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How can inexpensive skis be bad?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
So I call this guy at this un-named on-line ski vendor. He's got a good price for the 08 version of the 8k which I've been looking for. I place my order and they call me back later and say they can't get the ski from Dynastar b/c its sold out. So I ask him, "How can a new ski for this year be sold out even before the season has started"?. His answer was perplexing to me. He tells me, "The manufacturers are keeping their inventories lean b/c there are so many inexpensive skis flooding the market by people who don't know what they're doing". Do any of you have ANY idea what this means? Who is he referring to...places like Evogear or Ebay? What are the implications...to me...having lots of retailers means the price of skis both new and used is coming down IF you are willing to wait and don't have to have the newest version. Is this just a weak complaint or is there any legitimacy to this? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
post #2 of 26
They're protecting brick-and-mortar ski shops who can't afford to give away skis like the big online places can by keeping inventories low enough to provide little more than each shop's preseason order. What ends up happening when the manufacturers have huge backstocks is that online bargain shops buy up huge quantities of skis at clearance prices and sell them for cheap, leaving all the shiny new skis for the next season to collect dust on the ski shop walls.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in major shortages of some of the hottest skis of the past few years- last season Volkl's freeride line was nearly unobtainable after November, and I believe the Mantra and Gotama was totally sold out in October. I'd rather have it be that way instead of the alternative, though.
post #3 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by locknload View Post
So I call this guy at this un-named on-line ski vendor. He's got a good price for the 08 version of the 8k which I've been looking for. I place my order and they call me back later and say they can't get the ski from Dynastar b/c its sold out. So I ask him, "How can a new ski for this year be sold out even before the season has started"?. His answer was perplexing to me. He tells me, "The manufacturers are keeping their inventories lean b/c there are so many inexpensive skis flooding the market by people who don't know what they're doing". Do any of you have ANY idea what this means? Who is he referring to...places like Evogear or Ebay? What are the implications...to me...having lots of retailers means the price of skis both new and used is coming down IF you are willing to wait and don't have to have the newest version. Is this just a weak complaint or is there any legitimacy to this? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
It means the manufacturers are producing to a number THEY think the market will absorb and not just forecasts/orders from dealers "plus some extra for good measure". It isn't any different than any other business that works through distirbutors/dealers. If the manufacturer doesn't help protect the profitability of its dealer network, the dealers drop their product lines because they can't make any money selling it, or the dealers go out of business if they don't have other product lines that keep the doors open.

Car companies have done this for years. When you see discounts, rebates, etc. it is only because there is more inventory than the market will bear at what everyone has calculated is profitable pricing. So, the manufacturer kicks back extra money to the dealers to help them move inventory. Manufactuers make less, dealers make less, etc. The objective is to keep the plants running and the employees on staff hoping for better days, even if it means just breaking even. It started out as a way to bridge the slow times. Then, the slow times just continued. Finally plants closed and workers were let go to match production to what the market will support at profitable pricing.

There are many reasons why cheap skis have been easy to find , but the root cause is over production.

Most shops are not "big businesses" and have very modest financial backing to ride out slow periods. Called cash flow crunch. When there aren't enough sales to meet the rent and payroll (law says employees have to be paid on time) and other expenses, then shop owners either have to get a loan from the bank or firesale what they have in the shop. Or close the shop, send the employees packing, and whoever is financing their loan takes the inventory. Most shop owners put up a few hundred thousand dollars at the beginning of the season - either from a loan or self-financed - and hope they make enough sales early to cover the operating costs of keeping the shop open. Those who guess wrong don't make it and the skis hit eBay and close out. That in turn makes it harder for other shops to sell at a profit because the sharks are circling. Everyone starts waiting the shops out until they have to sell at minimal profit or a loss.

Another scenario is the volume dealers. They buy in huge quantity, advertise like crazy and make as much as they can quickly based on volume. Less profit per sale and more sales. What inventory is left over, they wholesale off to a discount house, or eBay it.

Sometimes manufacturers even "dump" product directly into the wholesale market late season if dealers didn't take enough of the production runs. This really puts pressure on the dealers to drop prices or not be able to move the inventory. That's a quick way to put your small dealers out of business.

So the implication is that manufacturers are better managing production, which ends the circus of building too much product and then frantically scrambling to find people to buy it. Basically musical chairs until the last man holding inventory loses.
post #4 of 26
Great post by medmarcko....to elaborate a little....

