Tim Petrick Q&A: New Rossignol president talks about the state of skiing

Fresh from his promotion to president of Rossignol North America, Tim Petrick talks to SNEWS about the nearly 105-year-old ski brand, the impact of rocker technology and the state of skiing right now.
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After more than a year super-commuting between Seattle and Moirans, France, as Group Rossignol’s senior vice president of global sales and marketing, Tim Petrick was named president of Rossignol’s North American operation last week -- a promotion that will plant him now more often in Park City, Utah.

Petrick replaces François Goulet in the position at the nearly 105-year-old ski company, which also includes the Dynastar and Lange brands. He is an icon in the industry, with past ski industry jobs as Powder Magazine’s associate publisher, vice president/general manager of K2 Skis, executive vice president of Booth Creek Ski Holdings and many more. With the ink just dry on the contract, and the jet lag finally dissipating, we caught up with Petrick to talk about Rossignol, rocker ski technology and the state of the ski industry overall.

SNEWS: Tim, congratulations on the promotion. What does this mean for you, and especially for Rossignol North America?

Tim Petrick: In short, for me, it means a much shorter commute to work and a much simpler work situation. Park City, Utah, is a lot closer than Moirans, France. The fact that the people I am working with will all speak English as their first language -- except for some of the people working in our Canadian subsidiary -- will also make day-to-day communications immensely easier. 

As for Rossi NA, I really think we can capitalize on the momentum the brands have in the U.S. and Canadian markets. François Goulet has assembled an amazing team in Park City and Granby (our Canadian headquarters.) The operation is running smoothly. The systems are in place to enhance our business. And François has dramatically improved our effectiveness for retailers over the past couple of years. I hope to build on the recent success and help provide an even better product to retailers and consumers in the immediate future.

SNEWS: You’ve already been on the job for a little more than a year. What have you accomplished, and what is still in front of you?

Petrick: I’ll leave France at the end of November and begin working with the North American operation full time. At that point, it will have been 16 months since this adventure began. Over that period -- and obviously there were a lot of people who contributed to these accomplishments -- Group Rossignol has developed more coherent model lines for Rossignol, Dynastar, Lange and Look; arrested the downslide in sales in most markets; and made some nice progress in terms of its marketing and communications efforts.

We just finished our 2011/12 global sales meetings last week, and the reaction to our '11/'12 product collections was excellent. There is still work to do, but I think we are heading in the right direction. There is a great team in place, strong commitment from the shareholders, and powerful brand names behind the effort. So, I think the future is bright. But there is huge competition in winter sporting goods, and our success will only happen if everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction. This is starting to happen for Group Rossignol on a global basis.

SNEWS: Mainstream ski sales are under a lot of pressure, whether it’s from the demos being offered to destination skiers, or the boutique brands that appeal to passholders. What’s the biggest threat to Rossi’s sales channel, and what are the opportunities for you?

Petrick: Our business plan is based on working closely with the specialty retailers of the world, especially in the USA and Canada. There is no “plan B.” We do not sell direct, and we are doing everything possible to grow specialty retail, whether it is increasing our dealer markups, building top-quality products and delivering them on time, or effectively controlling pro sales and inventory. Retailers -- and by this, I mean specialists who have a strong brick-and-mortar component to their operations -- need to make money if they are going to remain viable. We are doing our part to help them have a good future. We believe that our sports -- skiing and snowboarding -- demand retail stores where customers can actually touch and feel the product, get great advice from specialists and continue to receive support after purchasing.

The ubiquitous availability of rentals and high-performance demos poses a threat to retailers, hardgoods equipment manufacturers, and in my opinion, also to the very future of skiing and snowboarding.

“Rent (or demo) to see if you like it” has become “rent forever.” And, it is obvious to me that people who rent their gear are not as committed as those who own their own equipment. We exacerbate the seasonality that is inherent in this business by allowing people to rent all price and performance categories of product.

I understand rentals for entry-level participants, but the only business entity that benefits from “high-performance rentals” and demos are the people who run these rental shops. In the long run, they are bad for the sport and a big reason why we, as an industry, are selling roughly half the hardgoods we sold 10 years ago.

SNEWS: Inside the industry, you guys have built a good buzz around big mountain boards like the S7, as well as rocker-technology-infused intermediate skis like the Avenger 74. Do flagship skis still matter? Do you think the average consumer knows about these boards?

Petrick: Delivering a single “hot” model is probably the most important thing a brand can do to increase brand awareness and sell more product overall.

The average recreational consumer might not know about the product or perhaps even the brand, but the key influence leaders -- shop employees, mountain town rippers -- absolutely do know which products and technologies are working best at a given point in time. And those people will definitely pass those messages along to general consumers.

So, there is a huge halo effect that occurs with a hot model. And that effect tends to drag along the rest of the model line. This is not a big revelation. It was just as true in the '60s and '70s as it is today. Rossignol, Dynastar and Lange are fortunate to have a few of the best-selling skis and boots in the market right now. These hot models will help us sell more skis overall in the year ahead.

SNEWS: Do skiers understand rocker? Do they know it exists?

Petrick: They should know about rocker, given all the talk over the past several seasons. But, as with any innovation, there is a lag between introduction and market awareness. How long did people call them “parabolic” skis, which referred to a specific sidecut curvature. Rocker is more generic and, I think, easier to understand. It is pretty intuitive from my standpoint. And, if you give me five minutes’ discussion with a customer, I think they will understand exactly what rocker is. 

The problem is that I need to use my hands! Seriously, if someone is a good enough skier to have any concept of what is going on when they carve a turn, I think they will easily understand rocker. For the beginner to intermediate skier, I think they will quickly understand it makes it easier for them to ski, which is a huge selling point as we know.

SNEWS: You heard it here first -- what’s Rossi’s next big news?

Petrick: Seriously, Peter, if I told you that I would have to kill you. Suffice it to say that Group Rossignol is keenly aware that innovation is everything. We have huge experience in building skis -- nearly 105 years to be precise -- so although I can’t tell you specifics, I can say that our resources are focused on making the best products for skiers and snowboarders, regardless of their ability level and performance objective.

--Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived -- just in time for the start of the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at pkray@snewsnet.com. Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!

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