Industry Overview for Ski Representatives

It is common for ski representatives to belong to a regional sales association, which they use to put on trade shows throughout the region to attract buyers, make contacts, and show off their goods. A large number of sales are typically made through these trade shows, which are particularly attractive because they pull all the major retailers into one spot where they commit to most of the year’s big purchases. These shows also represent a huge investment by individual ski reps, since they pay for the show out of their own pockets, even if they work for a manufacturer.

Probably the largest ski rep association is the Western Winter Sports Representatives Association. The association’s region encompasses the United States from the Rockies to the West Coast. The association sponsors annual trade shows in cities across the West, including Denver, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.

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The biggest trade event of the year is put on every fall in Las Vegas at the annual SnowSports Industries of America trade show, sponsored by ski manufacturers. Held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, this annual event is the focus of the ski rep’s year. All their research, promotions, and marketing efforts come to a head when buyers from ski shops large and small from around the country convene for six days to make the bulk of their buying decisions for the next season. Thousands of buyers representing a large percentage of American ski retailers’ purchasing capacity visit hundreds of booths. In years past, this show was where buyers wrote most of their orders. Now, for many buyers, the show is used to identify which products they will write orders for at smaller regional buying shows several weeks later. The point of SIA, however, is that it is the only place where so many dealers can come together at one time and view the fleet of ski equipment, apparel, and accessories available for the coming season.

The booths of the major players – Raichle, Rossignol, K2, Nordica, and Tyrolia – compare in terms of size with showrooms of large automobile dealerships with numerous private offices for buyers to meet with sales reps. On the low end are small booths for reps whose sole product may be a brand of sunglasses holders or fanny packs. The major clothing vendors put on daily fashion shows with production values nearly as high as that of the extravagant shows playing at nearby casinos.

For the newcomer to the SIA show, an entire day simply wandering the aisles is probably required just to get an idea of who is exhibiting what. For the experienced buyers, an appointment book is all that is needed as they navigate efficiently from one familiar rep to another filling out orders.

Despite the abundance of readily available distractions, most experienced reps keep the nightlife down to a modest minimum. Just imagine how focused you might be if 80 to 90 percent of your income were the result of your performance over a week. For a typical rep, the week at SIA involves showing product lines and explaining pricing structures to buyers within his area. While he might not write as many orders at SIA as he would like, he will refine his program for each buyer, and at smaller regional trade shows a few weeks later he will confirm the sales he’s planned.

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