It's hard to fathom for some, but each cog in the distribution network is a for profit business. Over production and over supply erodes those profits. Eventually the manufacturers figure this out and limit production. This is why the high profile products sell out early and are for the most part not available at discounts or when clearance time comes.

There are more than a few models from several makes that right now are either completely sold out or at least out in some sizes. There are also several models that are fairly low.

Occasionally, a manufacturer/distributor will see a fairly dry market and try to gain market share by having off price inventory for the dealers (like me f'rinstance) in the spring. This is the reason that certain brands figure more heavily than others in the spring-fall discount marketplace.

SJ
post #5 of 26
Hi SJ:

What is looking like it will sell out early or be in limited supply once the snow flies?

Got
post #6 of 26
Mantra?
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gotama View Post
Hi SJ:

What is looking like it will sell out early or be in limited supply once the snow flies?

Got
I can only speak to wholesalers inventory but of course not to retail supplies.

There are some things on the following list that are already gone. Others that probably will be gone from warehouses by 12-1. There is an SOY on this list that may surprise some folks. Some items will be supplemented by mid season replacements.This also cannot consider movement of inventory from Eu. if they have a bad winter. Not much product will flow this way from Asia b/c the graphics are usually too uhhhh....."different"

Volkl: Katana already gone in 190/97, Mantra low in 170/77 Most other stuff gone by 12-1.

Dynastar: Legends & Contact LTD, will be low.

K2: Recons, Lottas early, most other by 12-1.

Line: P-100

Fischer: Watea 84
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Interesting responses..thanks guys. I guess my thoughts are that, of course, manufacturers are not doing anything unusual in terms of trying to manipulate supply and demand...that is not news worthy. I think everyone understands that every step of a supply chain is, in itself, a profit-driven exercise which is the reason why a product gets marked up so much. By the same token, if I'm a manufacturer--I do have to find the right balance between flooding the market and ensuring my product is available at a fair price to consumers who want to buy it. Having your new stuff sold-out before the season begins doesn't seem like the best model regardless of whether you are seeking high margin or high volume.

Additionally, its clear the landscape has changed in the ski industry just as it has in all others as the internet allows buyers and sellers to find each other more easily. This also favors the large volume, internet retailers who can buy large amounts of product and undercut the mom and pop shops. In fact, my boot-fitter(small shop in VA) is considering significantly reducing his inventory of skis b/c he can't compete with the big guys. He says all his higher level skiers get their skis on-line but by boots from him. Instead he'll focus on his core competency of boot fitting b/c that is a craft that can't be replaced by an on-line store. Whether all of this is good for the ski industry and the consumer...that's what I'm noodling through?
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by locknload View Post
...
Additionally, its clear the landscape has changed in the ski industry just as it has in all others as the internet allows buyers and sellers to find each other more easily. This also favors the large volume, internet retailers who can buy large amounts of product and undercut the mom and pop shops. In fact, my boot-fitter(small shop in VA) is considering significantly reducing his inventory of skis b/c he can't compete with the big guys. He says all his higher level skiers get their skis on-line but by boots from him. Instead he'll focus on his core competency of boot fitting b/c that is a craft that can't be replaced by an on-line store. Whether all of this is good for the ski industry and the consumer...that's what I'm noodling through?
I've discussed this so many times I no longer have much interest in doing so. But, what you identified above is, and has been, the trend for a long time. I do see direct-to-customer being the future for high end stuff, with the exception of a limited number of full-service shops that have demanding, repeat customers willing to pay for the service of old. Others will have to take the box store, online, and at-mountain shop route for volume product. Mom and pops can't keep the doors open on low volume, low margin.

One only need look at the computer landscape for similarities. Lots of boxstore mediocre stuff out there. High-end ... go dierctly to manufacturer or work through corporate reps and the business channels.

