Arbor Snowboarding Doubles Down on Product, Expands Staff
The former Vans global snow and MTE category manager’s fascination with gear and how it’s developed and marketed is helping the newly appointed GM as he oversees a leadership makeover across sales, marketing, and product aimed at growth.
“The potential for this brand has yet to be really reached or tapped,” Patti said. “The consumer interest continues to be there. The appetite is there for the brand and product, but maybe it wasn’t organized to reach that potential.”
The introspection comes as Arbor Snowboarding licensee Kent Outdoors pumps investment into the business in a bid to solidify and expand its presence in the outdoors. Kent, owned by private equity firm Seawall Capital, has made a series of steps to further those ambitions, including the 2021 acquisitions of paddleboarding business Bote and Kona Bicycles, followed by last year’s rebrand from Kent Watersports to Kent Outdoors. Last month, Kent said it’s relocating its headquarters from Seattle, Washington to Park City, Utah.
The focus on the outdoors in the broader organization has meant for Arbor, mostly notably, a series of hires and promotions to bolster the team infrastructure and support future expansion.
That began with Patti’s appointment in March. It marked a return for the executive who left Arbor in 2016 after more than a decade to first serve as Vans’ global category manager for snow before being promoted to snowboarding and MTE senior global category manager.
“We had built a blueprint at Vans on the snow program, and I think we executed at a very high level both on snowboard boots and MTE,” Patti said. “This isn’t snowboard boots and this isn’t Vans, so it’s not a one to one (comparison). But for me it was really exciting to say, ‘OK, cool, we have this really good playbook and this program. Let’s bring it back to a place that I’m very familiar with, even though the brand today is quite different from the brand I left several years ago.’ Being able to transport these things from larger organizations into medium-sized organizations can be transformative and that was what I was really excited to do.”
New Talent, Fresh Perspectives
The latest hirings and promotions drive home that point, with Patti spending the past several months finding the right people to fill key positions.
That’s included Scott Klameki’s promotion to international sales manager. There’s also been the additions of Trevor Brady, who’s previously worked at K2 Snowboarding, Burton, and Milosport in Salt Lake City, in the new position of North American sales manager; Jack Stevens, previously of Foundry Distribution, as sales coordinator; and Sky Ceballos, former Venice Arbor retail employee, as customer service and warranty representative.
Within marketing, Patti brought on Cale Meyer as director of marketing and Mike Yoshida as retail marketing manager. Eddie Wall, previously part of Arbor Snow’s product team, was promoted to product marketing manager.
Meanwhile, Patti reunited with Garrett Gibb, previously part of Vans’ development team for snowboard boots and MTE, and now Arbor senior manager of product design.
“At this point, everyone is really excited about what we think we can do together in terms of bringing the brand to the next phase of its lifecycle,” Patti said.
Arbor Snow’s Big-Picture Goals
Arbor is privately held and doesn’t disclose financial details, but Patti said the objective is to grow revenue to something “meaningfully more” than the current total. The point, however, is not to “be a brand of a certain size (revenue),” he said.
“They’re (financials) not bad today, but there are big pieces of our business where we’re currently underserving,” Patti said. “Our DTC business is one of them that we haven’t meaningfully turned on at this point. International, too.”
Kent Outdoors is in the process of building out an EMEA platform to support the brands under its umbrella. That could be beneficial to Arbor as it focuses on continuing to develop the European market over the next couple years.
Plans also call for the opening of an Arbor test center in Hokkaido, Japan that would be open to the public. The center would offer Arbor history and also include a coffee shop and boards for riders to test.
“It’s not a purchase center,” Patti said. “Hokkaido’s one of the meccas of snowboarding. For us it’s taking this first step and trying to connect Arbor and our consumers to Hokkaido in a new, unique way – especially one where we’re not trying to sell you a board. You just come enjoy it, ride it, and have a great day.”
The test center is currently slated for a December opening.
Product Line Refinement and Marketing
In wholesale, the strategy is driven by a focus on making the line more approachable to retailers.
That means reorganizing product into three consumer categories centered around directional shapes, traditional Arbor boards, and park and street aimed at the youth market.
“One of our objectives is to move up as a resource for (retailers),” Patti said. “If we’re No. 4 right now, how do we get to No. 3? What does it take to get to No. 2? That’s an overall (goal) right now for us.”
The product reorganization has helped trim some SKUs but will also inform what gets added into the line in the future, Patti said.
Women’s also has the potential to grow, although it’s early days.
“One of the things you’ll really see from us in the coming years is added consideration of how we grow and mature our women’s collection,” Patti said. “The product line there today is good. We don’t have everything we think we need. It’s going to take us a couple years to build that.”
Supporting all of the product newness will be a refined marketing strategy that Patti described as “enriched storytelling,” or fewer, more targeted campaigns.
While Patti brings experience from a larger company in Vans, he studies the broader business world for his approach to product strategy and development.
Building out key franchises is the pinnacle of those strategies. As he noted, everyone from Toyota to Apple employs that tactic.
In Arbor’s case, products such as the Coda and Swoon will be expanded to take advantage of their strength within the marketplace.
“These are principles that are executed in non-endemic spaces,” Patti said. “The same kind of principles apply here and it’s not that we want to franchise every product, but some of this has been around for a while. There’s a lot of brand name equity independently and so the idea is to expand them.”
For Patti, his long-time interest in product is what originally brought him to Arbor and what’s pushed him to study best practices beyond the industry for every role he’s taken on.
“I’ve just always had this fascination with gear. So, me trying to in some cases replicate some of these (ideas), sometimes they’ve worked and sometimes they haven’t but that’s my objective rather than follow the model of ‘This is what we do in snowboarding,’ which can be an echo chamber at times.”
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.