SOURCE: Christy Sports

Christy Sports

January 26, 2016 09:00 ET

Christy Sports Responds to Increased Online Activity With Promotional Direct to Consumer Brands

LAKEWOOD, CO--(Marketwired - Jan 26, 2016) - Christy Sports, the largest privately-held specialty retailer of ski and snowboard equipment, apparel, accessories and related custom fitting, mounting, tuning and repair services in the Rocky Mountain region, responds to recent increased online activity involving promotional direct to consumer (DTC) brands within its industry.

With over 45 stores in Colorado and Utah and a supporting online store, Christy Sports has decided that it would be advantageous to share similar changes they have made in their approach to online retail which has been spurred by the realities of the internet retail environment and the strategic reactions of many of their vendors. Christy Sports' concern is supported by a recent article entitled "Rock/Creek Shifts Focus to Brick-and-Mortar Expansion" published by SportsOneSource Media on December 4, 2015. The article highlights online and brick-and-mortar retailer Rock/Creek's announcement of their decision to make dramatic changes in its own online strategy.

For the past 18 months, Christy Sports has dramatically rebalanced its online marketing spend, focusing on full-margin goods and no longer seeking sales that yield no return. Christy has refocused their online efforts to become the ultimate support to their brick-and-mortar operations. Last season marked the launch of the company's first omnichannel marketing and sales feature, allowing each location to sell items beyond their floors. As long as an item is in corporate stock, the online fulfillment center will seamlessly deliver that item wherever the customer chooses. 

New for this season, Buy Online-Pickup in Store (BOPiS) has become a reality for Christy Sports. "Online retailing has always been challenging and never lacks its fast-paced competitive elements, but, as Dawson Wheeler from Rock/Creek so clearly points out in the SportsOneSource Media article, the reality is that most brands have established an online presence and many will opt to go DTC," stated Gordon Wade, Director of Internet Commerce for Christy Sports. "There are those who have managed to do this in a way that has minimized impact on their retail customers. Most recently however, and notably during this last November's Black Friday/Cyber Monday, some of our most successful brands revealed a newly introduced, full-blown DTC promotional push in direct competition with their retailers. Supported by manufacturer-level margins, these brands justified an increased budget to engage in every digital marketing solution available and effectively take sales from their own retailers."

Thomas O'Winter, Vice President of Merchandise for Christy Sports, stated, "As so many brands have been acquired by larger multi-brand groups, pressures to grow increase. We understand that, of course, however we also understand that we must do what is best for our company's long-term growth and sustainability as a specialty retailer. We are committed to seek growth opportunities with the companies that demonstrate allegiance to the long-term health of specialty retailers and will be more focused on only buying select pieces we know will sell from the promotional DTC brands. We have a 57-year history of providing our customers with great advice and selling them the best products to best suit their needs. I don't believe we will have an issue finding brands eager to suit our needs." 

As Rock/Creek's Dawson pointed out, they pulled their Amazon store because it no longer made bottom-line sense. "For every snowboard we sell, we pay Amazon 15 percent. This means we would take a 10 to 20 percent hit to our margin to sell through Amazon. With many brands now using tiered markdown schedules, at the point they move to 20 percent, we would need to pull those goods from Amazon or lose money on each sale," further explained O'Winter.

Wade added, "It is our opinion that specialty brands are making a serious branding mistake selling on Amazon. Even though a retailer is behind the listing, if I were to ask a customer who purchased a snowboard through Amazon where they bought it, their response would likely be 'I bought it on Amazon,' not XYZ store through Amazon. This ultimately dilutes the brand equity for both the snowboard company and the retailer. The moment a specialty brand submits to sell products on Amazon, they slide closer to becoming a commodity product. Historically, most specialty vendors have been diligent with their distribution strategies to prevent an over-saturation of their brand within certain geographic regions. It is our opinion that a brand's decision to sell DTC and manipulate minimum advertised price (MAP) restrictions to their sole advantage or sell through the likes of Amazon, will effectively nullify their distribution agreements."

Christy Sports agrees with Rock/Creek's Dawson that the real winners here are Amazon and Google, and many of the vendors originally put on the map by specialty retailers are heading down a path that is unsustainable and a potential detriment to their brand and the very industries in which they operate.

Christy Sports is based in Lakewood, Colorado, and is currently one of the largest specialty ski and snowboard retail, rental, and repair experts in the Rocky Mountain region. With more than 40 locations throughout Colorado and Utah and over 50 years of operational experience, Christy Sports is focused on providing quality products and competitive prices. Christy Sports also operates Door 2 Door (D2D), a full service ski and snowboard rental delivery service to certain locations. For additional information, visit www.christysports.com

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