Snowboarding 2018: The most important board trends

https://www.ispo.com/en/trends/most-important-snowboard-trends-winter-2017/2018

Author: Iris Hrabe-Ritzert

The American snowboard market is experiencing a revival with new trends and styles. After a record winter, brands such as Dakine, Volcom or Burton, but also core shops, ski resorts, online retailers and of course snowboarders are looking forward to the winter of 2017/2018 – what’s in this year? We asked around in the motherland of snowboarding.

Franco Shapes’ Mikey Franco in Jackson Hole creates a new shape Image credit: Franco

Unique snowboard shapes for the ultimate riding experience

In the past years, snowboarding developed a highly technical go-big-or-go home dynamic, with boards focusing on high-tech materials and new technologies accordingly. Now the US snowboard designers start to focus more on the actual shape of the boards again. It is time to experiment: surfboard-like shapes, volume distribution and custom mades – It is all about truly enjoying the ride, indulging the spirit of “soul riding”.

Brian Limoges, Director of Merchandising at evo.com, one of the biggest US online retailers explains: “Snowboarding is currently having an interesting revival with emphasis on turning, fun and playful shapes, shorter boards, pow boards,…“. In short, we are in an era, where modern technologies and materials team up with a throw back vibe to the pioneer days of snowboarding.

Big players like Burton or Dakine make Facebook and Instagram count

Anybody who gets themselves into a snowboarding target group by liking and commenting on Facebook or Instagram, now gets to see not only “sponsored posts” with great action footage, but actual shopping recommendations tailored to his or her needs and preferences.

With new targeting and advertising options, snowboard brands take advantage and place their products just one click away from the most accurate target group possible. Especially big players such as Burton, Volcom or Dakine use these tools to link the community with their well-maintained online shops.

Facebook product advertisements from Burton and Dakine

Core snowboard brands and brands of professional snowboarders

While well known, mid-sized brands owned by pro snowboarders, such as Jones or Yes snowboards are already established, on top of that, a whole new armada of “community owned brands” pop up and get a fair share of the core market. And even at more commercialized online retailers like evo.com, the new small to mid-sized brands are successful.

Brian Limoges, Director of Merchandising at evo.com says: “Capita, Union, Jones, Yes, and other relatively small players in the market have been doing exceptionally well for evo thus far.“

Parts & Labor US 2017

Snowboard trends from Parts & Labor US

Brand new companies, such as Tribe snowboards, Spark R&D splitboard bindings, Salmon Arms gloves, Public snowboards, Ovan eyewear or Origin Snow kids snowboards can count on their inside knowledge of the market and their high credibility when competing with the big players of the industry.

This development lead to newly formed snowboard trade show “Parts & Labor US” happening for the second time already this January in Denver, Colorado. This second show is evidence enough for the need of a core show next to SIA.

Yobeat Magazine’s Paul Boudon sums it up: “Taking up maybe 10% of the footprint of SIA, P&L is focused solely on snowboarding. No tuning equipment, no GoPro display, no extras. Just snowboarding.”

Backcountry Babes on a splitboard tour in Breckenridge, Colorado Image credit: Leanne Wren

Women on splitboards conquer the backcountry

Women in backcountry snowboarding aren’t a novelty. However, what is very new indeed is the fact that the US snowboard industry has discovered women’s splitboarding as a market opportunity.  “All-women’s” avalanche camps, such as Backcountry Babes are growing constantly.

Emily Hargraves at Backcountry Babes explains that they offer women’s only, splitboard specific trips and adds that these courses sell out faster than they can find instructors to teach them. In terms of products the trend is most evident in the newly increased offer of women specific splitboards, boots and bindings.

A lot of companies expand their offer, for example Never Summer Snowboards just added a 148cm size to their Aurora model due to its’ growing popularity or Thirty Two boots, who just launched the first woman specific splitboarding boot.

Mega season passes and new air travel routes

Except everyone who actually lives in a ski town, every American snowboarder needs to travel to get on the slopes. Two major trends helped traveling for snowboarding to become even more popular in the US lately: Almost monthly the acquisition of new resorts by the two mega-resort companies is announced.

