As well as teaching down at the local dry slope, Chris Sturgess manages the snowboarding side of the Norwich-based family business, Snowfit Revolutionz. We caught up with him about what’s been selling well, the effect of the Sochi Olympics, and how he decides what to feature in the shop every year. He also sheds some light on how supposedly ‘rival’ stores manage to work together for snowboarding’s greater good.
This article first appeared in Whitelines Issue 119.
What’s the history of your shop?
This is our 17th winter. It’s still family-run – my mum and dad set up Snowfit many moons ago on the outskirts of Norwich, and we then took over an existing snowboard shop called Revolutionz in the city centre. That became our snowboard, BMX and skate shop, while Snowfit focused on skis. Four years ago we needed more space, so we moved everything under one roof in this massive, warehouse-style shop.
Why did you keep the Revolutionz name going when you did that?
We worked really hard to build it up, and it has a loyal following. Plus it has a good reputation in the industry – we work with shops like Sputnik, The Snowboard Shop, Bucks Boarding and Edge Riders, and we all try and help each other out.
In what sense?
If I’ve got, say, a K2 Turbo Dream in a 156 but a customer needs a 159, I’ll phone Craig at Bucks and see if he’s happy to swap sizes. Just the other day I rang Sputnik about a Nike jacket that a customer wanted but that we didn’t have. I’d much rather someone like them got the sale, and at the end of the day the customer is stoked that we were able to find it for him, so he’s likely to come back to us in the future. Quite a lot of that goes on, and that’s the cool thing about working in this industry. It’s not as cut-throat as others, and we’re all in it for the love of snowboarding.
Has your role changed at all over the years?
Not really, although I’m always doing more and more things – I enjoy that side of it, where you’re doing everything that’s involved in running a business from the marketing to the accounts. I guess that what makes it still exciting after seventeen years. Especially when the one time of year you really want to go out and play, you’ve got to stay at work because it’s the busiest time! Maybe I didn’t think that one through…
How do you decide which brands to stock each year?
We try to get as much testing in as we can – I don’t know if any other shops attend as many as us. We normally take three or four riders to Avant Premiere [an annual board test in La Clusaz, France]. I personally try and test all the brands that we don’t stock, as it’s important to know what the competition is like. The other guys test our existing brands, and after we go through it all I’ll put together my wishlist – which is normally way too long! We then take everything we’re thinking of stocking away on our own test, which we’ve done for the last fourteen years. We had 65 people on that last year, so I take their feedback and narrow it down to the final choice. At Spring Break [the UK-run test in Kaunertal, Austria] I’ll try those ones again, just to make sure we’ve got it right.
What’s sold well so far this year?
We’ve had a really good start to the season. Flux bindings have been absolutely killing it for us – we’re down to our last few pairs already. Slash boards have done pretty well too. Salomon is one that seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment; they’re making some really nice kit.
Have you noticed much of a “Jenny effect?”
I’ve seen it massively in the amount of lessons I’ve been doing! And a lot more people have been coming in to the shop because of seeing snowboarding on the TV. It’s nice to see more people come into the sport – that’s what we want.
What percentage of your business is snowboarding, compared to skiing?
More people ski than snowboard, so it still accounts for more of our business, but we are seeing growth in snowboarding at the moment. And I’ve made sure that the biggest area of the shop is dedicated to snowboarding! There’s room for everybody, and as long as we’re all having fun it doesn’t matter what’s strapped to our feet. Although I certainly won’t be going back to skis…