Industry Profile: Skullcandy Canadian Brand Director Luke Edgar
21 Aug, 2012
Job Title: Canadian Brand Director
Years on snow: 37yrs on snow, 27yrs on snowboard
Days on snow: 50+
Currently Riding: Venture Split, tour more than area and K2 Gyrator for resort pow
Currently I am: Riding better than ever…about to turn 50, but I feel 34. Planning on going to Banked Slalom again this January, first time back in 10 years but I have at least 13 tours of duty, can’t wait!!
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Luke: Born in Yakima Wa, went to school and grew up in Spokane, joined the army to get out of Spokane, spent time at Ft Benning Ga, Ft Lewis Wa and Schofield Barracks Ha which is where I bought my first Burton Woody after seeing an ad in 1984 surf mag. The day after I got out I was on snow wrecking myself with those metal fins at Snoqualmie pass, that was Feb ’85. I moved back to Spokane for a year, lived in an amimal house with a bunch of partying buddies and started riding golf courses, Silverhorn (prior to them getting the gondola and changing name to Silver Mtn) and Schwietzer. Mt Spokane didn’t allow snowboarding yet but I hiked to the top anyway, ducking behind trees as a group of 6 patrollers heard I was hiking with a board and tried to find me, they didn’t and I summited. I think that might have been the first decent and my first taste of how good a ride from the top can be. I believe your life is shaped around 3-5 major decisions that YOU make, not your parents. For me, it was joining the army, then buying my first snowboard, then meeting my wife Sara (who I owe pretty much everything too as she is my biggest cheerleader) and then having a dream and following it, not letting the comfort of my current surroundings hold me back from taking the chances of new opportunities which required moving.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Luke: In every way. I was the black sheep of the family, the loaner and would have stayed that way, shy and introverted if wasn’t for snowboarding. I fell deep into it, it was all I could think about. Even though I couldn’t wax my first woody board, I could still file my metal fins and put on some fresh varnish and stickers. I spent all summer thinking about it. My passion forced me to be more social, to engage others with my passion for this new thing. I put on the first snowboard clinic in Spokane Wa winter of 85/86 and still remember telling kids how to skate up to the lift with one foot, how to load and unload, and then driving up to a big hill and 40 kids sharing like 5 snowboards, it was amazing. I kept at it, the equipment got better and I started doing snowboard contests, spending all $ to get there and not worrying how I would get back. No cell phones, no credit cards, just a pack, tent, sleeping bag, stove and snowboarding gear. I was getting 100+days in and didn’t have a car, lots of hitchhiking up to Stevens and Baker where I would camp out for 2-3 days. I would dry out my gear in the bar each night before hitting it. I’ve been buried, wet and shaking but it didn’t matter as long as I had my 9am-10pm lift ticket at Stevens or was on first chair at Baker. Travelling to contests were more social for me, I was never that good and had the opportunity to ride with Dan Donnelly, Mike Ranquet, Tex, Matt Goodwill and a slew of other NW pros, enough to know I would never be on their level, but I still went and I still partied and I still had as much fun as anyone. And every once in a while pull out something special that made me excited. At that point I still didn’t know that I would make this sport into a career, all I knew was how it made me feel and how I wanted to spread that joy to as many people that would listen or care to learn.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Luke: First I was doing some part time fit modeling for a young mens fashion brand in Seattle, they would call me up all last minute and send me to NY, San Diego, Las Vegas etc to work for 1-10 days, looking back it was a bit mindless/degrading and just paid really well and supported my contest desires. I was at ASR trade shows (Action sport retailers) and met Lisa Hudson who was starting up the Airwalk Snowboard team, I ended up being their first team rider. I remember waking up in Las Vegas for day 1 of SIA (Snow Industry Trade Show), my first SIA ever maybe ’87 or ’88 and that is the day I said to myself “this is what I want to do, this is the industry I want to work in” – but I wasn’t sure how, I didn’t go to collage, I didn’t know anything other than this uncontrollable passion for snowboarding. Over the coarse of the next year I met John Logic, owner of the Snowboard Connection as he was in town looking for a spot to open a snowboard shop and spotted me with some stickers on my girl