Skiing Business caught up with Chuck Ginsberg, co-owner of A Racer’s Edge in Colorado, to see how a shop with the name “racer” in it can appeal to all skiers.
Shop: A Racer’s Edge
Address: 114 Lincoln St, Breckenridge, CO
Owners: Chuck Ginsberg and Craig Beardsley
Number of stores: 1
Year Founded: 1972
Shop Size: 500 sq. ft.
Number of employees: 3 part-time and 2 full-time (including the owners)
Being a race-centered shop, are you able to compete well with general shops?
We are definitely competing with other shops, even though we are not on the same level in quantity of business. But we are not just a race shop. We like to think that we provide the edge for all skiers. We have the technical support for racers, but we also have rentals and boots for first-time skiers.
Do you find racers being the majority of your customer base?
No. They only account for about 20 percent. We have a wide spectrum of customers from pros to a lot of locals. And while the race community is something we give our attention to, there’s no way we could support ourselves from just that group of customers.
A Racer’s Edge does not sell online. In an age dominated by Internet purchases, how are you able to stay ahead without e-commerce?
We’ve been in Breckenridge since 1972 with several different owners. Most of the store’s employees left the store in 2009 along with the management, and Craig and I bought the store a year ago to restart it. A lot of the employees left with the management, and it’s been up to Craig and I to rebuild the business.
It’s not what it has been compared to what it was in the past, and we’ve been sticking to boot sales and rentals ever since we restarted the business. We plan on getting into online shopping, but we want to build our business a little more before we decide to expand in that direction.
What’s the timeline for implementing online shopping or expanding your inventory?
We plan on eventually moving into an online component. Right now we are not for everybody, and we know this. We are a niche shop. We are a new shop that is making its way up, and we don’t have big pockets yet. We want to maintain our identity as a small, service-friendly shop before really expanding. We fear that with the recent snow conditions and the tough nature of this industry, if we expand too fast our shop could be one of the many to go under after a year. We are just being conservative. I’ve been in industry since the mid-‘70s, and I want A Racer’s Edge to be in this for the long term.
What about social media? How do you run a shop nowadays without being socially involved online?
We aren’t tied into social media yet because we want to accomplish our goals with our shop before we put ourselves out there. We could hire more people to handle the social media side of the business, but this isn’t always feasible. I didn’t grow up in social media. I understand its importance and want to make sure our business will grow into it, but I think it is vital our shop is up to the standards I have set for it before we start getting the word out via social media.
On your site, you have a testimonials page. Do you find testimonials help your business and attract more customers?
Certainly—though our website is under construction. When we finish revamping the site, we will incorporate more of this because it lends to word-of-mouth credibility. These testimonials are helpful because through them, we can see proof of our service. Our business lives off of word-of-mouth in the community, and this is an easy way to bring it more to the public eye.
Is most of your customer base locals or tourists?
Breckenridge is one of the biggest resorts in the country with a lot of incoming tourists, so we see both. We need and want the guests as well as the locals. In order to do that, we certainly need a good marketing base, and we think the best advertising scheme in the world is word-of-mouth. Tourists can ask their waiter, a member of the ski patrol, or another skier on the chairlift where to get their boots fitted or have their skis tuned. Hopefully our good service will spread through the community, and our loyal locals will lead them here. The shop is small enough that they aren’t going to be helped by someone with a few weeks in the industry, but rather by someone who has background in custom bootfitting.
You focus a lot on tuning and bootfitting. How much business do you see coming out of this aspect of your shop?
This area of business drives a lot of things, but it isn’t our largest category. Boot sales and rentals are huge for us in the early season, and once the snow starts falling and more traffic comes to town, rentals become the biggest part.
We just started selling boots this season. People understand they need a properly fitting boot and buying boots online is always a risk, so our boot sales are a huge part of our business so far. People like having the option to buy boots right here in the shop. About 70 percent to 80 percent of people have problems with their boots, so they can come to us to get that fixed.
I’d say the most common aspect of bootfitting that we do is putting in custom insoles. There is the greatest sense of satisfaction is taking a customers frustrations with equipment and alleviating them.
Do you find a higher need for tuning and bootfitting amongst racers than you would find amongst recreational skiers?
We find a greater awareness in the racers. Recreational skiers who don’t understand certain things, such as canting or alignment, don’t always know what’s causing a problem and don’t seek to have it fixed. This makes their experience on the mountain less enjoyable, and we are here to take care of that.
Overall, I’d say we see more sales in this area come from recreational skiers than we do from racers, just because racers are a smaller part of customer base. We see a lot of custom service amongst locals, whether they are ski fanatics, instructors, ski patrollers, or just the regular recreational skier.