Vail Resorts’ “Epic Pass” is a no-brainer season pass for example, with top resorts in Colorado, Utah, the Mid West and California as well as Whistler, Canada, Perisher, Australia and even some resorts in Europe such as Les 3 Vallees and Arlberg.

And here is where the second trend becomes interesting: All major airlines announced that they are adding more seats and routes into the big ski resort regions.” It’s exciting times for Eagle County and the Vail region as the Eagle County Regional Airport will now be offering non-stop service to at least 14 cities during the peak winter season,” said Kip Turner, aviation director for the Eagle County airport in Vail, Colorado.

Posted in Sales / Marketing Stories by kelly simmons. No Comments

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning

By Matt TownsendJenny SuraneEmma Orr and Christopher Cannon

The so-called retail apocalypse has become so ingrained in the U.S. that it now has the distinction of its own Wikipedia entry.The industry’s response to that kind of doomsday description has included blaming the media for hyping the troubles of a few well-known chains as proof of a systemic meltdown. There is some truth to that. In the U.S., retailers announced more than 3,000 store openings in the first three quarters of this year.

But chains also said 6,800 would close. And this comes when there’s sky-high consumer confidence, unemployment is historically low and the U.S. economy keeps growing. Those are normally all ingredients for a retail boom, yet more chains are filing for bankruptcy and rated distressed than during the financial crisis. That’s caused an increase in the number of delinquent loan payments by malls and shopping centers.

The reason isn’t as simple as Amazon.com Inc. taking market share or twenty-somethings spending more on experiences than things. The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains.

The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary.

Until this year, struggling retailers have largely been able to avoid bankruptcy by refinancing to buy more time. But the market has shifted, with the negative view on retail pushing investors to reconsider lending to them. Toys “R” Us Inc. served as an early sign of what might lie ahead. It surprised investors in September by filing for bankruptcy—the third-largest retail bankruptcy in U.S. history—after struggling to refinance just $400 million of its $5 billion in debt. And its results were mostly stable, with profitability increasing amid a small drop in sales.

Making matters more difficult is the explosive amount of risky debt owed by retail coming due over the next five years. Several companies are like teen-jewelry chain Claire’s Stores Inc., a 2007 leveraged buyout owned by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, which has $2 billion in borrowings starting to mature in 2019 and still has 1,600 stores in North America.

Just $100 million of high-yield retail borrowings were set to mature this year, but that will increase to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to Fitch Ratings Inc. And from 2019 to 2025, it will balloon to an annual average of almost $5 billion. The amount of retail debt considered risky is also rising. Over the past year, high-yield bonds outstanding gained 20 percent, to $35 billion, and the industry’s leveraged loans are up 15 percent, to $152 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Even worse, this will hit as a record $1 trillion in high-yield debt for all industries comes due over the next five years, according to Moody’s. The surge in demand for refinancing is also likely to come just as credit markets tighten and become much less accommodating to distressed borrowers.

Retailers have pushed off a reckoning because interest rates have been historically low from all the money the Federal Reserve has pumped into the economy since the financial crisis. That’s made investing in riskier debt—and the higher return it brings—more attractive. But with the Fed now raising rates, that demand will soften. That may leave many chains struggling to refinance, especially with the bearishness on retail only increasing.

One testament to that negativity on retail came earlier this year, when Nordstrom Inc.’s founding family tried to take the department-store chain private. They eventually gave up because lenders were asking for 13 percent interest, about twice the typical rate for retailers.

Store credit cards pose additional worries. Synchrony Financial, the largest private-label card issuer, has already had to increase reserves to help cover loan losses this year. And Citigroup Inc., the world’s largest card issuer, said collection rates on its retail portfolio are declining. One reason that’s been cited is that shoppers are more willing to stop paying back a card from a chain if the store they went to has closed.

The ripple effect could also be a direct hit to the industry that is the largest employer of Americans at the low end of the income scale. The most recent government statistics show that salespeople and cashiers in the industry total 8 million.

During the height of the financial crisis, store workers felt the brunt of the pain when 1.2 million jobs disappeared, or one in seven of all the positions lost from 2008 to 2009, according to the Department of Labor. Since the crisis, employment has been increasing, including in the retail industry, but that correlation ended as jobs at stores sank by 101,000 this year.

