Ski holidays are still expensive, it is a sport for the few given the prices of the flats, the rental and the ski pass. It is a whole budget for the families, and according to the French Observatory of inequalities, “the minimum budget for one week of ski holidays for a family is worth three months of SMIC (French minimum wage)”.
First, ski gear involves high quality materials specific for winter sports, the skis must be flexible, light and reliable, as for the suits, the jackets must be warm, light and water repellent.
What about the brands?
Brands such as Patagonia, the North Face and Napapijri, specializing in ski jackets are famous in the world of skiing. These brands are known for designing high quality outwear with Gore Tex, a material water proof, wind proof and breathable. But the products are unaffordable for the most of us…
We asked Patagonia about their strategy related to the arrival of new competitors on the market but unfortunately, they refused to answer our questions.
To widen the access to ski holidays, some brands are now selling ski equipment at competitive prices.
We interviewed Wed’ze, Decathlon’s brand specializing in ski and snowboard clothing:
I LOVE SKI: Wed’ze was created in 2006, why didn’t you keep the name Décathlon? At the beginning, did you want to specialize in ski clothing?
Pauline: Wed’ze is Quechua’s little sister, and Quechua produces mountain sport equipment and more specifically hiking clothing.
In 2006 we decided to divide it into two brands, Wed’ze for winter sports and Quechua for trail running, hiking and climbing.
Decathlon’s trademarks are called « Passion brands ». Each has its own identity and specializes in one domain (Kalenji, Tribord, Quechua, Wed’ze, Domyos…).
I LOVE SKI: The prices of Wed’ze are surprisingly low, how can you have such pricing? The head headquarters are located in the Alps, do you relocate to reduce your costs?
Pauline: Our Company is entirely based in the Alps, we share expertise with the other “Passion brands”, and thanks to mass production we keep prices as low as possible, our goal is to produce equipment accessible to all.
Our headquarters are located in Haute Savoie, in the valley du Mont Blanc next to the slopes. And our products are created, designed and tested in our offices. As for the production, we work with company with massive production capability: Asian firms for textiles and European ones for materials.
I LOVE SKI: As for the “hard” material, junior skis range from 95 euros, which material do you use to keep prices so low?
Pauline: As for ski materials, there are very few suppliers. Technical knowledge is a prior requirement, and in most cases we all have the same partners, consequently Wed’ze does not have its own specific material, our two goals are accessibility and quality.
I LOVE SKI: And what do you think about the new market competitors? Do you plan to reduce your prices?
Pauline: Actually, if we have new competitors it proves that the market is going well and that we have a broader target audience.
Our keywords are accessibility and quality, it is a challenge for us, the growth of the market is a proof that more people can go skiing and with a good equipment.
I LOVE SKI: Do you devote a sizeable budget to Research and Development? Do you have examples?
Pauline: Innovation is a key element for Decathlon’s trademarks. We have our own research laboratory and a team of skilled engineers seeking innovative solutions to respond market needs.
I LOVE SKI: We know that your teams test the products? Does it help the vendors? Is it really an added value and does it help them to provide good customer advice?
Pauline: Exactly, in fact if our vendors test the material they can share their experience with the customers. And our customers can even test our skis at the High Test Decathlon: in some the Decathlon shops, we lend the equipment for a day or a weekend so the costumers can test the product and be sure to make the right choice.
We call it the democratization of the “hard” product, more families can afford ski equipment, and it saves them from renting their gear each time they go skiing.
Lidl has also launched a brand of sportswear called Crivit, a low cost clothing line with a varied range of ski suits.
After the launch of the Crivit’s catalogue in Spain, we interviewed Arantxa Conde at Lidl’s Communication Services, Spain. “Every year, at the beginning of the winter season we launch a campaign for Cirvit and it has always been successful. The sales begin on a fixed date and end when we run out of products. And the garments are subjected to quality inspections, we guarantee the same quality as the other brands of the sector with lower prices thanks to Lidle’s business model. It consists in centralized purchasing resulting in economies of scale and therefore in lower final prices.
We have suppressed all unnecessary costs that do not bring an added value to the product”. And if Crivit does not have a “hard” equipment range yet, it may be the new goal of the company…
And the multinational H&M has even launched its own winter sport clothing line: A booming market full of opportunities…