Originally Posted by MJB
This is interesting. For instance, how does a Volkl type customer differ from a Dynastar type customer? Is it mostly psychological based on marketing by the ski makers and projection by the skier? Is it based on skill levels? Seems to me that a Dynastar 8000 and a Volkl 5 Star are equally demanding and will both require advanced skills to be fully appreciated. So, why would one be a Volkl type and another a Dynastar type? Would the Volkl type prefer the exactness of German engineering while the Dynastar type more identify with the freewheeling, freeriding image of Dynastar?
Overall, I would say that 90% of our customers are just people who want a great ski, and aren't fixiated on a certain brand. I just get them on some demos and they can decide what works and what doesn't. Which is the way it should be-I would much rather put people on the best tool for the job, regardless of the brand. Then again, we insist that walk-in customers demo skis before purchasing, which isn't exactly standard industry practice either.
With that said, here are the "brand loyalty" customers I see. Locally (I don't have Volkl, although they make great skis), people who come into my shop who will ONLY buy Volkl are typically the doctor/lawyer type who hear that Volkl is the "hottest" ski and, therefore, the ski they have to own. You know, the guy who pulls up in the tricked-out luxury SUV with the bleached-blonde wife and $1000 ski suit. He could care less that there are at least 5 other brands at least as good out there (or perhaps better for their needs): they want to buy Volkl. These are the same folks that I sell Colnagos to in the summer (and it seems that the bikes end up hanging on the wall at home). We are definitely the antithesis of a trendy ski shop: we just have alot of gear and 180 pair of rentals/60 pair of demos packed into 650 sq ft. Sorry to generalize, and I apologize if I offenede anyone, but it is more or less typical of the "I ONLY buy Volkl" customer around here. Volkl makes a great ski; I have owned 3 pair and would own the P60 GS or AC4 in a heartbeat, and I certainly don't have a "big man" attitiude.
This is different from the customer who has heard about Volkl (or K2) being a great ski and maybe will mention it, but just wants something that works for them. To these people, I can explain that "hey, there are lots of fabulous skis out there-have you thought about....." and they say "no, but sounds like some great skis-set me up with some demos..." and off they go. Typically they find a ski that they are thrilled with (after trying up to four pair) and purchase it. The Volkl dealer is across the street (I am good friends with those guys-it is not a competitive situation) and if they are interested in trying a Volkl for instance (say a AC3) I tell them to demo both a Magfire 12 and AC3 on the same day, and buy the one the like. Quite often (but not always) they buy the Elan, after realizing both skis are great, but the Elans are $200 cheaper.
In our shop, the customers are as follows (again, a relative generalization):
K2 Customer: usually an aging (45-65 year old skier, always lived in the PNW, always skied K2). Not that aggressive or powerful, more of a crusier type. Ex-Volant skiers seem to love K2. Sometimes aggressive skiers will come in to the shop, having have heard K2's are great, but I always have them demo a Recon and another, beefier ski (usually Head or Elan). Those types usually find that the Recon is too soft for their needs, despite the recommendation of their friends, and purchase something else.
Head customer: usually more agressive skiers that have gotten recommendations from their friends, either about the 77 Chip or the 88. Typically better (or at least think they are better) and faster skiers. They want something different, and know that Head skis are very good.
Elan customer: Again, people who want a great ski but aren't chasing a "name". Some pretty powerful skiers locally are on the 666/777/999, and they have a bit of a cult following. Also includes many instructors on the hill-they seem to really dig the Magfire 10. Many racers come in looking for the GSX/SLX. Lots of people who come in not knowing what they want end up buying the Elans (or Head iM72).
Fischer customer: I wish I knew! Not many walk-in customers, mostly Bears buy Fischer from us. Not a popular ski locally.
Dynastar customer: I really don't know-we just got our first skis in.
I would say that, more or less, with skis as good as they are these days (my shop staff was as impressed with Blizzard as any line they tried this spring) there really aren't bad skis. Brand wars are about marketing and gaining market share, not about who makes good or bad skis.