PADDLING BUSINESSstream: What You Need To Know As A New Or Experienced Retailer | Adventure Kayak Magazine | Rapid Media
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CALIFORNIA RETAILER MIKE ONG DOESN’T PLAY THE SUP GAME, BUT STILL DOES A BRISK BUSINESS WITH THE PEDAL-DRIVEN HOBIE ECLIPSE. “IT’S A MATTER OF KNOWING YOUR MARKET COURTESY JEFFREY FORTUNA/HOBIE

Old Wisdom For New Retailers And Fresh Ideas For Wise, Old Retailers

PADDLING BUSINESSstream
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OLD WISDOM

Choose Your Battlefield

Southwind Kayaks is in the heart of Southern California SUP country, but after a brief flirtation with standup, owner Mike Ong chose to renew his focus on kayak touring and fishing. “It’s a matter of knowing your market,” says the 13-year industry veteran. While many inland kayak retailers have pivoted to SUP and thrived, Ong decided to pull out of SUP,“It’s a saturated market here.There’s a network of surf shops who have a better synergy for the local market.”

Hold Your Ground

As a specialty retailer, you’ll have plenty of customers asking you to price match the box stores down the street. “Don’t do it,” says Darren Bush, owner of Rutabaga in Madison, Wisconsin. When customers ask Bush to match box store pricing because they say it’s the same boat, he tells them it’s not. “It’s the same model, but its not the same boat,” he says. “Ours comes with us.”

Forget About Paddling Every Day

When Sean Creary was dreaming about opening River and Trail Outdoor Company in Rothesay, New Brunswick, he let himself believe he’d spend a lot of time paddling and hiking. “That was a little naïve. I’m doing less paddling than before I opened the business,” he says. “I’ve got great staff and my manager is fantastic, but I still can’t tear myself away from the store.”

FRESH IDEAS

Broadcast On All Channels

Service is still the bedrock of retail success, but the day when service alone was enough are long past, says Aquabatics Calgary owner Simon Coward. “Now you have to be super responsive online, have a great product mix, facilitate special orders, run an education program and more,” Coward says. “Retail businesses can do quite well right now with a very well-rounded and community-focused strategy.”

Run The Numbers

When Sean Creary was poring over his business plan, he expected soft goods to have the best margins. That’s the conventional wisdom, but his sales numbers tell a different story. Hard goods actually provide better margins after accounting for discounts—of which folks in his corner of New Brunswick appear particularly fond. “If you put something 20 percent off in Fredericton it’s a big deal,” he says. “But in St. John customers will just wait until it goes deeper.”

Keep A Foot In Both Worlds

Southwind Kayak’s thriving online business is rooted in the shop’s brick-and-mortar operations. “Running a retail store and talking to customers every day makes you an expert, and this is the key to success online,” Ong says. “You have to have absolute knowledge of your product and your customer.”

 

Jeff Moag is the former editor of Canoe & Kayak magazine and a regular contributor to Paddling Magazine and Paddling Business. He writes from Dana Point, California.

This article orginally appeared in the 2018 annual edition of Paddling BusinessRead the full issue here.

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