Evo Partners in New Hardgoods Brand in Exclusive Distribution Deal
Season Eqpt., a new snowboard and ski hardgoods brand, launched this winter with an intriguing strategy.
One of Season’s most interesting elements is its relationship with evo, an online industry powerhouse that also has three brick-and-mortar evo stores in the U.S. and five stores in Whistler.
We reached out to evo and Season’s founders to find out more about the brand and the relationship.
We also asked evo for an update on current sales trends and about early reads they are getting on snow sales.
Ski and Snowboarding Are Equal
Season Eqpt., founded by pro snowboarder Austin Smith and pro skier Eric Pollard, is based on the premise that snowboarding and skiing are equals, equipment is designed to span multiple seasons, and lifelong service is included with the purchase.
Evo is an investor in the brand and is the exclusive retail distribution partner in North America. It is also providing some operational support. Season also sells directly on its own e-commerce site.
“We really believed in the concept and saw an opportunity to help our friends while giving evo an exclusive product to offer our customers,” said Ben Wallace, evo Director of Business Development. “Growing our vertical, differentiated product offering is a key objective for evo moving forward.”
Season’s founders said they were more excited about creating the brand rather than creating wholesale strategies. And, they like how evo approaches business, including how the stores have turned into community centers will all the events that evo typically hosted before COVID.
“With this partnership we can focus on what we enjoy while working together to offer things like the Season Pass, a service partnership that includes complimentary waxing, tunes and binding mounts,” Austin said.
Season is launching with three ski and three snowboard models. A key tenant of the brand is to increase the lifespan of the product.
“The materials used in skis and snowboards are durable, they always have been,” Austin said. “Marketing creates the short lifespan – annual graphics that highlight what is ‘new’ and what is ‘old’ fuels an unsustainable future.”
Season will extend the lifespan of its products by keeping a consistent aesthetic and offering the service component.
Because of the partnership with evo, Season is getting much more play both in evo stores and on its website then a new brand would typically receive. That exposures includes Season artwork being represented in gallery spaces in evo stores and with custom product displays.
Evo has had somewhat similar partnerships with brands in the past. With Oyuki, a winter accessories brand from Niseko, Japan, evo manages North American marketing and covers some operational costs in return for exclusive distribution rights in the region.
“Oyuki gets volume and a presence in a key marketing without the need to invest in a US wholesale business,” Ben of evo said. “And evo gets exclusive and different products to offer our customers.”
In Europe, Season’s exclusive retail partner is Blue Tomato, which is owned by Zumiez.
Update on Sales Trends at evo
While learning more about evo’s relationship with Season, we also asked the evo team about current sales trends in addition to early reads on snow product.
We last talked to evo in June, and sales were very strong then. Has the strong demand continued?
Evo CEO Bryce Phillips: Thankfully, it has. We really could not have imagined that business would have turned out in the way that it has. Mid-March we were assuming a pronounced hit to sales and margin. However, we ended up having an extraordinary first quarter (April – June) with triple digit web comp increases. Stores also came back strong once we could open.
Q2 and the start of Q3 have been very strong, yet not as wild as Q1 online. We were unsure how the market would respond to snow given the reticence surrounding mountain operations but knew for certain that the spirit of what was driving mountain bike, surf, skate, wake and camping would be as strong as ever.
Fortunately, the snowboard and ski market turned on and business is very good right now across all brick-and-mortar locations as well as on evo.com.
Any interesting trends about what people are buying?
Director of Merchandising Steve Osborn: Through summer and even into fall, we’ve continued to see strong demand across bike, wake, surf and skate. Although inventory shortages have been a challenge, customers are still gravitating towards activities where they can enjoy the outdoors safely, whether with friends, family or solo.
Is evo getting early reads on the snow business? If so, anything surprising thus far?
Director of Merchandising Steve Osborn: Probably no surprise here but the biggest standout is backcountry. We have seen an absolute surge in early demand for splitboard, alpine touring and backcountry safety equipment. Customers are buying this product much earlier than they would in a normal year and we saw demand kick off well before fall.
Even with the brick-and-mortar lockdowns in the spring, will evo’s 2020 sales be higher than last year because of the increased demand for outdoor goods?
CEO Bryce Phillips: We are trending towards a significant year-over-year sales increase through this fiscal year which ends March 31st.
That said, there is still plenty of uncertainty ahead so we can’t let our guard down.