out there a lot.
    I don’t know the answer, and maybe it is simple like snowboard shops now don’t belong in high rent areas. But I see no one in the current environment who would be successful opening a snowboard store, unless of course they have been running one for a while for someone else, and even then it would be very hard. We old guys running stores obviously have the past to compare to our current environment, and of course it was more fun, people were excited to get set ups and weren’t in the mindset, that are they getting the best deal. I just sold a board today, and the guy told me he usually buys his stuff here or dogfunk, should I feel honored to be compared there? Then he told me he was glad he bought it from me, because he has in the past always put stuff on hold and not picked it up. Gee I wonder where he got it instead. It is tiring dealing with that, and having the stoke to brush it off.
    Yes snocon leaving is a kick in the balls, and is leaving people like me to think about what this all means, the bottom line is, yes I am frustrated and pissed, I have been busting my ass for years to support this industry, I have lived a modest life, and reinvested profits heavily to ensure our longevity, and in the end, what is there. Well yes it has been fun for many years, and yes I have made some great friends, but it really is disappointing to watch good people close their doors, and the thing that killed them was the damn internet, and the outsiders coming in and taking control of the industry. In the current direction this sport is going, in 5 years the only stores left will be at the mountains where a small percentage of snowboarders live. If this is to be changed, it has to be fast and swift. I don’t know if there is an ability to change the direction. I guess that is all about I have to say.
    thanks for reading
    george from milo

  2. Theres less competition for shops now that there ever was, but there are more options for consumers. I remember when you’d have to protect your distribution area fiercely. Now if you don’t have what they come thru the door for, its open game on the internet. Backcountry is 35% off with us. Actually they have a TFA at 45% off, and that will be changed with a phone call. CALL IN!!! MAP policys. You need to follow them, your vendors need to have them, you need to make this something so all are on the same page.
    Backcountry has been nothing but good to us, same with the House and even Sierra. None of those dudes fucked with our prices and respected our policy's. I think as a brick and mortar shop, part of the buyers job is to align themselves with brands that are looking out for them in the forms of MSRP / MAP policy's, line segmentation to distribution, over production, under production…the shit you and i always talk about. No longer is it just the hot, cool brand that you need to carry, nor should it ever have been, but it needs to be looking out for you as you look out for them. 2 way streets.
    Support this industry? You mean support your family. Just like the rest of us. I hate the words “the industry.” Fuck that. You started a shop because that's what you knew, were good at and passionate about. Don’t kid yourself either, your passion for snowboarding has waned thru the years too. No longer are you a 100 day a year shred, nor do you need to be, but the fun and reward of working in the snowboard business is….SNOWBOARDING. And when that gets clipped out cause your too busy, kids aren’t into it, no one to go with, expensive, get hurt, what ever, then what’s the motivation to put up with a marginal paycheck? Dude, IF my two kids weren’t so into the hill, I don’t know if i would still be here. I love the hill because I get to be with my kids, family and friends doing something not nearly as well as I did when I was younger, but at least when I'm doing it I don’t feel like I’m about to turn 50. But if that dried up and it was trade show this, excel sheet that, retail return here, and what not, I’d fucking kill someone. And I would be doing something else, that paid a lot more.
    Big, expensive build outs are not what we need. Keep it humble, work your business, make it unique, make it personal, sell the lifestyle, provide customer service that the internet can’t, participate, align yourself with like minded manufacturing partners, smile, and enjoy the ride.
    Only my opinions and yours. But there's something in all of it.
    Anyone else want to chime in?

  3. You think OUR business is fucked, read this:

    1. Anonymous7:24 AM

      i think this reply from a reader is fitting, just put snowboarding, where it says golf.