Retail jobs lag

Compared to all private jobs, positions at physical stores have grown less over the last 10 years, both in numbers and wages.

The drop coincides with a rapid acceleration in store closings as bankruptcies surge and many of the nation’s largest retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., have decided that they have too much space. Even before the e-commerce boom, the U.S. was considered over-stored—the result of investors pouring money into commercial real estate decades earlier as the suburbs boomed. All those buildings needed to be filled with stores, and that demand got the attention of venture capital. The result was the birth of the big-box era of massive stores in nearly every category—from office suppliers like Staples Inc. to pet retailers such as PetSmart Inc. and Petco Animal Supplies, Inc.

Now that boom is finally going bust. Through the third quarter of this year, 6,752 locations were scheduled to shutter in the U.S., excluding grocery stores and restaurants, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That’s more than double the 2016 total and is close to surpassing the all-time high of 6,900 in 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis. Apparel chains have by far taken the biggest hit, with 2,500 locations closing. Department stores were hammered, too, with Macy’s Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. downsizing. In all, about 550 department stores closed, equating to 43 million square feet, or about half the total.

Clothing stores and entertainment chains lead store closing surge

Q1–Q3 2017 data

States like Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Illinois have been among the hardest hit, with retail employment declining over the past decade, and now those woes are likely to spread. Many states, such as Nevada, Florida and Arkansas, have overly relied on retail for job growth, so they could feel more pain as the fallout deepens. In Washington since 2007, retail jobs have grown 3 percentage points faster than overall job growth.

Retail jobs growth by state

New England and rust-belt states in particular have struggled, January 2007 to September 2017

Exposure to low-end retail jobs varies by state. Alabama, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Mississippi and South Carolina have the highest concentration of cashiers, who have an average wage of $21,500 a year. And on a regional basis, Washington Parish north of New Orleans has a higher percentage than anywhere in the country, at twice the national average. Florida relies on retail salespeople more than any other state. In Sumter County, west of Orlando, retail jobs nearly doubled over the past decade.

Retail landscape

The path to the middle class in retail is often to become a supervisor. There are 1.2 million of them, and their average annual salary is more than twice that of a cashier at $44,000. In that category, many of the same states have the most on the line, with Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina and Montana containing the highest ratio of these workers.

One response to the loss of store-based retail jobs is to note that the industry is adding positions at distribution centers to bolster its online operations. While that is true, many displaced retail workers don’t live near a shipping facility. The hiring also skews more toward men, as they make up two-thirds of the workforce, and retail store employees are 60 percent women.

The coming wave of risky retail debt maturities doesn’t take into account that companies currently considered stable by ratings agencies also have loads of borrowings. Just among the eight publicly-traded department stores, there is about $24 billion in debt, and only two of those—Sears Holdings Corp. and Bon-Ton Stores Inc.—are rated distressed by Moody’s.

“A pall has been cast on retail,” said Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst for Moody’s. “A day of reckoning is coming.”

 

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The Vanishing Ski Bum

https://www.realskiers.com/revelations/vanishing-ski-bum/

 

By: Jackson Hogen

Published: November 7, 2017

The ecology that allows the ski bum to flourish has always been delicate. In order to survive, the ski bum often is forced to live in communal households with half-crazed roommates (which is better than it sounds) with dubious hygiene (worse than it sounds). In his most primitive state, diet consists largely of free bar food and what nutrients can be culled from uncleared lunch trays.

Improving on these conditions requires working, which interferes with the Primary Mission, to ski as much as humanly possible. There are a few highly prized jobs that require one’s presence only at night, but these are all spoken for by the time you roll into town in the late fall. Eventually you’ll land some sort of service-related employment that will allow you to ski enough to make it all worthwhile.

If being a ski bum were a path to riches, we wouldn’t use the term, “bum.” As a lifestyle, the ski bum paradigm has forever entailed some sacrifice. But market conditions in the resort world are putting the squeeze on this endangered life choice like never before. As the value of real estate – always a limited commodity in mountain communities – continues to soar, few owners or custodians acting on their behalf wish to rent their property long term for a small return and a large fumigation bill when short-term rentals provide a much higher ROI. Even if you’re willing to spend a season sleeping on the floor, there isn’t any available floor space for the likes of you within a 50-mile radius of the resort.

