Standing on Their Own Two Feet…
An Independent streak: We caught up with a few of our favourite UK independent ski/snowboard retailers…
SNOOKS is proud to be designed and made in the UK! There is so much snowboardery goodness to be celebrated here, the global success of our female heroes like Omerod and Jonesy is enough to put GB on the world stage – not bad for a country with very little actual snow! Not only this but we have some of the sickest independent snow focused stores in the UK. These guys have serious passion for the industry and are constantly innovating and finding their niches to stay in strong competition with the online beefcakes. It’s important to remember the people at the heart of the snowboarding scene so here’s why we are sharing our top hand selected independents that you simply HAVE to check out:
We thought we’d get to know them a little bit better. Here’s what they had to say:
Tell us the best shop floor quote you’ve overheard!?
Snowtrax: Best quote is between when Sean asked me “Where do we keep the Douchebags?” (too easy) and when Lemmer cornered a shop lifter at his car and said “ok mate, either you come back inside or we wrestle.”
Tallington: Not a staff shopfloor quote, but the number of customer that say, “I didn’t realise it was this big”.
Subvert: Calm down guys, it’s only snowboarding!
What do you think is special about the UK Scene? Are you involved with any athletes; who do you think are the ones to watch!?
Snowtrax: The UK scene is so unique because we have limited places to actually go snowboarding. The popularity and success of snowboarding in the UK is way out of proportion considering this. Dryslope has been a huge factor and has been the launchpad for so many good riders. I wanted to say “look at the last winter games” but this is unfair to Jenny, Billy, Jamie et al, considering the level of competitiveness they have maintained over the last 10 years and not just at the Olympics. The future is definitely bright with riders like Matt McCormick and Katie Ormerod. Locally we are blessed with some great riders at our slope and shop including UK Capita rider Jack Labbett.
Tallington: We have a couple of ambassadors who we support, which you can read about on our blog
In recent years the UK has had some amazing athletes like Woodsy, Jamie Nicholls, Jenny Jones and Aimee Fuller; so hopefully their success will generate more funding and sport awareness to help encourage ‘new blood’. As for ‘ones to watch’ we are keeping our eyes on Millie Wilkinson and Tom Greenway! Thanks to Jack Thompkins and ‘Ski The Kingdom’ these guys are getting themselves and snowsports noticed. Jack and Row Emery are doing an amazing job with the sport, coaching and filming athletes at grassroots level to help not only the athletes, but the snowsport as a whole.
Subvert: The lack of mountains can be a postive thing as the domes and dryslopes can still cater for peoples freestyle needs. We only have a certain amount of domes so its tends to concentrate the scene, as you get lots of talented riders all hitting up one slope. We support a few UK riders with product and promotion, and also encourage all the little rippers that pass through our doors. Lewis and Nathan Hopkinson regularly impress indoors at Chill so we flow them lots of nice shiny gear, and Mia Brookes is a B00BYTRAP graduate who’s now on the Burton UK team so she’s our hot tip for the future.
Snowtrax: Women’s gear has seen big changes over the last decade for sure and so have perceptions of women’s product. The brands doing well are the ones that have fully embraced women’s snowboarding. I get so frustrated when a brand brings out a new board on the men’s side but delay the women’s version until 1 or 2 years later. Never Summer release their new models in both men’s and women’s at the same time and they do really well for us. It also frustrates me with the stigma about girls boards. We still have some girls who will only ride men’s boards. Girls boards are fully legit now and it has taken a long time to get to this stage so hopefully attitudes change to reflect this. As I mentioned before, customers are more aware of their style and what they want so the clothing has had to adapt too. No longer will ordinary cut it so clothing is way better now because of this.
Tallington: Ladies gear has certainly changed over the past decade; for the better. Designed for the ladies, quite often by ladies, the products are well suited and the female customer appreciates this. We have a high percentage of female staff, in store, who ski or snowboard and give sound advice; which the ladies like – and that’s important to us. It’s the same for the guys too!
Subvert: Women’s gear has been strong for a few seasons now, gone are the days of wearing mens gear or everything being pink. We love the L.A.M.B x Burton collabs, something a little different from the norm. The ladies tend to be more adventurous with their get-ups, so we try to buy things that they won’t find in the chain stores from the big brands. Having a lady at the helm of the business ensures we are the forefront of on-slope style!
Snowtrax: Wow, the retail landscape over the last decade. It has changed lots. Product deadlines have moved forward, as product drops into the shops way earlier than before. I remember the days when we would expect boards to arrive in November. Now August seems late! This has changed because people are more informed with that darn internet thing and demand is there earlier. As a snow specific business this helps extend our selling season and we are just as hyped to see the product rolling in as anyone else. With online sales comes a responsibility to also back this up with a solid bricks and mortar set-up. Customers travel miles, often past other shops, to come and make sure they get the right product. Yes price is important but customer service is underrated these days but something we still focus on. It also seems like less retailers value the importance of testing product to pass that knowledge onto the customer. Supporting Spring Break as well as more industry focused tests is vital for our staff to get on the product.
Tallington: The UK snowsport ‘retail landscape’ has become more challenging, over the last decade because the number of participants in snowsports isn’t growing. To compound this, the brands themselves have decided to join the ‘retail landscape’, with their own shops and websites, and consequently supply is truly in excess of demand. This has created a ‘discount buying culture’!
What’s the solution? A rather ‘rose tinted glasses’ view would be for all the governing bodies, brands, media, retailers and others in the UK snowsport scene to work together to increase the number of participants and share the customer base!
Subvert: Only one thing to discuss here, the internet! People are much more comfortable with buying online than ever before, and we compete every day against online retailers who don’t have the overheads (or expert staff!) that we do. Online only can achieve better margins and offer immediate discounts on brand new kit, which is crazy really. We have a great reputation for talking sense and not confusing our customers with bullsh*t! We strive to always give sound clear advice to customers, but there’s nothing to stop them coming to us for the info and then shopping online to save themselves a few quid sadly. We need the support of our customers as we’d like to be around for another 17 years!
What styles do you think are going to be hot this winter? There have been some quirky trends in the past…buckets hats, shoe lace belts, skinny pants…what do you think is going to be next in the sequel?
Snowtrax: Styles are never easy to predict. If they were it would make my job buying a whole lot easier! The best way we can make sure we are on track is listening to our staff – what they want to ride in, what sizing is like, what face fabrics are working, colours etc.. Obviously camo has done a full circle and you will find no shortage this year but we are seeing more informed customers who know their style rather than being influenced as much. This has kept brands on their toes over the last few years and clothing lines have been some of the best I have ever seen because of this
Tallington: We cater for a ‘broad church’ when I comes to snowsports styling. We love a bit of ‘aspen glam’, and we love a bit of ‘tech’, and we love that ‘baggy’ look. And we are not just talking guys; we love looking after the ladies too! Hence why we are stoked to bring Snooks into the Pro Shop! (We didn’t pay them to say this we promise!)
Subvert: After several seasons of blending in to the background with camo and autumn vibes, we are seeing a gradual revert to the brighter more in-ya-face colour schemes! It will be a slow burner, but give it a year or two and we’ll all be dayglo ravers again…!
Getting to know these guys a little better has been boss! After all, these guys and gals are the ones with the knowledge, expertise and passion to really recommend you the best gear for the best conditions with the best trends! And – you have the luxury of a little banter too. Face to face interaction surely makes for better buying decisions so, make sure you get your snowboardery excitement to an independant near you!