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Sputnik Snowboards: how to compete with the big boys

Whether it’s the French Alps or the Spanish Pyrenees, this time of year a growing number of people dust off their skis, hop on a cheap flight and hit the slopes. For these holiday-makers it’s all chocolat chaud up the mountain and vin chaud for après ski, but what of the small businesses of skiing?

We interviewed Sputnik, a rider owned, rider run, independent, extreme-sports shop in Buckinghamshire to find out how they compete with the major players of the market, how they cope with seasonality and the role tech has played in their success:

What does Sputnik offer?

With 16 years experience, customer service is our main priority and we strive to make sure we get every customer using the right equipment. We also offer board and ski servicing, set up snowboards and skateboards, snowboard boot fits, and run various events throughout the year in the local community and snowboard and skateboard scenes.

There’s a lot of competition in your market. How do you compete with the big stockists and retailers?

We like to think that the customer service we offer is the main thing that sets us apart. Our staff have tested the equipment and can therefore give honest and unbiased opinions. We try to stock a varied range of products and hard to find/limited edition products.

We also strive to have a 60/40 split in regards to men’s and women’s products. We feel this is very beneficial to us, as women getting into snow sports and skateboarding is massive at the moment.

Our website is also a very important tool. We make sure our products are online on our website and that our website is clear and easy to use with all the relevant information.

How has your online presence helped?

Our website has made a huge difference and we couldn’t be without it today. Our target market has been opened up to the rest of the world and the sky is the limit! We also find that the power of social media is incredible.  We use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We know Google is also a very important tool so we put a lot of effort into being visible in searches.

Do you find your social media activity, customer service and event work have helped to retain customers?

The shop opened its doors 16 years ago, and we still have loyal customers who have supported us since day one. There is also a friendly vibe in the shop, and a lot of people come to buy whatever they need but also to hang out with us, have a chat and a cup of tea.

We also run various events throughout the year. In the winter, we run a ‘welcome to winter’ party to showcase all of the new products and get people excited about the upcoming snow season. This event is held at the shop with a BBQ, beers, competitions and exclusive offers. We also run a snowboard movie night at a local pub to show the freshest talents and season edits from professional snowboarders.

In the summer our biggest event is Go Skateboarding Day on 21st June. This is a day celebrated worldwide where skateboarders take time out of their busy lives and go skate. We hold the event at our local skate park in Marlow with competitions and giveaways.

How does this kind of seasonality affect business? 

The winter snowboard season is definitely our busiest selling time, however in the summer we are growing our skate and fashion side of the business year on year. We strive to be a reputable stockist, with loyal customers. Summer is also a time for us to prepare our website for winter and make sure all of our products are online when they arrive in store.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

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