By Tiffany Montgomery | Originally Published October 21, 2021
Christy’s is a major snow player with 65 stores in four states. We spoke with CEO Matt Gold about early reads on the snow season, how last year turned out, how the company handled orders for this season, and how the supply chain challenges are impacting receipts so far.
Christy Sports is a huge player in the ski and snowboard industry due to its 65 stores in four Western states – its home state of Colorado, in addition to Utah, Washington and New Mexico.
We spoke with CEO Matt Gold about early reads on the snow season, how last year turned out, how the company handled orders for this season, and how the supply chain challenges are impacting receipts so far.
Prior to joining Christy’s in 2017, Matt spent more than 10 years at Amer Sports Corporation, including as Asia Pacific General Manager. He also held senior international executive positions at Wilson Sporting Goods.
Like many snow and outdoor retailers, last fiscal year ended up being a record sales year for Christy’s.
The retail piece of the Christy’s business performed more strongly than the company’s service businesses, such as rentals.
Matt said going into last season with so many unknowns from the pandemic, he assumed that the service business would have been the stronger component.
“But people wanted to buy,” he said. “If they decided to come to our stores despite all the pandemic pandemonium in the world, they came with intent. So it was a record retail year for us.”
As a result, Christy’s increased its orders for this coming season.
“We leaned in,” Matt said. “We expect the tailwinds and the strong consumer demand to continue. We’ve seen research from the Outdoor Industry Association and others that shows the pandemic has brought newcomers into outdoor activities and many lapsed returnees as well.”
While supply chain challenges are causing some delays in receiving goods, Christy’s is in good shape overall, Matt said.
“We’ve been working vigorously on this at great levels of granular detail since the springtime because there’s a lot of uncertainty out there,” he said. “On the ski and snowboard side, things are pretty positive, especially with ski and snowboard hardgoods. Most of it is manufactured in Europe and some in the United States on the snowboard side. We’re actually ahead of our plans for receiving hardgoods and equipment.”
The biggest challenge is in softgoods, and Christy’s expects to receive about 70% of those orders by the end of October. The rest is expected to arrive in November and December in time for the holiday season, he said.
“If we look at it holistically, I feel that we’ll be okay. But it’s bumpier in the softgoods area,” he said.
As far as sales so far this season, “early indicators are green lights, and really continuing the momentum that we saw last season,” Matt said.
Christy’s was able to hold its annual preseason sale of carryover snow product, something that it didn’t do last year because of COVID. And the sale was very successful this year.
“We got a nice, early marker on consumer behavior,” he said. “And as we roll through October, we’re seeing that continuing, especially in equipment. Sales have been robust in the tools for participation: ski hardgoods, snowboard hardgoods.”
Another area that is taking off this year is the season rental program, which is geared toward newcomers to the sport and families with kids and allows them to lease equipment for the entire season.
“We are seeing really good engagement and strong demand there as well,” Matt said.
As far as expansion plans, Christy’s remains focused on the Western U.S. at the moment, and sees opportunity to grow in the region.
“We still have a lot of white space,” he said. “There are a lot of aspirational destinations and amazing communities out there for us to still explore around the Western U.S. with no risk of saturation. We use a buzz phrase here at Christy’s: ‘We’re everywhere you ski and ride in the Rockies and beyond.’ “
We asked Matt if he thinks this surge in outdoor participation and the booming industry sales that have come with it is the new normal or a shorter term blip.
“My whole career has been in the sporting goods industry and lifestyle and sports businesses,” he said. “I don’t think anything goes up and right forever. That’s too much blue sky thinking and a little unrealistic.”
However, he does think there is stickiness around the bigger macro trends that are impacting why people are interacting with the outdoors more. Those factors include the challenges of living in megacities and the desire for work/life balance. Another big plus is the availability of real time information that helps people educate themselves about how to participate in new outdoor activities and learn about equipment, etc.
“I think the outdoor industry has a lot going for it right now based on those different drivers and the future is pretty bright,” Matt said.
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