By the way, this isn’t just an issue for the lowest rungs on the employment ladder. The families of business owners, managers and longtime resort employees are also being pressed into relocation into neighboring burgs. With the influx of middle class refugees “down valley,” the itinerant ski bum is forced even further from the playground that provides his main motivation for being in the area in the first, second and third place.

If you think my prattling on about the fate of the ski bum is just another instance of cranky Boomer nostalgia that doesn’t affect you, guess again. It’s already having an impact on the resort world in ways both subtle and glaringly obvious. Among the less visible impacts are those affecting one of the least appreciated and most important resort jobs, the pro patrol.

The author polishing his slow-dog noodle on Mach One in Breckenridge, circa 1973, when mogul skis were 200cm and it was possible to live on $2,000/year. Note the swanky, $5 rental poles in handy, pre-bent position.

Sorry kids, but the best patrol men and women are the most experienced, people who can recall weather patterns from decades ago that presented a particular peril to skier safety that are about to slam the mountain again. This knowledge is invaluable and can’t be replicated when the aging patrol member wants to start a family and realizes he can’t do so and feasibly remain in his or her chosen profession. This is what’s known as a lose-lose proposition.

Destroying the eco-system that allows ski bums to survive will manifest itself this winter as ski shops try to hire the needed staff to service the tide of skiers just waiting for the first snowfall to get new gear. A highly non-scientific survey conducted by this observer of the snow scene suggests a nationwide shortfall in qualified employees. Some of the best shops in the nation are going into the season shorthanded.

In case the relevance of this detail should escape you, allow me to draw out the inference.

Buy your boots now. Not in December, not in two weeks, now. Bootfitting takes time. It’s always possible to take shortcuts, but it’s not in your best interest. If your favorite bootfitter takes appointments, make one. If not, go see him now and get in the line that’s probably already forming. If you delay, bring some reading material with you (we humbly suggest a deep dive in the Realskiers.com members’ section or digesting a chapter or two of Snowbird Secrets).

As I ponder an epilog for this piece, my unmoored mind bumps into George Bernard Shaw’s famous epigram that “youth is wasted on the young.” I doubt Shaw had skiing in mind when he uttered this remark, but my meta-interpretation was that I should ski my derrière off while I had the strength, flexibility and disregard for personal safety that are among the blessings of youth. I was fortunate to live in a time when it was still possible to take Shaw’s dictum as a challenge by skiing all the time on very little income.

Once a ski bum…The author currently maintains his lavish lifestyle by fitting boots at Bobo’s. 

Come to think of it, I still seem to be working hard to disprove Shaw’s axiom, one way or another, but for the rest of mankind, the ski bum lifestyle is threatened to the point of extinction.

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VF Corporation Announces Definitive Agreement to Acquire Icebreaker®, a New Zealand-Based Outdoor and Sport Apparel Brand

https://csga.ca/vf-corporation-announces-definitive-agreement-acquire-icebreaker-new-zealand-based-outdoor-sport-apparel-brand/

 

The Icebreaker® brand amplifies VF’s focus on high-performance apparel made of natural fibers

November 2nd, 2017 GREENSBORO, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– VF Corporation (NYSE: VFC), a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories, and Icebreaker Holdings, Ltd., a privately held company based in Auckland, New Zealand, today announced that they have signed a definitive purchase agreement. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

On a trailing 12-month basis, Icebreaker Holdings generated approximately $150 million of revenue. The transaction is expected to be completed early in 2018 and the addition of the Icebreaker® brand to VF’s portfolio is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings per share.

The Icebreaker® brand was founded in 1995 on the belief that “nature always has a better solution,” and its entire product assortment is based on Merino wool, plant-based fibers and recycled fibers. Its “farm to garment” approach uses Merino wool sourced from the most sustainable and ethical Merino farms in New Zealand. Icebreaker® has 340 full-time employees and its products are sold in 47 countries through wholesale channels and branded retail and e-commerce platforms.