friends car (Now wife). We hit it off, I became the first Seattle Snowboard Connection Team rider and very part time employee (when John had to run to the bank) oh and asst buyer only cuz he would ask me what I thought. I also bacame the first team rider for Wave Rave and Mambosok, and rode for Batwaves. Man I’m old. So Dan Donnelly gave me one his boards before they came out and I started doing some testing for K2, it was after a 3 day test at Mt Hood, summer of ’90 I think? I came home, and that night I dreamt up my job at K2 Snowboarding, the next morning it was so real that I woke up in a sweat and thought I was late for the ferry (K2 started out on Vashon Is and only just recently moved to Seattle). I had already planned a trip to Europe that would last until my small savings ran out and was leaving in less than a week. So I created a cover letter and basic plan of what would do if I worked at K2, and along with a box of the 8 basic crayola crayons sent that Brent Turner. I got a 4 month temp job when I returned from Europe and worked 90 hour weeks leading up to the SIA snow show and was the sub rep for every K2 ski rep. They would send over every buyer and I would sell them the vision of K2 Snowboards. We had a cool binding at the time that really helped me open up doors, and I had John Logic telling other core dealers to come and see me. By the end of the show the CEO came over to meet me and I was so fired up that I told him I needed a Lincoln Continental to take it the next level. You know, suicide doors and basically two rolling couches down the road. I got a full time job after that ($7 an hour, wahoo!!) and approval to get the car.The old guy that sold it to me was the original owner, Clifford O Flaten (name plate was in car) and was like 80 years old and told me he use to get 8 in the front and 69 in the back!! If that car could talk, he must have died shortly after because that car was possessed but in a good way, it for sure talked to me as I drove that car to ASR/San Diego, SIA/Las Vegas and all the ski resorts in the west. I also bought a 1959 DeVille trailer, a small little one with heater and 2 small beds with K2 SNOWBOARDING GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS on both sides.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Luke: The army taught me to be a leader, attn to detail and follow through. When I started at K2, they had mostly mass distro in Sportmart, Garts etc. I had to find ways to meaningful to the specialty dealers which is tough when you’re 1) a skiboard brand and 2) already mass distro’d. It started with hiring snowboard reps, and some of the ski reps didn’t want to give it up, even though they knew it wasn’t where their passions lied. Then we implemented some basic levels of segmentation and came up with some very innovative products to separate K2 from other brands. First was the variable width theory, where we introduced the Fatbob for guys with size 10+ feet and the Luna, a really cool woman’s board that was narrow and the right flex for woman. That was followed by the Clicker, backcountry gear and other innovative products and categories. Learning how to be meaningful to all your dealer channels is critical.
Shay: Tell us about your role as at Skullcandy and a description of the work you do?
Luke: I came on board as employee #23 to run specialty sales for the US. We had a small team and again a lot of focus on the big box (consumer electronic) dealers. When I started reps were quitting, not being paid, orders not getting shipped and some internal folks early in their careers had a bit of a cocky attitude as we were growing fast in the CE channel. As top brands that have come and gone well know, you can’t put your nose in the air, no matter how hot you are. When the pendulum swings it swings hard, look at Burton for a great example. Step one was change attitude, become dealer focused and easy to do biz with. Regain the reps confidence so they can feel good about pushing your brand. There are many rings of customers that a brand has to break through before they get to the end consumer. Internally, reps, shop buyers, floor staff, DMM’s, regional trend setters – all can move the dial in a good way, or a bad way. We reinvested in our rep tool kits so they could support shop events and own the shop and shop employee as I like to call it. After 4 years of running the specialty, college, sporting goods and most of the airport partners I needed some new challenges because I’m more motivated by building not maintaining. So I joined the international team here at Skullcandy led by Aaron Bahle. One because I wanted to learn from the best, and Aaron is one of the smartest guys I’ve worked for and two so I could build again. So my focus today is Canada, not to far and some really good mtns.
