Earlier this year NSSRA began what has become many meetings and conversations with the management team at Salomon and Atomic to offer input from the specialty retailer community on the e-commerce initiative that Amer Sports announced earlier this year. From the beginning there were two points that set the stage for these discussions.
First, this decision was initiated by Amer corporate and passed down to the various brands within their holdings; it was not instigated by the brands themselves. In snow sports those brands are Atomic and Salomon hardgoods and Arc'teryx, Salomon and Bonfire softgoods. It was up to the management of the various brands to determine the appropriate implementation of this directive.
Secondly, at our first meeting with Amer U.S. it was announced that the decision had been made to go consumer direct with the clothing brands. Their feeling was that these brands are or will be targeted beyond the scope of snow sports industry and need to be as accessible to e-commerce shoppers as other outdoor lifestyle brands (North Face, Patagonia, etc). Our position was that these brands are not as lifestyle oriented as other brands on the market, and accordingly distribution should be kept within the specialty snow sports retailer community. While we are hopeful that Amer U.S. will revisit this decision, at this writing the clothing brands are expected to be offered direct to consumers.
For Salomon and Atomic hardgoods the discussions were very different. To the credit of the management of these companies, NSSRA was contacted soon after the Amer announcement and asked to offer input on the direct-to-consumer strategy proposed by Amer. Our position was that specialty retailers were not likely to support a direct to consumer e-commerce strategy by Salomon and Atomic hardgoods, and the consequences of this action could be detrimental to the brands.
Shortly after the first initial meeting NSSRA president Larry Weindruch commissioned a survey to gauge the opinions of our members regarding this action. In all the years I have been involved in this organization I have never seen a response like we got to this survey; it was overwhelming. For all of you that took the time to respond to that survey you need to know that when these results were presented to the management of Salomon and Atomic, it had the impact you hoped for, and your voice was heard.
During these negotiations the board of NSSRA worked under the following two principles. First, if we continue to do what we're already doing we're only going to get what we've already got. While the snow sports industry had an excellent year last year, many specialty retailers feel that business has gotten tougher. Any change that supports and/or enhances the position of specialty retailers should be considered.
Secondly, e-commerce is here to stay; consumers demand it. As vendors develop e-commerce strategies snow sports retailers could either be victims of abusive vendor commerce strategies, or we could be part of the process of creating a strategy that gives consumers what they want and at the same time supports the important role that retailers play in our industry. We chose the latter.
Over the last couple of months of back and forth discussions with NSSRA, the management of Salomon and Atomic have crafted what I think could become an e-commerce model for the snow sports industry in the future. Many things could change between now and the future but at this writing I think they have come up with a model that retailers can support. It is up to Salomon and Atomic to announce this model in the coming weeks, and, of course, it is up to each individual retailer to decide if this model is good for his or her business.
In the coming weeks, as you will hear more about the model Salomon and Atomic have created, I hope that you will keep an open mind to the idea. Don't judge it by what other vendors have done in the past; judge it by what these two vendors are doing now. Second, remember that if at any time in the future this model were to change to the detriment of specialty retailers, retailers will still have the option to voice their displeasure by voting with their pens.
A special thanks to NSSRA board members Tom Gately (SMC), Steve Rogers (SSL), Larry Weindruch (NSSRA president) and the rest of the board of directors of NSSRA for their time and input on this issue. Also thanks to Tom Fuerst (SMC chairman) for his presence at our last meeting. And lastly, the entire retail community owes a huge thank you to the dues paying members of NSSRA for your help in keeping this organization going. When NSSRA works the way it is supposed to work, this is the type of positive outcome that can be accomplished!
If you are a member but haven't completed the renewal process, now is the time. Those companies with unpaid 2011-12 dues will have their memberships terminated on October 21. Just call the NSSRA office at 888-257-1168, ext. 129, and Larry Weindruch will help you complete the renewal process.
Brad Nelson, NSSRA Chairman