As ISPO Munich 2018 also showed: The winter sports industry is full of innovations and ideas. The customer is becoming an increasing focus. How can their needs be even better met? Brands and retailers ask themselves these questions and come to differing solution approaches.
Here are the answers from eight people in authority from the industry and retail, to the question of where they see growth potential for the winter sports market.
- Philipp Giselbrecht, Product and Marketing Chief at Kästle
- Thomas Delago, founder of Nitro Snowboards
- Ralph Letzing, Hardware Purchasing at Sport 2000
- Tim Bielohoubeck, Head of the Strategic Brands department at Intersport Germany
- Xavier Le Guen, Vice President of Salomon Winter Sports Equipment
- Espen Krogstad, CEO of Active Brands
- Thierry Kunz, CMO of Nidecker
- Florian Estermeier, Director of Sales at Rossignol Germany
Philipp Giselbrecht is responsible for all marketing and communications tasks, as well as product management, at Kästle. The Kästle brand was founded in 1924, and ranks among the oldest ski brands in the world. It’s headquartered in Hohenems, Austria and has 40 employees.
Philipp Giselbrecht: “We’re definitely seeing growth in the “mass customization” sectors. With iD4, we offer our customers a product/service package in which skis can be individually tailored to customer requirements (in terms of terrain, ski level, body measurement, and design).
Select Kästle premium retailers have access to our special skifitting station. An app gathers the data and our Kästle algorithm uses 90 years of ski-building knowledge to calculate the optimal ski. In the best case, the Kästle iD4 is available for the customer at the retailer five business days later.
We’re going to be launching iD4 on the market in 2018/2019, and were named a winner at the 2018 ISPO Award for it.
There’s also an increase in demand for skis with lightweight construction across all segments. Customers appreciate lighter skis with steady performance. The trend in the Alpine region is continuing, in the touring sector especially, and we’re registering major growth.”
Thomas Delago founded the snowboard brand Nitro together with Sepp Ardelt in Seattle in 1990. Nitro AG is now headquartered in Switzerland.
Thomas Delago: “The current opening of snowboarding – away from the extreme sports image and back to the original, fun sport – in bringing growth in the beginners and children sectors. In addition, an increasing digital oversaturation is reviving the ‘real’ experience. Winter sports is also benefitting from that. In addition, new growth markets, China above all, are offering additional growth opportunities.”
Sport 2000 is a leading commercial association in the European sports market, with 1,000 independent specialty retailers and more than 1,300 specialty sports stores. Turnover in 2017: roughly €1.89 billion. The association group itself has 80 employees, among them Ralph Letzing, responsible for Hardware Purchasing.
Ralph Letzing: “In recent years we’ve really focused on the products instead of getting consumers excited using emotions and topics relevant to them. A good example of this kind of storytelling is the topic of bootfitting. Communicating the value of this craftsmanship to the end customer is working very well – the sector is seeing extremely positive development right now.
Beyond that, we’re also seeing potential in an official season start communicated jointly by the industry and retail, in order to evoke more desire for the ski market again. We could achieve more for retail and industry by bundling strengths and funds than we could with individual promotions.
The course of the season also plays an important role in this context: Right now too many goods are on the market too early, which means that the customer’s interest and willingness to pay can’t be maintained throughout the season. Therefore, we propose two delivery dates with different collections: one for the target group that skis before Christmas and one for the customer group that gets active in the second half of the season. These target groups differ in their demands on the goods and their price stability.
As part of ISPO Munich 2018, we discussed these impulses for the 2019 season intensively with the industry and got positive feedback on tackling the issues together.
With a view to concrete trends, cross-country skiing is currently gaining in importance as a fitness sport.”
Intersport Germany has its headquarters in Heilbronn, and the association group is affiliated with over 900 retailers nationwide, with roughly 1,500 specialty stores. Tim Bielohoubeck is Head of the Strategic Brands department at Intersport Germany
Tim Bielohoubeck: “Experiencing nature up close, that’s skiing! Nevertheless, it is difficult to get young people especially enthusiastic about skiing. We’re “fighting” against cell phones, iPads, etc. here, and it’s important to get young people on skis. That’s why our marketing activities and concepts are primarily aimed at this target group. For example, once a year a school class has the opportunity to spend a weekend skiing with Felix Neureuther. We help parents with an affordable “Children’s Ski Exchange System.” A major service topic we’re focusing on is the bootfitting of ski boots.
We also focus on the latest technology trends every season. The innovation “Gripwalk” fits the bill. These are ski boots with special soles that ensure more walking comfort and an anti-slip effect.”
Xavier Le Guen has been Vice President of Salomon Winter Sports Equipment since September 2017. Salomon has its headquarters with 400 employees in Annecy, France, is a market leader in the winter sports equipment sector, and is part of the Amer Sports Group.
Xavier Le Guen: “The ski market is a very mature one in the Western countries. The good news is that more and more new customers can be obtained, young people especially. In these regions, the growth potential lies in the ability of the ski industry to facilitate access to the sport. On this point, Salomon is working, among other things, on a new technology that will enable all skiers, even beginners, to feel what it’s like to drive a curve.
With the Edge Amplifier technology, which we just announced in our FW18 lineup, we want to make this thrill even more accessible to consumers. There’s also a tone to do when it comes to offering more service and comfort surrounding our products, and thus improving customer satisfaction. Another growth spurt comes from the emerging markets. The biggest of these is, of course, China.”
The Nidecker Group was founded in 1887 and includes Nidecker Snowboards / SUP, Yes Snowboards, Jones Snowboards, Now Bindings, and Flow Snowboards. In total, 50 employees work for Nidecker at the main headquarters in Switzerland and in the North American headquarters in Truckee, California.
Thierry Kunz is CMO in Nidecker’s board and marketing chief for Nidecker and Flow. Kunz was a professional snowboarder in the early 1990s.
Thierry Kunz: “The biggest challenge for winter sports in the near future is motivating people to go back into the mountains. All the technologies have been made for the people who live near the mountains. But we’re talking about the millions of customers who go on a skiing vacation for one week a year, and only snowboard or ski during that week.
So, the challenge definitely lies in the service: How do I get the proper, cool-looking equipment at a reasonable price? Rentals are an important topic here, but not with ugly, non-tech products like up until now. Of course service is important in this context, as well as the support from digital technologies.”
Espen Krogstad is CEO of Active Brands. The Norwegian group consists of seven brands: Kari Traa, Dæhlie, Sweet Protection, Bula, Johaug, Åsnes, and Vossatassar. Here, Krogstad answers for Sweet Protection.
Espen Krogstad: “We believe that the ski market will continue to grow, and we expect a particular increase in ski touring. Sweet Protection, within the Active Brands Group, has increased its focus on the segment with a new apparel line for ski touring. That’s a development for Sweet Protection, as the brand comes from the freeriding sector.
Thus, this user group is a “new” target group for us. It’s important for use to be able to personalize the dialog with the end consumer, and we’re currently investing in a new e-commerce platform and increased communication via digital channels.”
Rossignol Ski Germany is part of the French Rossignol Group. Ten employees work in Munich’s Germany office, including Florian Estermeier as Director of German Sales.
Florian Estermeier: “To ensure the lasting survival of skiing as a sport, it’s necessary to bring children to skiing in the medium and long term. By including current topics and trends such as Frozen and Star Wars, we’re always trying to set new accents in the children’s ski sector and to generate new impulses for retail.”