A family holiday sparked Rhythm Snowsports’ overseas expansion, which included a new website targeting skiers in Japan. Owner Mick Klima has five tips for businesses selling seasonal, winter products.
Seasonal businesses can be tricky; products sell like hotcakes for half the year and gather dust for the other half. Thankfully for Mick Klima, owner of ski gear business Rhythm Snowsports, a solution presented itself on a family holiday to Japan.
“It hadn’t occurred to me to sell our gear overseas until I saw what a massive gap there was in the Japanese market,” reveals Klima. “We were travelling with a company that provides guided trips to the mountains and found that, because Japanese are generally smaller than Westerners, the gear was often too small and the skis weren’t big and wide enough for the snow they have there.”
Overseas snow season opportunities
Klima pointed out the problems to the travel company, which sparked a discussion about Klima’s company, Rhythm Snowsports, providing gear for their clients in Japan.
Rhythm Snowsports had been selling snow sport equipment, accessories and clothing through a shop in Cooma, New South Wales, since 1985. “We said that if they could guarantee a certain amount of business coming our way, we’d go ahead,” recalls Klima. “We started with a small store in Japan and it just grew from there. Now we have three stores in Japan. The Westerner market wasn’t being catered to and we just filled that niche.”
This proved to be a perfect opportunity for the seasonal snow gear business, which can concentrate on the Australian and Japanese bricks-and-mortar outlets at different times of the year, while its e-commerce stores sell steadily throughout the year.
Selling snow gear online
Rhythm Snowsports launched the e-commerce side of its business in 2002, and Klima says “it’s been a slow burn”.
He says that online sales represent 10 per cent of Rhythm Snowsports’ Australian business and 40 per cent of its Japanese business. “Our products are pretty specialised; if you’re spending $1,000 on a jacket, you probably want to feel it, try it on, ask for advice. Eighty per cent of our online sales are snowboards, as our customers generally know what they want in that department.”
Klima says the main benefits of having an online store is marketing for the brand and providing an easy way for Australians to purchase from a familiar, Australian company overseas. However, he cautions that selling specialist equipment online is not necessarily easier than selling in the bricks-and-mortar stores.
“Where you might only have three staff working in the shop, you’ll need six people getting everything done for the online store,” he explains. “Having said that, when things get busy in the shop, you might need 30 staff, while there will still only be six working online, so things even out.”
In order to manage the e-commerce side of the business, Klima has hired a full-time employee, who is responsible for the programs and technical side of things. “There are a lot of processes you have to go through and a lot of software you have to stay on top of, because if you get a glitch and a snowboard sells for $6, you’re in trouble!” laughs Klima.
Dealing with fraudulent transactions
Rhythm Snowsports chose SecurePay as its payment gateway after experiencing problems with its previous payment gateway. “We decided to use Secure Pay after a number of years with a different online merchant facility,” reveals Marketing and Website Manager Caddie Rees. “We experienced a number of fraudulent transactions and were left out of pocket. We switched to SecurePay because of the FraudGuard technology and have not had any issues since.”
Thankfully, adds Klima, this keeps the online side of things running smoothly – leaving him time to plan for another ski trip to Japan.