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Opening a ski shop business??

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking about trying to start ski shop business. Does anyone here know what is involved(besides cash) to get a ski shop off the ground? How hard is it to become a dealer of the various ski lines? What other major hurdles are there related to the ski industry, totally aside from normal business start up issues?
post #2 of 21
how do you make a small fortune in the ski industry?



start with a large one......




good luck, hard bus, with low margine, and hard to find good staff
post #3 of 21
Most of the money is made on soft goods, gear is often a loser.

Wish I had better news.

Cheers,

Michael
post #4 of 21
Well, I've been in the retail side of the ski business for about 6 years now and there is quite a bit to deal with. First of all, you need great liability insurance because of mounting skis, tuning skis, and if you rent it goes up even more. On the other hand, rentals are HUGE profit makers. On top of all the money needed you need to meet with all of the manufacturers you are considering selling, try to get them on board with you and then, get approved by them. Some brands don't want to be saturated some do. Obviously, you'll need several brands and large investments of money to carry the hardgoods. You'll need to outfit a shop which will run you pretty big bucks to get a good machine and all the goodies to service correctly. Once you figure out what hardgoods you want and can get you then need to figure out how you are going to make any money. Softgoods are the key. Have a variety of high demand lines and a few bargain lines. Most private shops are lucky to be selling hardgoods at 25% margin. Softgoods come closer to 50%. Labor in the shop is around 85%, and rentals around 90%. Good luck to you, it is a great way to make a living but you will work yourself silly getting it going, then getting it staffed, then opening, then trying to get bigger. It can be done and you can do well with it but you likely won't get rich doing it. Make a solid living, yes. Have a great time, definitely.
post #5 of 21
Unfortunately business is never about "the one thing". If there is one thing - it's recruiting customers. To do that you have to offer something they can't get somewhere else: a better smile, a better location, better selection, better pricing, better service, more convenience … or maybe you need them all. Just depends on where you're setting up shop. That and a HUGE dose of luck.

The spoils of war never go to the meek - so if you're going to do it, kick anyone/anything that gets in your way in the gonads.
post #6 of 21
Establishing good credit terms with the major manufacturers will be a challenge. Most of them probably won't sell you in year 1, and if they will, it will probably with short terms - cash up front or 30/60 days. In contrast, established shops with good credit can wait as long as March to pay off their tab.

This means you should plan on selling "2nd tier" manufacturers in the early years - Elan, Blizzard, Head, Dolomite, etc. I'm not knocking their product, a lot of it is great. But for one reason or another, they are at the bottom of the industry food chain.

The new twin tip companies - 4FRNT, Ninthward, etc - will also be eager to sell you, but their credit terms can be poor because they are new companies and need every $ they can get.

One last thing...as an astute poster said above, rentals and season leases are a huge profit center. Don't overlook it.

I wish you luck.
post #7 of 21
i would think if you are a golfer its a great choice and a golf shop if you are a skier
post #8 of 21
If it is of interest to you, I've watched a couple of snowboard only shops open and grow stronger in the past 3 years at near-mountain locations. Traffic was very slow the first year, but last year one of the shops had established a very strong position with high repeat business. The owner is a die-hard snowboarder and has taken business from the area "ski" shops that carried snowboard equipment but didn't really understand the culture and sport-specific details. (I don't know his profitability.)

Depending on location, the window for a board-only shop may be closing, but the concept of an ultra-specialized shop might be an option for entry into the business.
post #9 of 21
The trend in snowboarding of late has been rather soft. The retention rate for snowboarding is alarmingly low. (Basically, the number of people who start and stay with boarding) The last two years there have been more people quitting snowboarding than starting. (For the record, I got this data from a large snowboard manufacturer) As a result the snowboard companies are scrambling to find ways to lure more money into their accounts. Several companies have started pressing skis! The other issue with snowboards is that the margin tends to be 5-10% lower.
post #10 of 21
Interesting trend info. Are snowboarders moving away from snowsports in general or switching to skis?
post #11 of 21
What is your location? Urban is definitely different from suburban. As a 26 year-old in Boston willing to burn cash as long as it makes my skiing better, I can offer you some ideas that would appeal to my demographic. If I were to open a shop, I would focus on high-end gear. First of all, high-end gear is more expensive and thus has a higher margin. Second, it's purchased by people who buy new skis once every year or two, sometimes every year. Mid to low level gear, while appealing to the masses, is purchased by people who might get new skis once every 5 years. There is also a lack of certain brands of soft goods. In particular, North Face, Acrteryx, EMS and REI seem to be the only top brands that are readily available. Helly Hansen, Sessions, Oakley, Cloudveil, Patagonia (to name a few) are incredibly difficult to find good selections of in retail stores.

