In partnership with Shop-Eat-Surf
By Tiffany Montgomery | Originally Published October 19, 2021
Josh Wolfang shares interesting insights into what is selling so far, including how the Vail Resorts season pass price cut is impacting business. Also, how supply chain challenges are affecting his deliveries, and just how much he raised orders by this season after historic sell through last year.
As the snow season gets underway, we are checking in with key snow accounts to get a read on what they are seeing so far, how the supply chain challenges are impacting them and how they handled orders for this season.
This week, we spoke with Josh Wolfang, the owner of SkiEssentials.com, a high-volume online seller of ski hardgoods and accessories. He also operates Pinnacle Ski & Sports in Stowe, Vermont, the brick-and-mortar store his family has owned for 35 years.
Josh said already this season, his business is seeing strong demand.
“People are really excited again for the upcoming season, and want to get their gear and get out there,” he said. “They have seen inventory shortages in other areas, so they are committing early.”
On the downside, there are supply chain issues, particularly with softgoods and accessories, which can be hit or miss depending on the vendors and when the goods are scheduled to land, he said.
Luckily, hardgoods is the biggest piece of the SkiEssentials.com business, and those goods have been more on time, especially because so many ski brands produce in Europe.
“If softgoods were a bigger piece of our business I’d be more worried,” he said.
While Josh’s hardgoods orders have delivered more consistently, vendors’ restock supply has shrunk a lot already because demand is so high, he said.
So far for SkiEssentials.com, the more premium gear is selling the best.
“The higher end side of things, stuff for more advanced skiers has been really strong,” he said.
Another interesting trend has also developed: the lower end ski hardgoods package deals are also selling very well so far. His customer service teams are telling him those shoppers are specifically saying they want to gear up early because they bought season passes after Vail Resorts cut pass prices this season by 20%.
“Vail said publicly its pass sales were up 40% – some of that was pull forward, but even if the increase is 20% when all is said and done, that’s a lot of consumers coming into the sport or recommitting to the sport,” he said. “That translates into hardgoods and softgoods sales.”
Overall, Josh increased his hardgoods orders by a whopping 80% this season. Several factors played into that decision, including: the growth of the business, moving to selling more in-line product rather than an off price strategy and increased demand. He also needed to restock inventory after historic sell throughs last year. That 80% increase is especially significant because SkiEssentials did not cut any of its orders last year, so it wasn’t up against an easy comparison.
Last year, SkiEssentials.com performed very well, as many online businesses did. However, the brick-and-mortar store in Stowe also held its own even though Vermont had much less tourism because of COVID restrictions. While there were fewer tourists, the town was busier than ever because those with second homes in the area spent the winter skiing and working remotely.
This year, Josh expects a good portion of those second homeowners will remain in town again as back-to-office dates were delayed because of the Delta variant. At the same time, tourism should bounce back to some degree.
“All in all, it’s a really healthy outdoor economy for a lot of mountain shops right now,” he said.
Of course, there is the all important element that still needs to happen to make the season strong – snow.
“Last season, snow wasn’t the primary driver of participation,” Josh said. “There were so many other factors – it was an activity people could do during COVID, people were working remotely. This year seems like it does need to snow.”