Warren Currie – Masters of Marketing (Snowboard Edition)
Perpetual stoke and the Stickermobile
perpetual – Never ending or changing.
stoked – to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something
A master marketer is required to create one of the top snowboard shops in all of Canada when faced with challenges like online competition and brand dilution. To have been involved in the origins of snowboarding in Alberta and to have played a role instrumental to opening up local resorts to snowboarders for the rest of us to enjoy also takes a master marketer. In both situations I am talking about Warren Currie and his Easy Rider Board Shop in Edmonton.
Warren has been involved in the action sports industry in Edmonton since 1980, when as a high school kid he ordered his first Burton Backhill snowboard from Jake Burton. In the mid 1980’s Warren and his brother Scott played a role in getting snowboarding allowed at ski areas in northern Alberta. They were tireless ambassadors for the sport working to gain snowboarders access to ski resorts. In the beginning ski hills were, lets just say, “reluctant” to let the knuckle dragging hoards sully their pristine resorts. So often someone (in this case Scott and Warren) had to meet with management and convince them that snowboarders first off would behave and secondly would purchase lift tickets that would provide the hill with more income.
Warren also became involved in Edmonton’s snowboard shop scene first with The Inside Edge, then The New Ground and finally his present store The Easy Rider. The Easy Rider specializes in Snowboards, Skateboards, Longboards, Wakeboards, Shoes, Clothing, Accessories and Stand Up Paddle boards.
Warren tirelessly promotes board sports in a variety of methods including contests, demos and other promotions such as an inflatable drive-in showing snowboard movies in the shop parking lot. His Easy Rider Cup snowboard contest is celebrated its 25th year this spring. The Easy Rider also rents out the Wave Pool at West Edmonton Mall during the winter for Stand up Paddleboard sessions.
I vividly remember one promotion method he used back in the 1990’s, the now famous stickermoble. The stickermobile was a car that Warren had covered with hundreds of dollars of snowboard stickers. This movable billboard for snowboarding often caused strangers to strike up a conversation with Warren in the ski hill parking lot where he could convert another skier over to the dark side. On the other hand the stickermoble made for exciting road-trips. Warren, who driving style even back then could be classified as “Gymkhana” like, occasionally would pass, while motioning a greeting, vehicles like pickup trucks full of skiers from rural Alberta (ie. Calgary). The pass may occur on the access road to Sunshine ski hill where the stickermobile would then pull into the parking lot sticking out like a sore thumb. This often resulted in the passengers (ie. the rest of us) getting our boots on and over to the gondola in record time.
What are the keys to Warren’s long-term success as a retailer of boardsports? (when literally dozens of shops have opened and closed over the years in the same market) How can you apply this to your business?
1. perpetual stoke
Warren has maintained a love for boardsports that ironically is often lost by the owners of board shops. The reason most people open their store in the first place is love for snowboarding or skateboarding. However, the day to day demands of running their business, the finances, ordering product, hiring and managing staff and so on often replaces or overshadows their love of the sport. A”business focused approach” seeps into the atmosphere of the store and gradually it starts to feel more corporate than core. There isn’t anything wrong with being business focused; it is important to have those skills. However ,it is just as important to remember and focus your time on the reasons why you started your business in the first place.
So did you start a business because of something you loved to do? Has the love been overshadowed by business concerns? Do what it takes to find that love again and it will improve your business!
2. focused offerings
Warren’s Shops have always focused on snowboarding and skateboarding without becoming restrictive of other complimentary activities. Other sports such as wakeboarding, wakesurfing and longboarding have been added over the years. In 2006 The Easy rider became on of the originators of Stand Up Paddling in Canada and is now the largest SUP dealer in Canada. While it is good to stay focused, too narrow of product selection can be detrimental and limit potential customers. For example, what if a father brings his son in to purchase a new skate deck? If the shop only sells skateboards and snowboards he likely will only end up purchasing a deck for his son. However if that shop carries longboards or SUP dad may also leave with his own new toy (probably at a much higher $ amount) along with the son’s skate deck. However, too broad of product array can be a problem as it creates an unfocused and somewhat desperate atmosphere. The Easy Rider seems to hit the sweet spot focusing primarily on sports that you ride sideways. For example, they sell snowboards, but not skis even though both are popular winter sports.
Check out the products or services you offer. Are there complimentary ones that you could add that would broaden your potential customer base? Or is the issue that your offerings are unfocused and diluted? Take time to look at this and possibly tightening up your offerings will also allow you to focus your advertising and promotion and catch the customers you really want to reach.
3. industry connection
Having been in the snowboard industry forever Warren has cultivated many industry connections. Maintaining connection in any industry requires at times, the monotonous work-like tasks of attending trade shows (“oh yes, I am so excited you now use recycled milk cartons for your topsheet”), rep shows (“oh it comes in blue, red, yellow, green and brown, uuuuum kind of exactly the same colours of the previous10 T-shirt you showed me”), returning phone calls (“no I don’t want to buy a closeout of 1oo pairs of Heelies”) and so on. While this seems very basic, not all business owners maximize the benefits of these connections. The Easy Rider on the other hand has this down to an art and offer exclusive items and “Easy Rider Edition” products.
The boardsport industry decided a while back they were going to sell to basically any retailer that met their stringent requirement of placing an order. Gone are the days when Core Board Shops were the only place to get the latest and coolest products. The last category for a board shop to really maintain that exclusive feel is special edition products and shop branded products. The Easy Rider does this better than any shop I have seen. You could get an “Easy Rider edition” Burton board, boots and bindings. There are Volcom Easy Rider T’s and Easy Rider snowboard gloves by Celtek and so on. Customers can purchase a product that is a limited edition and not available anywhere else in Canada. This is especially important for board sport core shops to give customers a reason to continue to support the shop.
Have you stayed up with nurturing your industry connections? If not, make a goal to call at least one a week of the connections you have neglected. Start brainstorming on ways to utilize these connections to better position your products or services for your target market.
Warren Currie and The Easy Rider have proven it is possible to make your living doing something you love. It requires keeping stoked on the reason you started the business, carefully selecting the products you offer and utilizing industry connections to your benefit.
The Easy Rider
Edmonton, AB, T6J 6L7