Industry Profile: Never Summer Product Development Vince Sanders
06 Jul, 2010
Job Title: Product Development
Employer: Never Summer Industries
Years on snow: 29
Days on snow: 30
Currently Riding: Summit Custom Split, 2010/11 Heritage
Currently I am: Working on a board graphic idea and soft goods for future development.
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Vince: I was born in Denver, a fourth generation Colorado native. From a large close knit family of 6 kids, I grew up on Lookout Mountain in Golden. Which is where I started snowboarding when my brother and I got Burton Backhills for Christmas. Attended the University of Colorado, dropped out after 2 years to compete and start the Board Room skateboard and snowboard shop in Lakewood, Colorado. I ran the shop from 1987 to 2009. 44 years old, married to wife Laurie of 14 years. We have two daughters, Tess 13 and Alex 11. Live in the suburbs of Denver with our Scottish Terrier and Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I enjoy motocross, scuba diving and watching movies with my family.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Vince: Snowboarding gave me direction in my life when I didn’t have any. It has connected me to so many unique people and places. Snowboarding has given me incredible experiences and a livelihood to do what I love. My life has revolved around snowboarding for a long time.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Vince: I met Tom Sims on Berthoud Pass in 1984 and he gave me a catalog with order form. At the time most sales were done direct and when you would call to place an order chances were that Tom or Jake Burton take your order. I ordered a Sims 1500 FE from Tom for $249 with bindings. This was the state of the art snowboard in 1985, plastic base binding with fastek buckles that went over the top of your foot, metal edges and P-Tex base. I kept in contact with Tom and was doing demonstrations on getting snowboarding accepted onto ski areas and filmed one of the first snowboarding films ” Snowboard Meltdown”. When I started college at CU in Boulder Tom asked me about the place, I told him it was a big campus and there was a local area that allowed snowboarding. I ended up buying a couple boards and Tom guided me in wholesale/retail pricing and told me to call him when I sold the boards and not to blow the profit on partying. I sold a board to a guy who later became a big name pro who tried to trade me something that was green but wasn’t cash, I said” I can’t send that to Tom as payment, I need cash and this is the amount I have to sell it for.” That’s how it was then everyone who snowboarded knew each other, I could count the snowboarders of Boulder on one hand. Being a College town that people come to play in the mountains with money from mom and dad, I sold boards instantly. I called Tom when I sold those first two boards and bought four with the profit.
It just snowballed from there and before I knew it I had 20 boards. I was running ads in the classified section of the Rocky Mountain News and meeting people on the west end of Denver. This seemed like a good meeting spot for people traveling into the mountains from the city and for me coming down from Boulder to see my parents and going to Berthoud. I thought this would be the right location to open a shop, Sims had licensed his boards to Vision and I lost my connection. I asked Tom what to do and he told me to get a dealership I needed to get a storefront and take some pictures and apply. I found a 500 square foot space above a golf shop, just down the street from where I would meet people who responded to my ads. I had an inventory and customer base but needed more capital. I went to try and get a loan and was denied, when I asked why he said that snowboarding was a fad and it wouldn’t last. My dad invited a banker, who at the time was the youngest President of a major bank in America, out to see my shop and talk to me. Luckily, he had the forsight to see the potential and gave me a 15k loan. With his help and my parents support I was able to buy the additional inventory I needed to survive that first year. Now Tracey and Tim Canaday and the rest of the Never Summer Family have given me the opportunity to work for a great American snowboard manufacture.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Vince: My experience of owning a shop for 22 years helps me by knowing what a specialty retailer expects from a vendor. Buying and selling so many different brands in all categories of snowboarding products has given me the knowledge of what the end consumer is looking for. Selling Never Summer at the retail level for so long has given me a better understanding on what the core NS customer wants from us and to bring these ideas to the market.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Never Summer and a description of the work you do?
Vince: My role at Never Summer encompasses all facets of product development from hardgoods to softgoods, pricing and marketing. For our 2010/11 line I was involved with the direction and development of a new snowboard model, topsheet material and graphics, a base die-cut we ended up using on 50% of the boards. I also worked on establishing an overseas embroidery program to get our caps done, a cut/sew hoodie, a fleece lined beanie and 1 tee. We roundtable everything using feedback from our retailers and I work closely with our art/marketing director Jeremy Salyer, sales manager Mike ”Gags” Gagliardi, Tracey and Tim.
