We’re launching a new Retailer Profile series here at SIGB and to kick things off we speak with Steve Wells from Ellis Brigham to get the inside track on one of the UK’s best respected ski and outdoor retailers.
How many doors do you operate and which categories do you offer?
As a company we cover all categories: ski, snowboard, servicing, outerwear from 17 locations, with rental also available in our 2 Scottish resort shops. In addition we have another 8 stores trading as The North Face or Outsiders.
What have been the biggest challenges to British snowsports retail in the past 12 months? (Please try to mention something other than Brexit)
It is impossible not to mention Brexit and the instability it brings… Aside from that, the weather is always a challenge as it is such an influence on what happens on the high street and also people’s perceived enjoyment of a holiday, it not being especially cold in Autumn or the run up to Christmas always makes things trickier. Discounting online wherever it originates is always a problem and the weak pound taking prices up and reducing holiday money affects customers. A growing threat is the constant shrinking of the winter ‘season’, people seem to buy later and expect sales earlier.
And the biggest opportunities?
Service. Too many companies are obsessed with selling more, even if it means virtually giving it away. Do more in store than the internet can offer and also look after the customer as they will look after you; offer points of difference and try to make sure everyone in the company cares. You can’t be the cheapest at everything, but you can aspire to be the best, and customers do appreciate that more than ever.
3 products you couldn’t live without last winter?
Tea, subway cookies and gin? I’m going to ignore the obvious big items as there’s always something that can step in to replace any of them individually, so I’m focusing on products that help the business in other ways too. From an equipment point of view the Shift binding was important, custom insoles are essential and avalanche airbags add something extra.
How can we as an industry work together better to promote GB snowsports as an industry?
In Europe the UK snowsports industry is perceived as technical and capable of selling pretty much any product, we need to keep that focus. What is left of the industry compared to 15 or 20 years ago represents the best and we need to focus on that. Great service, the best knowledge and the latest products. Beyond that we should be referencing how our athletes consistently outperform expectations and defy the fact we’re an island without much snow. We do also need to look at how we can keep new generations entering the sports, everyone should be questioning what they are doing to attract new participants. We all need to keep talking too. Finally, it’d be nice if some of the brands eased off on the B2C selling, that doesn’t help any retailer.
Apart from good snowfall, what can we hope to see more of in the coming winters?
A focus on service and quality from retail, and innovation from brands as well as an awareness about selling into the right channels and companies. It’d be good to see more commitment to the environment from everyone. I’d also hope to see more overseas buyers visiting our stores and sites.
Are you running any events / innovative activations to entice the consumer in to store?
This is a key part of our relationship with our customers. We have to be more than just a reseller. We hold in-store talks, workshops and films up and down the country, covering all kinds of topics and sports, plus we’re always running on snow (and on artificial surfaces) events such as demos and coaching sessions. We want to engage so much more than just through a sale.