Clearly, this is a not servicable business model, and of course you need the low-end stuff too, and rentals. But in general, I would go to any shop that had the gear I wanted to buy. Even in a city as big and outdoorsy as Boston, it's impossible to find exactly what I want. I usually have to go online.
post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by skidbump View Post
i would think if you are a golfer its a great choice and a golf shop if you are a skier
OH! Now you tell me.... I wish I had thought of this 13 years ago. I hardly get to ski since owning a ski shop.


rentals and service! that's where the profit is not hard goods. Don't get sucked into hard goods right away. They look good on the wall in the beginning of the season and grow progressively uglier near the end of the season.

b
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post
OH! Now you tell me.... I wish I had thought of this 13 years ago. I hardly get to ski since owning a ski shop.


rentals and service! that's where the profit is not hard goods. Don't get sucked into hard goods right away. They look good on the wall in the beginning of the season and grow progressively uglier near the end of the season.

b
So true. Service is the way to go.
post #14 of 21
Analogous to this is computer stores. A place where I have purchased and traded way too much computer hardware over the last 17 years has definitely evolved with the times and power of the net. They simply can't compete with big box stores and online computer sales to only sell computers. Their main source of income is service and accessories.
post #15 of 21
Alpinord, there are a lot of people giving up snowsports after trying snowboarding these days. But, it seems the majority of people they are losing are picking up the skis! I have some theories about this. Snowboarding pimped itself to be the anti-skiing in the days when the one piece, mediocre skis, and insane pricing ruled the ski industry. Snowboarding brought some new technology to the forefront and ski companies jumped in. Shaped skis, progressive sidecuts, lower prices, twin tips. The weird thing, skis got cool again. The technology worked wonderfully and looks at today's skis. Interestingly, if you wander into a core snowboard shop today a lot of the Burton, Ride, 686, and other clothing will have a very retro snowsports look. Some of the jackets look like the old ugly descentes that snowboarders used to hate. I by no means aim to imply that snowboarding is dead, I just think they've gotten caught in the same trap skiing did 20 years ago. They are getting boring, no real technology improvements in several years means nobody is doing much new. Personally, I hope they pull this out and get the boards moving like mad again. It's all the same sport and good for the snowsports industry.
post #16 of 21
In a thread started by JKozlow3 titled;

Wanted to share my technique for finding BOF binding mount position

I thought a particular post (#19) from Noodler would be interesting for your consideration, highlighted in red. Noodler examples a specific differentiation perhaps useful for a small shop attracting and maintaining ski customers.

“The main issue (and there's lots of posts about this too) is that the whole idea of mounting positions using the match up of the boot midsole mark to a mark put on the ski by the manufacturer is a compromise. It was developed to make it easier for shops to mount bindings. Racers never use this method and no one else did in the early days of skiing. For recreational skiers the shops just got lazy (IMHO). That's why I still believe that shops looking for more "high touch" ways to hang onto customers should be expanding their services and offer ski fitting and custom binding mounting based on the BoF/Balancer methods. I would think that upper level skiers would jump at these services, but only after the public was "re-educated" on the fallacy of the current binding mount position method.”
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
You're right about the binding locations, a sad situation. That and many other factors are hard to market. Only by word of mouth over time will the local hot skiers and racers come to respect your services more than anyone else I think.
post #18 of 21
If I had one key that I would focus on it would be to hire the absolute best boot fitter you can. One that's been around the area for some time and is well known and respected. Hire him with how ever much it takes to get him from where he's currently at, pay him well, cut him in on a piece of the business and get him on board. These guys have a cult following.
post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by borntoski683 View Post
I'm thinking about trying to start ski shop business. Does anyone here know what is involved(besides cash) to get a ski shop off the ground? How hard is it to become a dealer of the various ski lines? What other major hurdles are there related to the ski industry, totally aside from normal business start up issues?
I would spend some money on attending the SIA trade show in Jan/Feb time frame (it is usually out west somewhere). You can sit down with all the manufacturers of gear, clothes, etc. I am sure they would be happy to work out the economics of it. Of course, the info will be biased, but talk to enough people and talk to other owners, you can get a good idea. Also at the meeting is the NSRA or NSSRA (not sure); it is a retailers association. They will give you an honest perspective.
post #20 of 21
SIA is in Las Vegas every year. It is a great chance to see the industry in full. Most retailers use the show as a buying trip and get set up for the coming season. For many, this is their first glimpse at the next year's product and a good time to get some contacts within the industry.
post #21 of 21
Offer a free skiing lesson with brand new pairs of skis. When I was at a low intermediate level and was looking to buy new skis to grow into, the dealer offered me a free lesson if I had any trouble skiing on the new skis. In the end I never needed that lesson and even progressed into skis (on my own) that were more advanced than the first pair he sold me but the offer of the free lesson was an offer no other ski shop in my town was offering.
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