      We are seeing a market correction after a massive over saturation due to over reaction to “supposed” golf boom.
      What happened over many years would be the equivalent of basing a business model of marketing a soccer product based on interest in the US during the World Cup.”
      Now lets just hope it balances out soon or your gonna see small companies like me disappear.

      schfackkk this

  4. CALL-IN7:10 PM

    no phone call needed. it should of never been that way in the first place and is fixed.
    snocon closing in the northwest sucks balls any way you face it. they are the milo of the northwest to me and even though i work for liberty media, i do not want to see snocon close. schfaaaak, i dont have the answer nor do i think i ever will have the end all be all, but what i do know is that we all collectively need to address and fix the problem together. internet, core shop, big box, resort, direct brands, etc...
    one program i do now that benefits you and well as i is the program capita and union are doing this year on pricing. you know it and i hope you like it, cause it originated from a core shop and we all agreed upon it. i dont know if it will work, but i am willing to try and i am willing to talk. shit, thats all it takes, some talking, some suggestions, some beer, snowboarding and bam we can do it, together. instead of bickering, finger pointing and smiley faces smashing boards against concrete to prove a point.
    shopping for a snowboard has obviously changed over the years, there is a lot more access to snowboarding since you started riding, hell since i started. with that comes change, the only constant. we all have to be willing to change. a few years back i remember talking to another shop owner who couldn't understand why people were using iphones/tablets to shop and thought it was ridiculous that brands allowed people to shop that way. is it really our choice to say that? if we dont allow them to shop that way, will they turn to something else? or will they just sit there and play a silly game on said iphone/tablet? - probably the overarching problem that we are all facing.
    all and all it sucks that snocon is closing. i dont know logic and adam as well as i probably should but i do know they ran one of the best shops and i was completely shocked to see them closing their door and wish it was not true. i hope their staff can move on to other jobs within snowboarding/skating/surfing and continue to apply what they learned from from logic and adam to their future.
    i fully agree with jo, keep it humble, work your business, make it unique, sell the lifestyle, provide customer service that we cannot (cause you can), keep working with the brands that work for you and your shop, smile and enjoy the ride.
    there is ability to change the direction, but you and i have to be willing to change as well.

    my opinions. call me out.

    ps... i felt pretty honored a couple months ago when benny gave me a slayer milo shirt. hopefully you are cool with me wearing it. you, benny, cal, josh and the rest of the milo have created something special over the years that has involved a whole different level of snowboarding and skating that i cant even touch. be proud of it. come out to utah and come ride with us this winter. id be stoked to take some turns with you, benny, josh, cal and tim. johan can come too.

    1. Anonymous1:53 PM

      just spent 2 hours and 15 minutes with a guy buying a juice wagon and burton bindings, He wanted all the info on all the boards, shapes different cambers, advantages, and what not.
      No less than 5 times, he went to his phone for pricing. I was willing to match the price, but he also said free tax. People who don't work the floor, really have no clue about how much of this goes on. I don't care how much people may think they understand, they cannot understand it unless they live it. It is non stop, and I custom serviced the crap out of this guy. Online off price product is kicking the ass of specialty. So if you want to have shops for people to get info and showroom, you better raise your pricing, or I won't continue to be here for that purpose.
      Just stating the actual facts and business, no hate or personal attack on call in.
      thanks again for reading

  5. Anonymous10:03 PM

    thanks for posting, I wish more had the balls to say something, or perhaps their legal depts are telling them to be quiet, or maybe they just flat out don't have the words.
    You know, I hope that I like you and timmy and I go way back, this is nothing personal about our relationship, I know you guys care, but you are just two people in a billion dollar company, which by the way is public, and if it doesn't grow to the shareholders wants, then it may just get clipped.
    If you want it to get better for all the snowboard world, and the shops that have been around forever, then Quit overbuying product, Backcountry has trained many people to buy off price product, Or if you do buy up closeouts, sell them for more, you (liberty media) control the online pricing, if you can't sell it for a decent margin, then learn not to buy it. If companies come saying please help us dump this product, say sorry, we can't sell that either. Then maybe they will stop making cardigan sweaters or some other thing that a snowboard company shouldn't make in the first place.
    I still care about the direction here obviously, but I am not sure publicly traded companies really have a place in the action sports world.
    Thanks again for your reply, I really do apreciate it, and rock that milo t' we have much love for you and tim.

