What In The World Is Trending In Snowsports?
By Jahla Seppanen
Come noon on Day 1 of Snowsports Industries America 2016, plenty of orders and meetings had already taken place. Despite common opinion that traffic was down from years prior, the pulse of the show beat strong in the pop-up lounge dens nestled in booths and at the corners of the convention floor.
The glitz of grand displays are strong, but the vibe resonates with the chill and chummy at SIA, as many retailers come to the show with nearly 50 percent of orders already placed for next season.
To no surprise, retailers from out West came with some extra bounce in their step (and more open-to-buy dollars) versus their brethren out in the East and Midwest. Despite 50-degree weather in Denver on Thursday, its been a good winter for those in the Rockies and the West Coast, and a winter storm with a potential for a foot of powder in mountains here had many readying their skis for the weekend. On the flip side, after a very warm winter, Eastern and Midwestern retailers have been more cautious with their pocketbooks this show, vendors reported. Still, January’s weather has been more on par with cold and snow across most the country. Sales are ticking up and many expressed hope they could make a late-season push to clean up inventory.
As for the non-weather related discussion that echoed across the floor, vendors and retailers were of course interested in design trends than technical novelty. Brand executives and designers were strong in attendance, happy to chat about inspiration, trends and the future of retailer shows. SGB was on the floor, getting the insider’s dish on what everyone really wants to know:
What in the world is trending in Snowsports?
Upon entering the show, attendees noticed bold mountain outfits that drew attention via bright colorways or flashy patterns. Skea President Diane Boyer confirmed the trend for SGB, saying, “Although weather is always a topic of discussion, we’re talking about pieces that really shock.” Their sterling example: A holigram-inspired puffy. “We love developing pieces that look really good on the hill,” Boyer added.
Here are a couple more “shock” pieces that caught attention on the floor, which reference the days of matching tops and bottoms, and snowsport outfits that aim to stand out.
In spite of this trend, the classic snowsport apparel names were standing strong and doing what they do best: updating fabrics and refining their sewing process. One of the strongest examples is Dale of Norway, who brought Head Designer Svanhild Stroem to take part in the show. SGB spoke with Stroem about her inspiration for next season, and what retailers are looking for. “Trending now is chunky knit with a hand-made look,” Stroem said. “So we had to find a chunky yarn that wasn’t too heavy. We’re also coming out with a next season, completely white next to skin baselayer. Our yarn producer (they buy only from Scholler) has found a way to make a really white wool, where other brands have a cream-colored. Scholler does it without bleaching, also.” Another trend Dale and its fellow SIA vendors lent focus to was trying to reach a younger consumer.
SGB continued weaving through the show floor Here’s a quick highlight reel of the biggest, baddest booths (and one industry badass we all know and love)…
SGB caught up with the minds fueling the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, who have doubled their organization’s size in the past year, said Digital Marketing Director Tori Barnett. And OIWC is prepping for bigger plans to debut this summer, she hinted.
By the time we got to the snowboard, hardgoods neighborhood, the crowd started to thicken. (Traffic was notably more slow in the morning). Salomon Snowboards amassed a crowd, drawn-in by the unusual shape (and wicked graphics) of its boards. SGB asked Salomon Snowboards Global Communications Manager, Greg Covello, what the fuss was about. “Snowboard shapes are trending,” said Covello. “As a brand, you have to differentiate yourself. Since the art of free riding and freestyle riding is becoming one, different shapes make it so you can ride anywhere, and the board will perform.” Its most popular board was the Ultimate Ride, designed by snowboarder Bode Merrill, who used to cut the edges off his round board until he teamed with Salomon on this unique shape.
And although the skier and snowboarder population were hanging around to tweet over new boots, bindings and boards, retailers were just as excited to place orders.
While mozing through a GoPro giveaway, An Athalon bags sales manager shared his true take on the state of this year’s show and the decision to move the dates up nearly two months next year. (This means will be two shows in 2017 – one in late January as normal, before shifting to the new dates in early December of the same year) “I’m concerned with show timing and its relation to regional and rep shows. The writing really takes place in the regional local shows, so moving it to December is going to make the show fizzle out completely.” In light of the questions (on everyones’ minds), as to the future dates of SIA, it seemed plenty of retailers and vendors were working hard to fill orders.
Then we found coffee, and heard there was a great SIA couch talk about technology and research relating to avalanche safety and awareness.
What’s great about trade shows in our industry – the discussion isn’t only about products. Hot topics, achievements and concerns are addressed by the experts. At the SIA couch talks, Dale Atkins with RECCO said about avalanche awareness, “it really shouldn’t be cool to ski bold lines in bad conditions. It should be cool to turn around and we don’t teach people that.”
Also participating in the couch talk was Montana State University avalanche genius Jerry Johnson, who added, “information sharing in avalanche safety is huge, but the majority of people aren’t caught due to lack of knowledge, and it’s not always the solution to safety.”
In the next aisle over, goggles and ultra-lightweight ski boots were getting attention from showgoers.
The overarching theme for vendor displays seemed to revolve around new designs instead of new tech. An east-coast supplier who does the polyurethane coating for Arc’teryx and YKK Zippers said technology in the space hasn’t really jumped forward in the way people thought it would. Brands are making up for it in design, while tech is staying level. He also admitted the big storm Jonas wasn’t as bad as it sounded, but lent a great excuse to escape to the mountains all week.
He was right about design ruling the floor. Suddenly the movement of traffic would stop, as retailers marveled at the luxury-look many vendors brought to the show.
Apart from the la la of luxury, the crowds also gravitated toward cool services like custom ski making at Wintersteiger and insole fittings by Superfeet.
At the end of the day, the question lingered as to whether big trade shows would take the bench to regional and rep shows. SGB asked Chris Calcutt, President of Killtec, for his take. “The traffic at this SIA is slower than in the past years, but weather on the East Coast is a possible factor in that. My biggest concern is the state of the industry not in this season, but next. It’s all about the retailers and getting them what they need. Regional shows are getting bigger and gaining more strength. Major trade shows are having to adjust. The outcome of that is unknown.”
All photos courtesy Jahla Seppanen