Good or bad? Depends on one's perspective. The market is being deriven in the direction customers are pushing it. That is by definition a market driven model and the way things work. If we don't like it, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Since it is the way we are pushing it, it must be what we want and therefore, good??
post #10 of 26
I think we need to differentiate between real brick and mortar stores that have websites, and online warehouses that handle clearance/closeout items. I've found that you actually get as good or better deals with real stores, if you're patient and focused, than if you hit the big online warehouses right away. But it's also a philosophical question: Are we willing to spend 10-15% more to support real stores and their services? For a pair of skis, that's one day's lift ticket at Vail max. For a pair of boots, lunch for three that day at Two Elks. Ah priorities...
post #11 of 26
If you ever go to Eastern Europe you will see loads of band new skis from 1 or 2 seasons ago for sale. I guess manufacturers dump surplus stock on to the Eastern Euro markets.
post #12 of 26
I just don't see how customers have some special responsibility to MFGs or to local shops. Its up to the customer to look at all the various deals and pick the best one for them. Its up to the business to earn the customers money through marketing, service, and providing more value to the customer. I think it is the retail stores that need to make the sales pitch and convince the local consumers to shop at their stores. This is not some sort of philosophical question.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takecontrol618 View Post
They're protecting brick-and-mortar ski shops who can't afford to give away skis like the big online places can by keeping inventories low enough to provide little more than each shop's preseason order. What ends up happening when the manufacturers have huge backstocks is that online bargain shops buy up huge quantities of skis at clearance prices and sell them for cheap, leaving all the shiny new skis for the next season to collect dust on the ski shop walls.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in major shortages of some of the hottest skis of the past few years- last season Volkl's freeride line was nearly unobtainable after November, and I believe the Mantra and Gotama was totally sold out in October. I'd rather have it be that way instead of the alternative, though.
You must own a brick and mortar shop right?
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post
This is not some sort of philosophical question.
Indeed, its quite practical. Paying a bit more for a boot that includes fitting might be a much better choice than paying an hourly rate for it. Or not.
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco
I do see direct-to-customer being the future for high end stuff, with the exception of a limited number of full-service shops that have demanding, repeat customers willing to pay for the service of old.
I find this hard to believe. High end shoes are still primarily sold at specialty retailers, why on earth would ski boots be any different? Further, how are the manufacturers going to negotiate the issues involved in a customer set binding? Current bindings can't be expected to work reliably without maintenance. Any innovation seeking to change that would render obsolete all current skis and boots which would be a far bigger impediment to acceptance than systems were.

It seems to me that the ski shop performs several essential service tasks that protect its place in the market. There are plenty of examples of this, particularly in places where legal/safety issues are prominent. Protecting the margins of the retailers is perfectly doable if the businesses involved set their minds to it. Go ahead and try to buy a steeply discounted piece of Garmin avionics online.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post
I just don't see how customers have some special responsibility to MFGs or to local shops. Its up to the customer to look at all the various deals and pick the best one for them. Its up to the business to earn the customers money through marketing, service, and providing more value to the customer. I think it is the retail stores that need to make the sales pitch and convince the local consumers to shop at their stores. This is not some sort of philosophical question.
Skis, if you are at all familiar with the ones you want to purchase, are a safe bet to buy from an online store sight unseen. Boots, might be as well, provided you do the less than ethical practice of trying them on and wasting the sales person time at the local shop then go buy them online. But, as some have alluded to, the fitment can quickly turn a good deal into a costly nightmare.

But I agree that we as consumers have no obligation to any sellers of ski gear, its every man for himself, and those that wish to stay in business have to step up to the plate and offer what others do not. Thats the way business has always been and the way it will always be; as long as monopolization is kept in check.

Myself and my crew, like many of you, have bought stuff from brick and mortar as well as online. Sometimes we have purchased things knowingly for more money at a physical store due to the services that came with the purchase. In the end we were happier customers and the up-front higher costs were more than made up for.
post #16 of 26
Tromano, I agree we don't have any special responsibility. But I think it's in our capitalistic self interest to consider more than "the best deal."

Try out a counterfactual: A world where most stuff is bought online, and the only bricks and mortar stores who can compete are big chains staffed by college kids with no particular expertise except that they ski or board.

OK, you get the best deal possible. But is that best deal really best for you? What if you want to try out some hard to find boots, or need to get them fitted? What if you race and need some advice about tinkering with a binding you just bought?

Think about the services you can get from Bud Heishman's place, or Lou Rosenfeld's. Or Sierra Jims or Dawg's. Your strategy would leave us to choose between Ski Outlet and Evo, versus Ski Market or Sports Authority.

I'd argue that sometimes the services a dedicated bricks and mortar store can provide are totally worth the extra 10 or 20%; they ARE the "best deal."
post #17 of 26
There are stores in the Toronto area (they will all be nameless) that will sell skis for full retail or a microscopic discount -- the 10%. They sell kids gear at these outrageous prices; gear that gets replaced yearly, with no buy-back program.

