SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Selling Snowshoes at Retail: The Importance of Product Placement and Display

“This is the best kept secret in the world,” said a sales associate as he explained his perspective on the sport of snowshoeing, pointing out the variety of snowshoes available for purchase.

Although the company that this certain person works for will remain unnamed, I found what he said upsetting. The best kept secret? In this case, I had to search for the store’s selection of snowshoes that later appeared in the very back wall of the retail giant’s showcase of products. No wonder it’s a secret…the snowshoe stock is kept in the most inconspicuous area in the store. I’ve got two words: THAT SUCKS!

Is this poor product display the norm? And, moreover, is it acceptable?

Throughout the tail end of last year’s season and the start of this year’s season, the placement of snowshoes and accessories in retail establishments has been scandalous. As an industry, do we want to keep snowshoeing a secret? Of course not. But, if we desire change and we desire a wide-ranging audience, I think it’s time to begin contemplating the obvious: Retail representation is very important.

I understand not all retailers place their snowshoe line in the most non-noticeable area in the store, but frighteningly enough…many do. And, this occurs with smaller and more independent retailers as well.

After conducting a very non-scientific survey of big and small retailers (again, they will remain unnamed) and asking them about where they keep their snowshoes, seven out of 10 stores said they display stock near or on the back wall (or in the rear area). However, two retailers said they keep their snowshoe products near the front…and one said they keep their snowshoes close to the cash register.

I also inquired about special displays featuring more information on snowshoeing, possibly promoting accessories, destinations, other products that might couple well, but to no avail my questions fell upon unaware minds. (Please note: I wanted to keep my questions out of the corporate snares of PR and keep my questioning informal and within the elements of surprise.) I was becoming somewhat perturbed by the retailers’ lack of knowledge when it came to answering simple and unobtrusive questions about snowshoes.

But, are retailers to blame? It’s certainly not their complete responsibility. And, not all retailers welcome snowshoes to the front displays of their store. I realize weighty negotiations between snowshoe manufacturers and retailers transpire over time, but something has to budge. Isn’t snowshoeing the fastest growing sport in the United States today? That’s quite a reputation to live up to and it certainly says a lot if snowshoes aren’t placed on display in a more prominent manner.

However, on a good note, many retailers mentioned they try to have sales associates work closely with customers on sizing and fitting snowshoes. And, retailers also mentioned that during the process of purchasing snowshoes, customers occasionally ask questions regarding destinations, tips on form and function, gear and clothing, and much more.

There is a captive audience that can be educated about the benefits of snowshoeing – no matter the brand. This audience, once they walk through the doorway of their local retailer, is one that can be swayed into a snowshoe purchase. The situation – not simple by any means – can be done with considerable finesse: Display ads and product under store floodlights can truly have a riveting effect on winter sports enthusiasts. If done correctly, this captive audience can be sold with ease if all the right elements come together.

The retail sales floor can be manipulated into a work of art and beauty if organized with skill and patience. All I will mention at this point is that the snowshoe manufacturers need to step up and prohibit the upcoming season to pass without the true essence of marketing at the retail level. If anything, ask me about the issues…I have a few ideas to throw around (excuse the selfless promotion of my thinking).

I have found that online snowshoe retailers seem to have the process down to a working and successful formula. Of course the sales floor morphs into a Web page, but efficiently and intelligently utilizing online real estate is very important to selling snowshoes. And, I’ve yet to see an online retailer miss the mark when it comes to marketing and selling outdoor and winter sports products.

I guess it’s a matter of opinion. When I walk into a store, I expect to be enticed, educated and accepted by a knowledgeable sales staff. When it concerns online commerce, my expectations aren’t set quite as high…unless the site is completely user-unfriendly.

So, as a consumer and/or member of the snowshoe industry, think about the sport of snowshoeing at the retail level. When an attractive pair of snowshoes have been manufactured and shipped, once in the hands of a retailer…the game changes. The retailer has direct contact with the consumer (unless the manufacturer sells direct). Shouldn’t the retail sales associate be the first “consumer” to place a pair of snowshoes on his/her feet and begin tromping through the snowy wilderness? I’ve got one word: YES!

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Thanks for reading.