  6. my perspective, as a sales rep thats on the road, and works with the shops, the brands, and the consumers, all while still having the same passion for snowboarding I did 25 or so years ago.
    the bottom line is that there are too many brands with too much product to offer with too much filler and too few GOOD shops left to represent said brands and product. simple as that. A brand wants to grow and offer more products to more people and widen their customer base. Thats a given, I understand that. But when ALL the brands want to do this and expect their dealers to hop on the growth train all while the shop still only has the same 4 walls to put it all in, things spill over and make a mess. a pint glass can only hold a pint of beer. A small town only has so many skateboarders or snowboarders. Plain and simple.
    I feel that retailers need to pick 3, 5, 7 or whatever brands and represent them tip to tail. partner up if you will. think of the bike shops. I live in a town where in less than ten years ago there were 3 places you could buy snowboards. The A account, and 2 C accounts at best, but there were 3. Today, all 3 shops are gone. But TODAY there are 5, yes 5 thriving bike shops that are cranking. "oh you're not a Specialized guy? Then head on down the road to the Cannondale dealer, tell em Mike sent ya!" I remember when snowboard shops were like that. "No we aren't a (enter brand here) dealer, go up the road or head downtown" or the other way around. "Hi Eric from so and so sent me here, said you carry this shit I'm looking for."
    shit, I don't have the answer here, I understand times are different. its an electronic age, we as humans NEED instant satisfaction, and can get it with the click of a button. you want to watch asian porn, click. you want to see real time MLB standings, click. you want to watch season 5 episode 8 of weeds, click. you want this that and the other right fucking now because this weekend you have plans to use it and don't have time to search it out or have the shop dude tell you he can order it. its just who we are and the age we live in. I love dvds. I still buy em. I bought both Scooby Doo movies cuz I want to own them and watch em when I want to with my kids and not get frustrated that the wifi signal isn't strong for some reason and its buffering just as shaggy starts to eat scooby snacks in the mystery machine. so I have the dvds. problem solved. some folks download it and do the same. I want the dvd. not more shit in my cloud or whatever.
    anyway, way off topic but, visiting shops as much as I do, I see way too many brands being represented minimally to fair at best. Its not the brands fault, its not the shops fault.. its just too many offerings that only so much can be represented at the end of the day in shops x, y, and z. Why does this trip me out? Well because I've watched consumers walk in, look for a certain something in a certain color or size and if its not there, they bail. probably to just to go find it on the internet from their phone while sitting on the toilet. Its not a matter of retraining a consumer to shop locally or support the local shop, cuz I guarantee everyone reading this goes to home depot for something when there is at least one mom and pop hardware store in town. and guess what, that home depot only has a couple tool brands, paint brands, appliance brands etc. you walk in, find what you need (maybe 3 models to choose from), and walk out and you're gonna grab those new eco light bulbs and an orange bucket on the way out cuz its just laying there and you may need it later.... its convenient. All the while you probably could have gotten it at the Hardware Store, but you KNEW that because you are pressed for time, its 9pm, and Home Depot would have it.
    (continued below)

