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NSSRA Members Continue to Weigh-In on ProForms

March 12, 2007

NSSRA Members Continue to Weigh-In on ProForms

Responses continue to arrive to the announcement at the NSSRA Membership meeting that K2 was discontinuing employee and pro forms and that Elan/Dalbello would be implementing a shop-friendly policy.  Reactions also continue to arrive highlight practices and promotional activities that bypass the retail community.  The NSSRA Board, in taking the position that all snowsports products should be sold through authorized snowsports retailers, is using this newsletter to let your voice reach the broad snowsports community. 

From: Jim Bittinger, Pine Mountain Sport Shop, Iron Mountain, MI
Just for the record, we do not support proforms --- period.  Never have and never will.  Count us on your team. 

We are not new at this business, having owned operated the Pine Mountain Sport Shop for over 25 years.  We have witnessed the proliferation of the proform while, at the same time, watching our market for high end equipment be taken over by the things.  It either has to stop, or the retail business as we know it will cease to exist.  Then who sells the product?

From: Greg Reilly, formerly of Darien Sport Shop
My experience is that the vendors will not change their businesses in a spirit of good will toward their retailers -- show dates, proforms, whatever.  They are not true partners with retailers.  (There might be a rare case of one vendor and one very important dealer who have a "partnership", but it is so rare as to not be considered here.)  Instead they are sales and distribution offices charged with getting a bigger piece of the smaller pie. 

As difficult as it may seem, retailers will have to speak with their dollars on their order forms.  Individually of course.  No collusion.

Remove yourselves from emotional friendships with vendors.  Vendors who have practices that take business away from dealers should get less business from dealers.  That will not guarantee vendors change their ways, but there are indicators that such action will get some response.  Dealers' complaints and pleas year after year with no real consequences for the vendors will continue to get only lip service in response.  That is certain.

From: Bill and Jennifer Curley, Inverness Ski Shop & Pure Snowboard, Waitsfield, VT
We have all been telling manufacturers and retailers alike what a great program Shopatron is. No one at the SSL meeting could believe that we have done over $10,000 with Leki alone. We jumped on board with Descente and DNA, but as Obermeyer dealers, we thought something was a little fishy.

Why was Obermeyer's "Best Selling Jacket" never showing up on Shopatron? I heard a few rumors about how they were directing their sales to fullfillment centers first, then to Shopatron.  So I went to go try and order a jacket I had in stock, but couldn't because it said "SOLD OUT" and wouldn't let me order.  I tried another jacket, and it did not direct me to Shopatron. It sent me to other websites, such as Peter Glenn, Tramdock, and Pedigree, where the jacket in question was on sale even.  A few things lead me to Shopatron, and I thought about placing an order to see if it actually came up for bids, or just got sent somewhere else.  I didn't do this yet....

This, to me, and most people I have talked to, is not what Shopatron was structured as.  There are many skeptical people about Shopatron to begin with, and this certainly does not help.  I think you should really look into this, and do something about it.  Obermeyer is the only vendor of mine that is doing this that I know of.... how many others will there be? 

We will continue to work with the companies that support us, Hestra, Descente, Leki, but just because vendors are signed up for Shopatron, doesn't make them all good anymore.

From: Robert Bergstrom, Sports LTD, Woodland Hills, CA
Brad - You are a determined individual. I never thought you could get this done, but it appears that the entire hardgoods industry will HAVE TO FOLLOW K2 or lose a lot of business.  Says something about Tim Petrick, doesn't it ?  He realizes the value of leading and will take a chance on trying something new - - -  I think it will pay off big time.

From: Jay Taylor, The Soze Group Dist. Inc.
Thank you for taking this stance – we have had this issue in hand in Canada as all products are directed though retailers for pro sales. We are behind you 100% and have had the same stance ever since we started doing business in the USA.

Congratulations on the effort to change the position.

