Absolute Snow take the next spot in our Retailer Profile series, which kicked off in September with Ellis Brigham’s Steve Wells talking shop. Spanning a multitude of categories including ski, snowboard, climbing, camping, fitness and adventure photography, Watford-based Absolute Snow have fast become an action sports retail powerhouse. We speak with the crew from their aptly named Base Camp HQ in Hertfordshire to discuss snowsports participation levels, equality in the work place (and in snowsports in general) and to see which products they couldn’t live without last season.
How many doors do you operate and which categories do you offer?
We operate the entire business from one unit in Watford called Base Camp. This accommodates our warehouse, offices, mountain sports clinic and close knit team of just over 40 staff members. We’re all active in mountain sports and are here to offer advice and guidance on some of the very best mountain sports equipment on the market today. We offer products from a broad spectrum of categories including ski, snowboard, climbing, camping, fitness and adventure photography. We stock equipment and apparel suitable for each of these categories and are always on hand to give in-depth knowledgeable advice on products prior to purchase. We’re all about the experience, getting outside, loving what you do and customer satisfaction.
What have been the biggest challenges to British snowsports retail in the past 12 months? (Please try to mention something other than Brexit)
We’ve noticed that fluctuating changes in weather patterns are bringing more unreliable winters, which we hope won’t bring challenges to the snowsports industry by putting people off of winter sports and everything we have to offer.
We’ve also seen an increase in bigger retailers such as ASOS beginning to sell ski and outdoor wear, and even creating their own ski products, at lower prices and with the offer of discounts and outlet prices. However on a positive note, the selling of these products on larger retailer sites can increase interest in the snowsports industry, offering more accessible prices to a younger demographic who can transition on to buying more specialised products from retailers such as ourselves.
And the biggest opportunities?
We’ve loved seeing the increase in televised winter sports, reaching out to a wider audience and inspiring people to give it a go, even if they had been hesitant before. With reality shows like Dancing On Ice and The Jump proving that even complete beginners can take it on, and the 2018 PeongChang Winter Olympics showcasing the diverse range of snowsports that you can get involved in, we’ve definitely seen a rise in new people to the sports.
In turn, the increase in televised snowsports may also be responsible in the ever-growing indoor ski slope scene in the UK. The offer of beginner courses for adults and children is bringing awareness to what we do and enticing a wider audience to try their hand at winter sports before they transition onto ski resorts. We really feel that people at a grassroots level are a great opportunity for snowsports retail and we’re here to offer a range of products for the seasoned pros to the complete first timers.
How can we as an industry work together better to promote GB snowsports as an industry?
We’d like to see an increase in inclusivity in British snowsports. In what is typically a male dominated industry, we could expect to see growth from female consumers compelled by seeing more women in leadership roles, be it in executive positions at major snowsports retailers or an increase in female winter sports athletes over the coming years. Within the topic of inclusivity, we think it’s important to get new people on to the snow and to start focusing on the next generation of snowsports consumers. Highlighting better low cost options, like UK indoor ski slopes, may be a great way to do this, encouraging a new, younger demographic to give the sports a try.
3 products you couldn’t live without last winter?
We know how important having good luggage for travelling is and we especially loved the classic North Face Base Camp Duffel bags last winter. We love how versatile they are and the intuitive features really made a difference in how easy it was to travel to our favourite resorts.
Getting in and out of our bindings as easily and as quickly as possible was a big part of our season last winter, so our second product would have to be the Burton Step On bindings and boots. We were one of the few exclusive retailers to sell the Burton Step On and we loved the revolutionary strapless design for an amazingly quick entry and exit.
Our final product and probably the most important was the correct pair of insoles. We wanted as much support and comfort as possible, to keep riding for as long as possible, and having the right insole was definitely essential. We loved the Sidas range of insoles for keeping us comfortable all season long, which is why we offer one to one appointments with our specialist staff to get the best fitting custom insoles possible, using the Sidas Feetbox 3D scanner.
Apart from good snowfall, what can we hope to see more of in the coming winters?
We’re loving the recent increase in sustainable goods being produced by brands such as Planks, Patagonia and Picture and we hope that, given the very current issue of climate change, we will start to see an increase in awareness for organic, recycled and eco-friendly products in snowsports retail.
We also hope to see more young UK talents coming through. We would love to see more UK events, competitions, edits and media coverage to give more visibility for snowsports and really push the exciting UK ski scene.
Are you running any events / innovative activations to entice the consumer in to store?
We love hosting events to get people excited and interested in what we do. Last year we hosted a Burton Retro night that was a great nostalgic reminder of how amazing snowboarding is and how far it has come in the past 25 years. We got to showcase the exclusive Burton Retro range that we were lucky enough to have been chosen to stock and we’ve got exciting plans in the pipeline for this style of night in the upcoming season. We’ve also got a new addition to our store – our new bouldering wall is a great way for our climbing customers to really test out their gear, as we’ve definitely seen an increase in interest in the rock side of our website. Lastly, we’ve got a great roof terrace at Base Camp and we’re looking forward to hosting some screening nights where we can show upcoming snowboard films and share our love of snowsports.