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Trade-in Program Turns Profit for The Ski Company

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This feature is part of an ongoing effort to profile ski shops around the country. If you would like your shop featured, e-mail editor@skiingbusiness.com.

Name of shop: The Ski Company Mountain Sports; Snow Ski and Board
Main store address: 1225 Jefferson Rd., Rochester, NY, 14623
Website: www.skicompany.com
Owner(s): Vicki and Gary Profetta
Number of locations: 4
Year founded: 1990
Largest shop size: 20,000 sf
Smallest shop size: 8,000 sf
Number of employees: 250

How much of your entire inventory is hardgoods?
About 70%

What brands are your best sellers in various categories?
Atomic for hardgoods
Smith and Giro for helmets

Vicki and Gary Profetta, owners

Vicki and Gary Profetta, owners

What are your biggest challenges in your area, and how are you addressing them?
As with many other specialty retailers, our biggest challenge is the Internet. Customers regularly come into our stores and pit our prices against ones they found online. But we sell our service and our programs in order to close deals.

What type of programs are you talking about?
We have a lifetime guarantee trade-in. Within two years, a customer can trade in their skis for 50 percent of the purchase price. That refund can only be used toward a new purchase – but it can be a used pair of skis. After two years, the customer will get an assessed value instead of the 50 percent.

Almost every purchase comes back to us as a trade in, so it keeps customers returning to the store. And the traded-in skis get put into our used fleet so people can buy or lease them.

We recently ended a large promotion in which we started with thousands of traded-in skis and only have about 20 left. And we still maintain a 40 percent margin, so it’s the gift that keeps giving. It’s unbelievable how much business we get from the program, and it’s helped us gain customers too.

What’s your biggest sales category in the off-season?
We close in the summer – except for one store as required by the lease.

We used to stay open, and have sold everything from tennis equipment to bikes, but found that it’s better for our bottom line if we close.

How did you make that decision?
About 15 years ago we only had two locations, and we closed them to move and complete a renovation during summer. Afterward we looked at our books and found it made more financial sense to shut down in summer. So we talked to our store managers and they were fully on board – they welcomed it.

We initially worried about staff retention, but the system seems to help. After all, it was our great employees who wanted the change, and we gave them what they wanted.

Now, employees get a summer job or travel and come back refreshed. It’s been beneficial all around.

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Snow Ski and Board, Pittsford, N.Y.

You have four stores. Do they compete against each other?
The store in Pittsford and the store in Rochester are in the same market, but they have different names (Snow Ski and Board and The Ski Company Mountain Sports) and inventory. For instance, we carry Rossignol and K2 skis in one store and Salomon, Atomic, Head, Völkl, Fischer, Dynastar and Elan in the other store.

Many people don’t know the two stores are even owned by the same company, and each one’s customers typically want to support their local store.

What are your expectations for your business in the next 12 months?
We expect to do the same volume or more, have more of a presence in social media and open a new distribution center.

How will the distribution center change how you operate, and how will it impact you financially?
Now, we’re leasing warehouse space. With the new one, that we’re building and will own, it’ll give us more freedom. We’ll be able to design it how we want, which will make shipping and receiving more efficient.

I don’t have projected annual savings though.

Look into your crystal ball. What do you see for next season?
I think manufacturers will pay even closer attention to inventory levels and continue to pay attention to rising costs. I think they’ll also continue to address the China production issues.

In terms of trends, I think freestyle and freeride equipment and apparel sales and products will grow. And I think consumers will be more educated on the technology of their softgoods and hardgoods because of things like the Internet.

Categories: Profiles

2 Responses to “Trade-in Program Turns Profit for The Ski Company”

  1. I was extremely interested to learn about the trade-in program. I wish Vicki and Gary continued success.

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