We caught up with Brand Director Jim Sanco to learn more about BlackStrap?s latest collection.
What are the three biggest trends you see shaping the market and what you are doing to meet them?
In my opinion, the three biggest trends shaping the accessories and headwear markets stem from brands over-extending themselves in the industry. The first trend I see is many companies is not working to improve the standards of technology and innovation in their Facegear lines. The second trend I would note involves the customers themselves not being ?educated? on the advancements being made by companies in the industry. Lastly, I would say that the market for quality products is increasing, with the economic times as they are, customers are beginning to look at products closer searching for that ?more bang for their buck? type of product (i.e splitboards, AT gear, dual purpose accessories, factory warrantied goods etc.)
Here at BlackStrap our focus has been to raise the standards in quality, technology and innovation with each product we manufacture. We have no problem telling a customer, ?You will not find another piece of FaceGear like ours on the market?. With patented fabrics, 100% USA made FaceGear, more than 30 color-ways and a list of technical functions that would suit even the most seasoned snow enthusiast, we work to squash the trend in a lack of improved technological standards with industry leading innovation and function.
The customers are the reason we are all here, they buy what they want, like, see on the pros, hear about from friends, and read about online and things that catch their eye in the stores. There are many customers that go with the ?tried & true? Facegear that they have used for years. However the outcome of much of this gear is usually something along the lines of ?cold, wet, cant breath, sweaty, and wont dry?. After 4 years of selling Facegear to retailers, customers and professionals we have found that a single sentence can change a customers thoughts on their own standards and expectations. To meet the trend of educating the customer we start at the ground level with producing a product line that really gives them something to get interested and excited about. With products nation wide in US retailers and resorts, and distribution in Australia and South America, our sales force is the next step in the customer education process. We have one of the best technical sales teams in the industry and they work tirelessly running clinics and following up directly with shop employees ensuring that their customers are ultimately happy with their purchase.
Lastly, we pride ourselves on the fact that all of our Facegear is manufactured 100% in the USA. Not only do we keep every aspect of manufacturing (weaving/printing fabric, buttons, sewing etc.) in the USA, but we offer an MSRP that is smack in the middle of the pricing spectrum, for products with more technical function, quality construction, comfort and color ways than our competitors. The trend I see is many customers looking for exactly what we provide: The highest standards in comfort, function and quality; at a price-point that lets the customer leave with some extra coin to spend elsewhere.
How has the market evolved over the last year and how do you see things changing in the years ahead?
I feel that the market, as a whole, is expanding, aside from the big dogs always being around (Sirius, Turtle Fur, Burton etc), there always seems to be another new company with a catchy logo and a list of oober-pro athletes. Seeing as the most visual place for logo placement is smack on a riders face most of these companies turn out a Facegear that is out to push just that, the logo and face its on. This model has been used by a number of companies over the last few years that have, unfortunately, closed up shop. I think that this comes back to the trend of ?customer education?. While the customer may be drawn to a certain brand after seeing the logo on their favorite athlete, the products function will ultimately dictate if the customers desire to not just purchase a product once, but year after year after year.
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?
Simply put, we provide our retailers with what they want. We have the luxury of US manufacturing, this allows for unheard of turnaround on orders/re-orders, loose pre book dates and the capability to offer custom brand pieces for each and every shop & resort we work with.
What are pricepoints doing?
Our price points have remained constant year over year.
Are you taking any steps to minimize your environmental impact? If so, what are some of these steps?
Each aspect of our product lines, manufacturing and distribution has a conscious element of environmental preservation. Our manufacturing locations in NY, WA and CA are all certified Eco facilities, our BS* buttons are 100% recycled PVC, our packaging is manufactured with recycled fibers and our entire line of optic frames are made with recycled plastics. Distribution is hard to pin down, we work to deliver every shipment personally. Working with our retailers on delivery dates we try schedule meetings and travel around delivery dates. For example: many of our NW retailers have similar ship dates (mid October), we scheduled a number of meetings in the Portland and Seattle Metro areas around this time, instead of shipping air or ground freight to each of the 25+ retailers in the region we will load up our shop truck and go on a ?Santa Clause? style delivery mission in between meetings.
What are you doing to promote the growth of snowboarding and the next generation of riders (making kids gear, offering educational programs, etc.)?
Our emphasis with the youth has beet supporting up and coming athletes through our products (all products are 1 size fits youth-adults) and team/organization sponsorships. The core of our athletes are on snow year round, doing more than just snowboarding. A handful of our team riders work at Windells in the summer both coaching and digging. While in the winter, everyone from our brand managers to our riders coach for the Freeride Program with the Mt Bachelor Sports Education Foundation (MSEF) here in Bend Oregon. We also have a strong ?Grom-Squad? here at BlackStrap, with 4 riders between the ages of 16 and 9, these kids have national titles in every aspect of their sport (Pipe, Park, Skier/SNB Cross). As a company we focus our marketing and promotional budgets in the same fashion. We have a big part in the USASA Enter The Dragon Series, produce custom products for non profits including MBSEF. We also emphasize working with disability recreation organizations. One of our team riders, Ravi Drugan, is a sit skier and has competed on every international stage including the X-Games and World Sit-Ski Championships. Working directly with Ravi we have had the pleasure to work with recreational accessibility groups such as Oregon Adaptive Sports and The National Ability Center by getting quality products on athletes.
What?s in your crystal ball for 2013/2014?
Aside from an insane amount of snow across the US, we plan to do exactly what we have been doing since day 1, producing quality products, that are raising the standards across the industry, while having fun and keeping the right people involved, everything else will come.
What do you hope to contribute to snowboarding?
Many of the individuals at the ground level of BlackStrap have made the ski and snowboarding industry their lives for more than 3 decades. It?s their passion, and we feel that our products echo that true love and respect for the mountains, the industry and the people involved across the board. Outside of contributing the physical products and technological advancements, we want everyone to enjoy their time on the snow with friends in comfort.