    1. (cont from above)
      The average, and I emphasize average, snowboard consumer just wants something affordable, and that will work. Sure the graphics have to be coo too. But go on the hill and look around at the the normal guy. Don't look around on the Tuesday pow day that you are enjoying with your fellow passionate snowboarders cuz you all have the best shit, look at normal guy on the icy saturday. He's clueless. Hi water cargo pants, toes over the edge of his board, goggle gapped goggles all fogged up, over gloves, (wait is that Johan?), no its normal guy that found some shit at a pkg lot sale or thru the overstock click on line. doesn't have a clue. it just works, he's happy, he's hitting the corner of the jumps, about to go have another jager bomb and then tell all his friends how rad he is in the hot tub later that night. I love this guy. He's us in a way. BUT he is clueless unfortunately, and now has gear that is either waaay old or is the wrong size cuz someone had over bought, or did some closeout from a brand that over produced, or he was just simply strapped for cash and just bought whatever he could afford no matter if it fit or not. and nobody bothered to help him so now he's normal guy that spent $100+ dollars for a lift ticket, $50 plus on gas, $200 at the bar etc etc... sorry, another tangent.
      So I fell that maybe this is a matter of the brands needing to make a product offering without filler. cuz all that happens is that you get 5 or so shops all carrying random shit from the same brand and not 1 or 2 shops carrying the whole line tip to tail. Instead we have a issue where most shops have most brands, but not a selection. Its all the same stuff with a different brand name on it. I love brick and mortar, I love mom and pop, but I understand why brands sell direct, I understand why there are flagship stores... Show the complete collection. Yes, its a new age. everyone and their mom has a board brand, clothing brand, sunglass brand etc... and they all have the same right as everyone else to succeed and grow. thats business. But when your demographic is only so big and more and more brands pop up, or existing brands keep expanding, you're trying to pour two pints into one pint glass..
      we all want our precious little snowboarding to remain small and core but at the same time we all want to grow our shops and brands and make some money, cuz after all, this is not only a lifestyle, its our livelihood. We save for snowboard trips and we put miles on our vehicles for the love of it. but we need to make money to pay the bills just like the guy in the cubicle or the folks ringing up our groceries. But the difference is that WE LOVE what we do. If you don't, then get out..
      Again, I don't have the answers, but I do know that its time we collectively start growing our participant base and focus on driving them em into the shops. We need to be here for each other. Not to point fingers at one another. Resorts should consider lowering lift ticket prices so families can go to the hill more than once or twice a year. Snowboarding needs to continue making dvds so we can watch em on our tv that we bought at Best Buy. We are all weirdos and at some level hypocrites. But the big picture is that if we all want to grow versus contract, we need more consumers... is making extra product in hopes that a potential return customer will come from it? I'm not sure about that. Do we need more brick and mortar but with a limited amount of brand offerings? Maybe... but this thread is a great place to start throwing out ideas..
      thanks for reading.

  7. Anonymous8:18 PM

    yay WIlmouth!

  8. Wow that whole what is killing the core shops post set off a really good session. Wilmoth hit it right on the head. It's just this day and age culture of everything at your fingertips that creates this situation. Obviously The key is adaptation and figuring out how to do it. Although about 6 years ago the mountain bike industry was in the same boat. But now you can't go online and buy a specialized, giant, Scott, Santa Cruz unless it's full pop or a close out previous year model. You can but it's full pop and either they won't ship it and it's in store pick up only or it's a "b" brand and they are offering a free build up on it still at FFR. Maybe that's a model way to go. And when a model is out of stock at the manufacture your ass is waiting until next year to get what you wanted. Highest selling models from kona they don't even offer shop form on them. It ain't stopping people from buying them either. The online shops are just like the ski companies of the 90's sticking their finger in the oven to get a slice of the snowboarding pie.
    Food for thought.

  9. Hope to see some young guns with that high level of passion join up with a like-minded set of old-timers (ideally with pockets full of money) to open a new Seattle shop one day soon. Not that anyone could ever replace SnoCon, but it seems like these days it would require the passion, relevance and energy of our more youthful advocates paired with the large sum of money said young person will never have to open a new snow/skate/surf shop and actually compete with large brick and mortar retailers, interweb dealers and discount sites that are dominating the market. That being said, I wish I would have supported SnoCon more while they were open and focused less on shopping for the lowest price or finding that exact style in that exact colorway that they didn't have in the shop... Though part of my job is to manage eCommerce sales for a handful of the clients we work with, this definitely pushes the prioritization of retailer orders and sell-through to a higher spot on the list.