From:  Greg Kreider, Era Ski & Bike Shop, Lancaster, PA
I think it is a quite simple solution:  The vendors should just tear up the Pro Form and Shop Employee Form.  Let the dealer make his own deal with the pro and his employee.  The product should be sold like any other product,  with maybe a concession to the pro that delivers customers to the store and acts like an ambassador and as a reward to the employee that does a good job.  Then the program is totally in the shop's hands. 

We have a situation in our store with a local pro that teaches only  on week-ends and bought 4 pairs of skis on pro forms last winter from 4 different vendors and probably through 4 different shops.  We know this because he sold 3 pairs to his friends who brought them to our store for binding adjustment.  That is 3 pairs of high performance skis sold to our customers that are now out of the market for a few years and most likely they will look for a pro deal for their next purchase.  So clearly the pro form issue affects high end sales.  Our shop policy is we don't honor Pro Forms.  We refuse to honor a system that rips us off.

If the vendors want to offer promotional product, they should make the offer to the shop owner who can then reward a key employee or a shop ambassador with a discount. 

Vendors should look at these sales from the shop owner's perspective.  Would they like it if a large portion of their dealers by-passed the U.S. distribution network and bought the product on the grey market?  Is that scenario any different than alternative outlets to the retail market?  I am sure the vendors would be quite upset to an alternative outlet that affects their sales.  So it is sort of like the Golden Rule of ski retail.  I would be happy to have a discussion with any sales manager so they can justify how Pro Forms help my business.  Let's truly have a partnership!

From: Paul Prutzman, Pinnacle Sports, Reading, PA
Just got this offer from Descente. I was actually looking at their line this year after they sent out a nice piece to retailers avowing their support for specialty retailers. The web site offers 20 men’s jackets direct to NASTAR racers. I doubt I was singled out for my racing performance. I’d feel pretty cut out, if I were a Descente retailer. Am I missing something?

This certainly solves any questions in my mind about adding their line.

From: Tom Cage, Kittredge Sports, Mammoth Lakes CA
I applaud NSSRA for there effort here and I hope it takes effect.  To that end Kittredge Sports in Mammoth Lakes Calif. Has supported vendors that support retailers.  I am not saying that this is easy or there are not some holes in any process that is proposed.  A first step must be made that allows Specialty Retails a chance to survive over the long haul.  Current Vendors that we are dealing with that continue to support a positive position, K2, Rossignol, DC, Elan, Dolimite, Scott Skis, Armada, 4Front, Marker, Tecnica, TNF, Mt. Hardware, Descente, Bogner. Companies that have improved there position in this issue over the last few years, Volkl, Patagonia, Nitro, Option.  Companies that we have dropped over the last 10 years that don’t support product sold at retail Salomon, Atomic, Columbia.  Enough said, and amazingly we are still in business after 43 years in a resort community that has no choice when the snow does not come.  We maintain full retail, wait for the snow to come and sell for the highest price possible based on the supply & demand of the product.

We support Pro pricing to the correct people, (those that can benefit the industry and help support retailers) we support free product to the people that promote the industry, and in some case may not be fortunate enough to afford product but have a profound desire to continue there skiing/riding.  Kittredge Sports like many if not all the shops in the country give or help those that need.  This is the way it should be done, at the choice and knowledge of the shop, the Rep and the Vendor.  When abuses occur or complaints happen they should be investigated by the Reps and a course of action should be taken.  But to allow vendors to go unchecked, and then support them as a retailer you are encouraging a behavior that erodes the profitability of this entire industry and your future livelihood. 

To close I hope all retailers recognize that if you extend the offer to help the instructors & patrol people you will find more customers being referred to your stores with a higher degree of confidence that they (the customer) will be handled fairly, professionally, and will end up with the product that suits there needs instead of what may be the cheapest sale item in the store.

From:  Kyle Potter, Potter Brothers Ski & Snowboard Shop,Kingston, NY
I think the words from Wolfe Ashcraft regarding ebay/auction sales are an even bigger concern moving forward.