Okay. So after this previous weekend (see post below), I was able to come to a clear and definitive decision regarding the question of whether to open a Snoloha retail location.
I relied on my 12 years of retail experience before launching Snoloha, my wife’s thoughts (I’d need her support) and the input of several close friends and colleagues as I weighed the pros and cons.
Visibility & Location in downtown Traverse City
Size of the space is ideal (small)
Lease is fair (price and length)
Added exposure will lead to more website traffic
4th sales channel (in addition to online, other retailers and Europe)
Ability to see first hand customer reaction to the brand, what items and designs sell best, and instant feedback
Retail store to double as a warehouse for online sales
Location (yes, it’s a pro and a con, I’ll explain below)
So, looking at the pros and cons (there are other variables to consider, but for the sake of keeping this simple let’s focus on what’s listed), it would appear that the logical decision is to open a retail store. The pros outweigh the cons.
First, let me explain the location. This particular space is in a prime spot in downtown Traverse City (pro). During the busy tourist months there will be plenty of foot traffic and visibility (pro)…assuming we have a strong tourist season, that is (uh-oh). Which is why the location is also a con. Being located in a seasonal tourist destination means a small window of opportunity to begin with (con), plus having to rely on three good months of tourist traffic (con). Bad summer equals bad bottom line. That’s the “Catch 22” of retail in downtown Traverse City.
I know, I know. That’s part of the risk in involved in opening a retail store.
Though the pros outweighed the cons, ultimately what made my decision was two-fold…experience and lifestyle (along with a very blunt email from a good friend).
Let me explain…
The first part:
I spent 12 years “on the other side of the counter”, as I like to call it. Meaning I worked the retail hours. The holidays, weekends and nights. I’ve dealt with the customers and the employees. The events you have to participate in. The hours you’re required to be open. The day after Thanksgiving madness and the day after Christmas returns nightmare. Those are many of the same reasons I decided to leave that side of retail in the first place and go back to college.
The second part:
I decided to launch Snoloha and take the entrepreneurial leap, not because I was seeking to try and get rich, but because I wanted to live a certain lifestyle and I believed (still do) in the concept of the Snoloha brand. I wanted to have the flexibility to go sailing in the middle of the day on any given day. I wanted to have the ability to watch college football on Saturdays. I wanted to enjoy the holidays. I wanted to experience a weekend like this past one (snowboarding on Saturday and snowshoeing on Sunday). That’s the whole point of being your own boss. That’s the whole point of the Snoloha concept…enjoying life ‘somewhere between the islands and the arctic’. This is a lifestyle company, after all. Going back to retail hours would not allow me the flexibility of being my own boss and participating in a lifestyle that I’m promoting. I would be at the store on Saturdays and Sundays this summer. No impromptu sailing excursions. I’d be working the holiday hours and all the downtown events. The best time of the year in Traverse City is the time I’d be required to staying within those four walls.
I’m pretty sure I’d go crazy.
So there you have it. Based on experience and a preferred lifestyle, I’ve decided not to open a store.
I’m going to continue concentrating my growth online, through other retailers (such as Aloha Ski and Snowboard in Park City, Utah that just placed their order last week), and with my licensee in Europe. I feel good about this decision. Sure a retail store could be a nice shot in the arm for the brand and it’s growth. But, I’d rather continue an organic growth strategy that allows me flexibility. I believe the brand will be stronger as a result.
Thoughts? Share ’em.