  10. I like you guys.

  11. Wide-D9:22 PM

    Perfectly noted, and Seattle has sadly lost an iconic shop indeed. Your writing is a hell of a lot better when it's sincere...such as this one. Thumbs ^

  12. Right now in our resort town we only have two core shops. One is skate and snowboard and the other ski and snowboard. What we have to take into consideration is we are now selling a lifestyle and not just a passion like it was 20 years or so ago. The new age of riders and skiers have cross style. Now skiers wear burton, volcom, 686, etc and snowboarders are rocking under armor (where the f did they come from) nike, Patagonia and north face. All of whim have concept stores in town. Burton has two stores. All those stores do pretty well. They nail down the comment by NCP sales that it's nice to see a whole line represented right in front of you. As far as publicly traded companies go? That went down a long time ago in snowboarding when Jamie Salter and Larry "Brad" Dorfman took their companies public. Progression happens, stand in the way of it and you more than likely will get steamrolled. Look at the general level of snowboarding today, they would have been super pros 15 years ago. Don't any of you old timers on this comment section remember being the rider on the hill that knew all the other riders, fighting with the skiers that would harass us and say we will never be around twenty years from then. Telling them just you wait and see one day it will be 50/50. Well we got what we asked for (and now ski biking is taking off and sooner or later that won't be "core" anymore) and some ugly things like the decline of core shops came with it. I don't think core shops are failing I think we are failing core shops. Any one out there never buy anything on line. Look at the music industry, who goes and buys a CD anymore? You go online and purchase it at the App Store or rip it off a pirate site. The core music shops that we used to go to as kids and buy vinyl or even cassettes have disappeared more than the core snowboard shop. Unfortunately progress is progress but that doesn't mean we can't change the direction of it. Everything comes full circle. Going into a core shop and getting what you want from the person you call "bro" can happen again. We just have to get off our ass and make it happen. Other wise someone else will.

    1. Anonymous8:45 AM

      curious, what town are you in?
      Its not that publicly traded companies can't be in, but should they be? It is beginning to look like the answer is no. there number one goal is growth. They do nothing for getting new users in the sport. Look at vail corp, they only see the upper class. They are all but eliminating a huge amount of new riders with their hi rates and monopoly type acquisitions.
      Certainly , I think all points have some validity, and would love people getting off their ass and supporting something they believe in.
      Lets here some more comments! Bring them on good or bad, popular or not.

  13. {\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252
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    \f0\fs26 \cf2 \cb3 \expnd0\expndtw0\kerning0
    \outl0\strokewidth0 \strokec2 Funny because vail is who I am talking about. Also funny that you mention their target market. They just had a press release saying they wanted to target younger clientele in order to build a newer guest foundation. Vail has a lot of older and yes more wealthy guests. It's sort if like forestry, if your trees get old and die off you have to have planted new ones to get more lumber. Yes the concept stores do well and yes they are owned by Vail Resorts. Is it tough on the "little guy" when the VR owned retail outlets can offer lunch vouchers, rental discounts etc under that umbrella? Yep. But they have made adjustments to partner up with other businesses (ski valets, restaurants, bars) to offer similar or even less expensive alternatives. So when you ask if publicly traded companies are the way to go in recreation based business? I only have to say this, if I was a CEO of any corporation that answers to a board or stock holder ( which I am not and George I agree that the soul of what we do has been diluted by these types of companies) you bet your ass I would be doing whatever it took (raising rents on my independant retailers, lowering web prices etc) to choke out any and all of my competition so that the majority if the market share was directed to my pockets. That is exactly what they do and the golden parachute bonuses the CEO gets are the catalyst.

  14. Anonymous12:29 PM

    what is TL;DR ?

  15. Anonymous9:04 PM

    In the immortal words of Ian Mackaye.