“Bringing the Icebreaker® brand into the VF portfolio is a special opportunity,” said Steve Rendle, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of VF Corporation. “Its natural fiber focus is an ideal complement to our SmartWool® brand, which also features Merino in its clothing and accessories. Together, the SmartWool® and Icebreaker® brands create an advantaged position for VF as a leader in the growing and underpenetrated natural fiber category. We will have unmatched capabilities that will strengthen our ability to create innovative and sustainable natural fiber products across our brand portfolio, especially in VF’s Outdoor and Workwear brands.”

“I founded Icebreaker® to offer a natural choice to adventurers, and to build a global brand from New Zealand,” said Jeremy Moon, Founder, Icebreaker Holdings. “Our partnership with VF provides us with the largest platform in the world to tell our story, access new markets and reach new consumers at an accelerated pace. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our global Icebreaker® brand team and for our wool suppliers to introduce a whole new universe of consumers to the benefits of sustainably farmed, ethically sourced, New Zealand Merino wool.”

“Jeremy’s goal was to build a global community that believed in his vision that nature held the answers to creating sustainable, high-performance outdoor clothing,” said Rob Fyfe, Chairman of Icebreaker Holdings. “Today the Merino apparel category is one of the fastest growing categories in both the outdoor and active urban clothing markets around the globe.”

Barclays is acting as exclusive financial advisor to VF Corporation and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is acting as legal advisor.

Source: VF News

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REI Is Closing on Black Friday Again

REI Is Closing on Black Friday Again

http://fortune.com/2017/10/30/rei-blackfriday/

By Phil Wahba

October 30, 2017

For the third year in a row, REI is breaking with its retail brethren and closing not only on Thanksgiving but also Black Friday.

The outdoor gear co-op said on Monday that it would once again shutter all 151of its stores on both days, which kick off the holiday season’s peak period. It is also not processing any online orders on Black Friday, which is not a statutory holiday but a regular work day, and will again pay its 12,000 employees, including hourly workers, for their time and encourage them to spend that Friday enjoying the outdoors.

For years, Black Friday was one of the five biggest days for the retailer. But now, in addition to the positive publicity REI has gotten in the last two years from people weary of Black Friday’s commercialism, the retailer also sees the move as a way to avoid the image-damaging discounting trap that has hurt countless other retailers.

“When you look at retail today, this playbook of promotions and consumerism, it’s not working,” REI chief executive Jerry Stritzke told Fortune. What’s more, he says, there is Black Friday fatigue. “It feels like it’s lost momentum since then,” Stritzke added.

REI, which had 2016 revenues of $2.56 billion, is also helped by the fact it is a co-op owned by 6 million members, rather than a publicly traded company, meaning it can take a long view of its strategy rather than worry about a short-lived hit to sales. In both 2015 and 2016, REI enjoyed strong growth despite the Black Friday closing, and the retailer’s membership has skewed younger, bolstering Stritzke’s claims that sacrificing some business on a busy shopping day is worth it.

To build upon the momentum the ‘no Black Friday strategy’ has created in the last two holiday seasons, along with the #OptOutside hashtag it has engendered, REI has created a search engine that draws on photos people have submitted and provides suggestions and information on cool outdoor destinations, such as a trail’s difficulty or location.

Stritzke, who came to REI from Coach Inc (COH, -0.63%) four years ago, dismisses the idea that REI’s Black Friday approach is mere marketing, saying that both employees and customers would see through that. The strategy helps REI, which Fortune has ranked among the 100 Best Places to Work many years running, reinforce its image as a place about experiences and community. “You don’t promote your way to love,” he says, adding, “it’s about being a different kind of company.”

The Black Friday plan is not the only way REI is taking some risks. In April, Stritzke waded into political controversy to spoke out against the Trump administration’sactions on public lands, writing that the plan to review the status of more than 11 million acres of public land was a “cause for concern.” The company also urged people to file comments with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, asking him to keep the protections in place. Outdoor brand Patagonia has similarly been vocal on this issue, publishing its first ever TV ad earlier this year.

http://fortune.com/2017/10/30/rei-blackfriday/

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