Questions answered by:
(G) Greg Hughes (VP sales/marketing)
(D) Dustin Morrell (Owner/Operator)
(A) Ana Van Pelt (Creative Director)
What are the biggest trends shaping the hardgoods market for next year?
G: Mixed camber stories. Some people want to ride camber again. It’s not a “backlash” which implies that reverse camber is a bad thing, it’s just a little push back from what has been hot. Diversity is king!
What is the greatest change affecting your brand since last season?
D: Niche Continually strives to advance our technology. We have introduced many new materials, changing the way a conventional snowboard is made, and we will continue to do this. Our materials and designs are cutting edge. Niche is the change you will find in the industry.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
G: More specialized boards for people to build their quivers. Companies have really figured out what works and riders have really great choices on what to ride. Many good options for your home mountain and travel.
How has sales forecasting changed for your company?
G: Well we are brand new so it was obviously very difficult to forecast in our first year in business. With the economy the way it is we just rolled the dice and brought in what we thought would sell in very small quantities. We are a high end brand so we don’t want much left over.
What lessons have you learned with bookings and production for this season and how will you apply those to next?
G: I kind of learned from my past experience. Keep demand high and inventory low. Then everyone can make a living and stay in business.
How are you working with retailers to help ensure strong margins, the right amount of product in the marketplace, and terms that set them up for success?
G: The full price selling season is ridiculously short so ship on time and start looking at next year. This year we have some incentives for salespeople on the floor to sell our boards and show our product. The more boards they sell of ours the better the gift. When they sold a board we entered them in a drawing to come ride in Utah with us. We’re new so we have to work hard to get noticed.
How large are your lines going to be compared to years past? Have you seen customers confused by too many different stories?
A: I definitely think customers get confused by expansive lineups that aren’t clearly defined. Too many options can sometimes be a bad thing and we felt it was unnecessary. We like to keep things simple and straightforward. We started with 5 decks: an all-mountain freestyle, a reverse camber all-mountain freestyle, a park board, a jib board and a ladies park board. This season we will have the same lineup, but offer a lower-priced version of our jib board and our multi-camber/magnetraction all-mountain freestyle.
With the shifting landscape of production abroad, are you reevaluating where you produce your hardgoods? If so, why?
D: Absolutely not! Niche will not sacrifice quality for a lower price point. All our materials are sourced close to our manufacturing facility at GST in Austria to cut down on our carbon footprint. GST is known for quality and they have exceeded our expectations.
What opportunities do you see for growing hardgoods sales?
G: For us, we are a premium product so we are married to the idea of premium shops. We offer something special and that demands that we are sold through special shops. We will continue to use the most environmentally materials available as long as we can improve the quality and performance. That’s a great and unique story to tell. This presents a great opportunity for Niche.
What do you anticipate prices doing next season?
G: It’s hard to imagine that they would go down. We are thinking most prices will be up by 10%.
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact? If so, what are some of these steps?
D: Niche is committed to the environment and our sport. Snowboarding needs snow and pristine nature enhances the outdoor experience. Niche uses bio materials and unique processes in our Hemphop, Snappy Sap, Magma Fiber, and Digi Print topsheets to replace toxic materials found in traditional snowboard manufacturing. These materials have proven to out perform traditional materials in many aspects. Traditional manufacturing is not only toxic to the environment; it’s unhealthy for people working in the factory. Try a Niche snowboard and you feel/see the difference.
What does your company hope to contribute to snowboarding?
D: High performance snowboards made with cutting edge technology that are eco friendly. There is nothing out on the market like a Niche board and when you purchase one you can feel good, we are committed to the sport and the environment.
What are the biggest forces shaping the changes and developments you’ve made to your boards?
D: The industry has been quite stagnant in terms of technology and a bigger push for the environment. A lot of companies will make one or two boards in their line eco friendly but every board in the Niche line is eco friendly. Niche setout to break the monotony with performance enhancing materials that are better for the environment.
To what degree are you emphasizing camber shape in your lineup?
D: Reverse camber and magnetraction have been game changers for the industry. We have recently made an agreement with Mervin mfg. to introduce magnetraction on the Niche Aether with a camber medley. Niche’s eco standpoint aligns well with Mervin Mfg. We could not be happier with this partnership. Magnetraction technology with the combination of Niche’s Hemphop, Snappy Sap, and Magma Fiber make for one kick ass board!
Are you cooking up any new materials or construction techniques?
D: The Niche story will have a new wood tophseet that does not have any lacquer. Heating and cooling, showing the natural wood without any toxic coatings for a naturally processed wood topsheet!
What themes are you seeing for graphics?
A: Simplicity. At least that’s our favorite. Just like our lineup, we tend to go for clean, simple graphics and simple color schemes, but still keeping things visually fun and interesting. Lots of illustration as well.