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Vince: The first thing I do each morning is log on to Shopatron. Most customers researching a product go directly to the manufactures site, when customers order in our site the order goes into shopatron for a pool of our retailers to view. If they have the product they then can request the order and if they are the closest retailer to the customer they are assigned the order. Instead of us selling direct we are funneling these sales to our retail partners. It’s just another way we protect our dealers. I monitor this system making sure orders are being fulfilled, informing dealers of orders in the system, and getting new or existing dealers signed up on shopatron. If an order is not fulfilled I will contact the customer and then try to find the product from retailers that aren’t on shopatron or are in the process of signing up. I ‘ll also handle any other customer service issues and communication with the customer, dealer and shopatron. I’m in charge of the warranty/returns so I’ll issue the RA’s, inspect and evaluate product, and communicate with the customer or dealer. Even though we have one of lowest rates in the industry we won’t turn anyone away if it is a non-warranty but repairable. Having our own factory enables us to do really extensive repairs. I will go into the factory and check the status of any existing repairs and contact the customers. Afterwards check emails and give the factory tours for the day. By arrangement we do free factory tours! Typically I’ll meet with Jeremy, Gags and Tracey and go over lead times and pricing on softgoods, future snowboard development and marketing strategies. I’ll finish the day off by answering questions on email@example.com
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Vince: I remember T-nutting and mounting boards like skis with posi-drive screws before all boards had inserts. Seeing the first snowboard specific outerwear. Then seeing the first disc bindings come out with the Burton’s 3D and F2’s 4-hole pattern. Cutting down boards to make them more twin tip in shape and using a belt sander and file before they made a grinder for snowboards. Going to the earlier trade shows when snowboards would be segregated from the main ski hall to what was called snowboard alley. All the riff between snowboarders and skiers. The early 90’s when you could only get snowboarding products at snowboard shops. Watching hundreds of companies start up and then fall off the next year ( Longboard industry take note of this period in snowboard history). The crazy graphics and shapes, all the trends; lowbacks, nobacks , baseless, step ins, asym, asym reverse, 27” stance on 178 cm. boards, un-functional boots. Going to the on snow demos and trying out all the new stuff never got old and was always exiting. A memorable recent experience was riding the proto-type of the Rocker/Camber. I was blown away, so surfy and fun but I could still carve. I thought this is where snowboarding should be and felt it was as revolutionary as the advent of highbacks and metal edges.
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Vince: The biggest challenge the industry faces is the economy. People just don’t have the discretionary income to buy goods like snowboarding products in a poor economy or they just make do with what they already have. Online sales is another big challenge. I would like to see manufactures limit or not sell direct at all and retailers to recognize and support the brands who have protected their interests. Also, the companies should recognize who it was that helped them get to where they’re today. More online sales agreements need to be put in place and enforced on where sales can be made, when and how much products can go off price. Retailers need to adhere to these agreements or it will hurt the whole industry in the long run. If consumers become accustomed to always buying 40% off than it cheapens products in general. I would like to see cleaner distribution and hardgoods produced in more realistic numbers.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Vince: It’s hard to say one is more important than the other and it all depends on the individual. Ideally you want a good balance of both. Education will give you a strong foundation of knowledge and tools to succeed but there are things you will only learn by the trial and error of actually doing it. Ultimately, I believe experience is more important than education.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Vince: The most common career path to enter the industry is to start out in retail to get a good base knowledge of the business and product. Working for a small speciality retailer gives the opportunity to work in and learn all aspects of the business. I had employees who learned under me tuning and repair, purchasing, sales, customer service etc. I would take them to the shows, instruct them on the buying process and they would make industry contacts. With this experience and knowledge some of my former employees have done well within the industry. Then move on as a tech rep/assistant for a regional rep, get your own line and become a rep yourself. Build this line or move on to a bigger lines or in house with one of the companies. Our Sales Manager, Gags for example worked in manufacturing production, retail, rep’ed smaller brands, moved to major brands and then onto a national sales manager. Some other advice I would give is find companies that do internships. This is a great way to get your foot in the door. There are many vital employees that have came through our internship program, both on the factory side and in the office. Tony Sasgen our International and Mid-West Sales Manager came through the internship program. He did a four month un-paid internship, then worked in production, shipping and customer service. He has done just about everything here and knows the business inside/out. It all started with his internship.
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Facebook: Never Summer