Shay: If you had to make up a job title that most accurately described what you REALLY do, what would it be?
Luke: Dealer stokage
Shay: Describe the craziest day/moment you’ve had at your job?
Luke: Some would answer that with ‘Rental Car’ but I have to say it was taking a dozen dealers to Japan to snowboard. It was the best snowboarding and experience trip ever. We rode the first day and it was firm, but the terrain in Hokkaido was insane, expecially the tree riding, crazy trees. That night it started snowing and didn’t stop, we rode the deep and trees all week. On our last day we were on our way to the airport in Sapporo when the big Japan Earthquake hit. We didn’t feel it, we were on a bus totally hungover and most were sleeping. When we got to Sapporo airport shit hit the fan. We couldn’t get a direct flight out to mainland USA but we could get on our original flight to Tokyo, which was near the epicenter. Getting on the flight was like watching a bad scify movie “don’t get on the plane that is going into the center of the disaster”. We did and when we landed the airport was in disaster mode, everyone camped out with blankets, most restaurants out of food and closed, no where to go or hide. We used all our board bags to make a small room in the middle of the floor complete with a door and we set camp. We felt multiple aftershocks. Finally we got a table at the only restarant after waiting 2 hours, just ordered 2 of everything and a bunch of beer and sake when Coops came in and said we got a hotel, we have to go now. Again the tough decision, stay and eat/drink or go. We went and somehow caught two buses with all our gear and made it to the hotel. We felt more aftershocks, but they were smaller. After all had rooms I was the last one to check in when the big aftershock hit, the entire hotel was rocking back and forth as we were on a man made area that use to be water. No one that worked there was reacting as I was holding onto the counter looking around in amazement asking “Do you feel this, hello, earth to zombie”
I slept in my clothes and was woken up a few hours later by the hanger in the closet, I was on the 9th floor and the hotel was swinging so violently that the hanger was banging the wall. By the time I figured it out it was over. The next day was just like a disaster movie. No cars, no taxis, no people and we were across from a huge fish market. Nothing worked, cash machines, couldn’t use credit cards so we all pooled our money and finally found the one and only place open for food, we enjoyed it like it was our last meal. We walked to a bird sanctuary and sat quietly for hours. By dinner time we found a flight home we thought we could get on and shortly after midnight we were in the air, which when we finally felt safe. We didn’t see the tsunami where we were, only on TV, but the nuclear power plant that was spewing radioactive shit was only 100 miles away, and that made the earthquake seem trivial. That was a trip that bonded us for life, and I wish that didn’t happen to Japan, so sad, but the trip prior to all that was still the best experience and snowboard trip ever.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Luke: All the snowboarding trips, I love to take dealers snowboarding, go snowboaridng with them at their mtns, even the small ones in the midwest and east. I can still remember riding Loon in NH with a bunch of dealers that rode the same jib line every run, every day of the season. I saw a part of the mtn up higher that was groomed but the chair wasn’t running. I finally convinced the group to hike to the top so we could drop, and man some bitching and moaning but we all made it, and after the run down virgin corduroy they were all like “Man that was awesome, now I see why you like to hike”. Or the Festical, Rainier trips, Hood Trips, Whistler Trips, Mt Bailey, etc etc etc.
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?
Luke: First and foremost, global warming – duh. Secondly it has to be over production, again. It took a couple good seasons and finally the dealers and industry were clean after season of 10/11, and then a global lack of snow for 11/12 and everyone is back in the same boat. You’re damned if you don’t over produce cuz all your competitors are doing it, and damned if you. What a gamble.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Luke: Study business and marketing – everything you do is selling and driving demand so shit sells.
Work Retail, understand consumer and shop habits.
Work events and promotions.
Intern with a rep agency, do the dirty grunt work, for free, to get your foot in the door.
Attn to detail.