Discounts of 10-20% are totally unimportant. I'm talking about discounts where you can pay $280 for a $1500 item! (Sure it's last years stock, but I've seen 3 yr old stuff still marked at full price at these shops....)

Why, if given a choice, would I support shops that gouge parents like that?

Afterall, the service needs for kids and their equipment is virtually non-existent. How many of you have had boots or stance alignment for kids under 12 y.o. ?

IMO, the biggest market demographic is outfitting growing kids. Sure, you can get into "buy back" programs, but not for the high end equipment, ONLY for the beginning skier. So, once a kid passes a certain ability level, that service is also irrelevant.

So please, tell me, if the majority of my ski expenditures are for my children, and the shops give kids no useful service, why should'nt I buy online?
post #18 of 26
I agree best Deal =! Best Price.

Service, support of product, having an expert with the right tools etc... is often worth while. However, it is the customer who makes the decision and it is upto the vendor (retailer) to make their case to the customer and sell their services, etc...

People like SierraJim and others are actually at the leading edge of marketing trends by integrating themselves into online communities. Kudos.

I also think that there is another side of the coin here which is that at the end of the day, the online sellers and Manufacturers need the local shops too. For items such as boots, clothes, etc... a person usually wants or needs to try the item on. You can't do that online. Warranty returns are a similar issue that where manufacturers depend on local shops to provide services to the customer.
post #19 of 26

There is no price war...thank goodness

Last thing I need is to feel crapped on when the manufacturer pumps out an early season product that lists for a certain amount and then by the next spring, skier X excitedly tells me how he got the same model for half the $$.

Skier X was my brother and lived in the Sierra Nevada market. I'm in Colorado.

No problem paying the price for quality product, but getting burned like that is part of the ugly game I guess. (sigh).

t-bone
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by tromano View Post
Warranty returns are a similar issue that where manufacturers depend on local shops to provide services to the customer.
If you spend 20% of the price of new, then who cares about warranty?
post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE View Post
So please, tell me, if the majority of my ski expenditures are for my children, and the shops give kids no useful service, why should'nt I buy online?
Because what you've just implied suggests you are endangering the welfare of a child.

Unless you have current tech manuals, certs, and a fancy torque wrench from Vermont.
post #22 of 26
Right now for ski gear the shops handle warranty returns. Customers don't just send the item back to the factory like in other industries. If the shops aren't there then the MfG has to decide on a new method of handling these returns. The products with the warranties are already out there. As far as who cares about warranties, I would say almost every body. It is a sign of a quality product.
post #23 of 26
It must be us ski builders scaring them.. lol
post #24 of 26
Big E, I buy my kid's skis on eBay, used, for about half of what you can buy last season's new at a good onlline store. And then take them to a good local shop to have them checked, adjusted for the boots, and sharpened. The boots came new/end-of-season-clearance from a B and M store near Killington that carries a lot of kid's gear. The guy actually knows about kid's feet. I'd call that providing a service. Eventually when they need/earn new stuff, I'll shop slopeside in April or at online places like Ski Depot or Al's, but I'll still buy bindings/boots at a B and M store and mount them there. Spread out the pain...
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garrett View Post
Because what you've just implied suggests you are endangering the welfare of a child.

Unless you have current tech manuals, certs, and a fancy torque wrench from Vermont.
I took a pair of skis to do just that to my local shop -- respected and well known.

They said: "We could not fit the ski into the binding tester because of the lifter, (P12 lifter) but it looks pretty new, so it'll be ok."

Service my eye.

How many shops do you know that actually test the binding after installation? It comes out of the box, and it costs you $25.00 to screw onto the ski, or "free" if you buy the overpriced package there.

If a shop would actually go so far as to test the release, they'd tell you don't you think? That would be called "good advertising". If, on the other hand, they don't test it, they won't tell you that. I don't know how many times I've stood beside the tech as they screwed the bindings to the skis and pronounced their work "done" the second they tightened the final screw....

How 'bout more service on a ski purchase: "You're gonna give them a tune before I take them right?" Them: "well, it comes with a factory tune and wax, so I'd ski that first and see if I like it. Bring them back in if you think they really need it -- they probably won't"

Uh-huh -- that's suppose to get my support?
post #26 of 26
In my mind, the real dinosaur in the ski retailing world is the big box sporting goods store which frequently have few, if any, salepeople who even know about the product. Why wouldn't I buy online at a cheaper price if I am not getting knowledge, service or expert advice? I think there will always be room for specialty stores who provide real service and support.
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