On Nov. 2, 2011, Amer Sports Winter and Outdoor Americas formally announced a new winter sports equipment e-commerce platform, Ski Link, which will launch in the United States in the fall of 2012.
The online purchasing program is designed to showcase Amer winter sports products in their entirety from the Salomon and Atomic brands. Consumers will be able to order products on the site, with all purchases being shipped directly to participating retailers for pick-up.
SNEWS sat down with Mike Adams, winter sports equipment vice president and commercial director for Amer Sports Winter and Outdoor Americas, to discuss how this new program affects Atomic and Salomon’s retail strategy in the United States. Adams said he couldn’t comment on any potential e-commerce strategies for other Amer brands, such as Suunto or Precor, but he offered the following insight into how the move affects “the ski brands.”
SNEWS: Mike, thanks for taking the time to talk. Looking at the Ski Link introduction, I’m curious why you want to announce this e-commerce platform right now, and especially how you think it addresses ongoing changes in the ski retail market?
Mike Adams: We wanted the information out there for several reasons: First the U.S. launch for the 2012-13 Salomon and Atomic winter sports equipment is imminent and as in every new season our go-to-market package includes details on our Internet platform for our partner retailers.
Secondly, as Ski Link is a unique program putting the retailer at the center of the transaction with the consumer, we want to have several touches to fully engage our retailers in the program, which will take some time. That is why, for example, we are planning some webinars in December and why all of the information about Ski Link will reside on Ski-referral.com starting at that time as well.
Finally, this is great news and we want it out there well in advance of the go live dates. Also, as Amer will be going on with other e-commerce platforms in other markets, we wanted to establish the U.S. platform as soon as possible to avoid any potential confusion of what we are doing in the U.S.
As far as addressing the ongoing changes in the market I think we agree that we are not pushing for improved solutions as quickly as we should be. I have seen in the process of creating Ski Link that specialty retailers really understand that they need to be actively involved in creating the retail solutions that serve the consumer while at the same time support the businesses that are at the core of the industry.
SNEWS: How, specifically, does this help Atomic and Salomon?
Mike Adams: Ski Link helps Atomic and Salomon because we can give consumers a better overall brand experience and helps our brands by allowing consumers to have access to more of our products. An additional benefit is that we solidify our relationship with our retail base.
SNEWS: And how, specifically, does this benefit the specialty ski retailer?
Mike Adams: The retailer benefits by being positioned squarely at the center of the equipment transaction and building new customers. Instead of consumers thinking "I can’t always get what I want when I want it" they think "sweet, my skis are in!" The retailer benefits from us driving traffic into their store, and they get the opportunity to showcase their skills in fitting and tuning and relating with the consumer first-hand to share the stoke of the sport. It's really a win win; letting consumers select from a broader product palate lets them get what they want while shipping it to their local shop puts them in the hands of professionals to take care of their needs.
SNEWS: Amer International broke news of ongoing efforts to build an e-commerce platform over the summer. Was Ski Link part of that original plan? And, what aspects were fine-tuned in response to how the news of an e-commerce platform was originally received?
Mike Adams: No, Ski Link came about as we were trying to determine our options in the U.S. The original Amer announcement was largely geared to prepare the markets worldwide for the company initiative. It gave us the opportunity to really dig in on what would be the best approach for the United States. Amer Sports and its senior management have been very supportive with our efforts to put retailers at ground zero of the program and build the Ski Link program which will serve the interests of consumers as well.
SNEWS: How do retailers opt-in to participate in this strategy, and how do they continue to fulfill orders?
Mike Adams: We are in the process of precisely defining dealer qualifications now. In principle, we are looking at this from the perspective of the retailers contact with the consumer as well as from having quality representation of the products in the stores. It’s not about having the retailers jump through hoops, it’s about affirming the best practices of our dealers.
SNEWS: Will Atomic/Salomon ship any orders directly to consumers?
Mike Adams: No – in the Ski Link program we will only ship to the retailer location specified by the consumer.
SNEWS: What kind of template do you think this sets for specialty retail in the future, especially in regards to inventory, ordering and reaching new customers?
Mike Adams: We are providing another portal for consumers to access our product, which benefits everyone. It can especially impact those items that don’t have the broadest distribution and are hard to find. We expect that this business will be incremental for the retailers and will have little impact on their stocking needs. Overall the response from the retail community has been really positive and supportive of what we are doing.
– Peter Kray
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