Snow sports and paddle sports are seasonal by nature, and the respective dip in sales during the off-seasons for both have not gone unnoticed as opportunities waiting to be exploited. Ray Fusco, general manager for Manhattan Kayak Company (MKC), thinks his company has hit on a plan that's perfect -- and he may just be right.
MKC -- www.manhattankayak.com -- has entered into a partnership agreement with regional retail ski powerhouse Princeton Ski Shops -- www.princetonski.com -- that will help each boost sales year-round. MKC, which was more of a pro shop retailer as a means to support its growing outfitting business, is getting out of retail and turning that opportunity over to Princeton. In turn, Princeton is exclusively promoting MKC and, just like the retailer does for ski resorts, Princeton is purchasing two-hour paddling lesson tickets from MKC that it can sell for a profit as add-on sales in the paddling department.
Princeton received plenty of support from MKC as the outfitter essentially turned over its dealership accounts (with manufacturer permission), provided consulting advice, and worked closely with the retailer to train staff.
"We'll have kiosks at both the Manhattan and Long Island stores which are near our two waterfront locations -- one in Manhattan and one at Sea Cliff," Fusco told SNEWS. "We'll be working with Princeton to assist in sales, provide a clinic series, offer free paddling demos, provide ongoing staff training, as well as rent boat storage."
Rent boat storage? That's another part of MKC's business plan to help support sales for Princeton. Storage space is at a premium in crowded and cramped New York City, so MKC offers its customers rental space for boat storage. Currently, 80 customers rent space, which allows each customer 24-hour access to his or her boat, easy water access and parking. Fusco told us they hope to increase rental by 40 customers in the months to come.
For its part, Princeton will be setting up a small kiosk at MKC's waterfront locations and staffing them to offer impulse sales to MKC customers going on trips. Princeton is also relying on MKC to service the retailer's customer demo needs.
"We've printed up coupons that the sales staff at Princeton will use when working with a customer on a boat purchase. After the initial sales consult, they'll give the customer the coupon that they'll bring to us for the free demo service. We'll work with that customer in the water to help place them in the best boat for their needs. Once the decision is made, we write that onto the coupon which the customer can then take back to the store and make the purchase," Fusco said.
Princeton has agreed to maintain a year-round paddlesports presence in their Manhattan and Long Island stores, and MKC will have more than just a branding presence in both stores year-round since the outfitter will be able to offer its international and more exotic paddling excursions to a broader customer base as a result.
But the plan doesn't stop at two stores. Fusco told us that MKC is working to establish waterfront locations near two more Princeton stores by the end of 2004 so that Princeton can open up paddlesports shops in their stores as well. It is MKC's plan to have paddlesport locations established for all six Princeton store locations by the end of 2005 giving each store a waterfront partner for summer business support.
Princeton carries what MKC uses in its programs, making the demo program work supremely well. Currently, Princeton is carrying Wilderness Systems, Prijon, Werner, Lotus, Salamander, NRS and Bomber Gear.
SNEWS View: Positively brilliant! We know of a number of other ski shops and paddling outfitters that have set up relationships involving simple cross-promotion, but none that have affected the planning and relationship-building that MKC and Princeton have established here. Both are working to bolster the other's areas of weakness and in so doing are increasing their customer reach, sphere of influence and, as a result, likely improving the profitability quotient for each other as well. Makes us wonder why more stores and outfitters/clubs don't start exploring the same types of relationships. Any reason a specialty outdoor retailer couldn't find a worthwhile partnership with a local fitness club or climbing gym, for example? In today's market, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is what is needed to ensure survival and growth.