Ever popped into a ski shop, found exactly what you wanted, but it turns out to be a little pricier than expected? It's happened to all of us at one point or another. Sometimes there is some room for movement on the price, sometimes there isn't. Navigating the discount request can be tricky and maybe even intimidating for some people. If you're unsure whether you should even ask for a discount, read on and grab some tips on what, and what not, to do to get that piece of gear just a little bit cheaper.
1. DO...Try to stick with one shop
Customer loyalty is a huge thing to a specialty retailer (ski shop). If we can count on a decent sized loyal customer base, it makes seasonal ordering easier, it makes trying out new brands easier, it makes training staff easier, etc. A good ski shop knows this and takes the time to establish good relationships with loyal customers. A good shop also knows that developing and maintaining these relationships isn't by luck. We make sure our loyal customers know they're appreciated through discounts and additional percentages off, preferential treatment with tunes, small freebies here and there, etc. We also know that we don't have EVERYTHING you may need
2. DON'T...Complain about pricing
In almost every instance, prices are made by the manufacturer. While we're able to adjust some prices, we, as dealers, must adhere to a dealer agreement and minimum advertised pricing policy for each vendor. We build our orders with an amount we're going to spend in mind, along with an amount we need to earn in mind. This is all based off of this type of pricing. The nature of our business is such that we have a very small window in which to make sales. Complaining about pricing does nothing to further your attempt to get things cheaper or to get a better deal. Unfortunately it typically has the reverse effect, pretty much ensuring that you'll never get a deal.
3. DO...Send people to your favorite shop
When someone walks in and tells me good ole' Tom Loyal Customer sent them in, I send out a mental high five to Tom, make sure to take extra good care of the new guy/gal, and then hook Tom up later for the new contact. Word of mouth is the single strongest and most effective form of marketing and advertising. Who else do you trust more than your friends?
4. DON'T...Ask for a discount from a shop you have no relationship with
A ski shop is not a car dealership. Most ski shops also are not massive chains or corporations. The majority of ski shops are like ours; small family owned businesses where every penny counts. Rolling up in a $70,000 SUV and asking "can you do any better" on a $35 beanie is rude and punch worthy. That $35 beanie cost the shop $20 and the $15 the shop is making on it is going to pay for the owner's kid's dance lessons, or boy scout trip, or the vacation they FINALLY get to take this year, or dinner and beer for the shop guys and girls because they've all worked 14 hour days for the past week with a smile on their face and haven't bitched once, or the new tuning machine that costs $250,000 but will give customers the best tune of their lives, etc. If you have the haggling bug and want to talk price on skis or higher priced items...ehh maybe. See #1.
5. DO...Bring beer
That's pretty much all there is to say about that one. It's pretty simple. We love beer, also Angie likes chocolate instead of beer so there's that.
6. DON'T...Expect a discount simply because you're buying a lot
Our cost doesn't change because you're outfitting the whole family. That being said, if the sales person has had a good experience with you and you're doing your best to stick to #1 above, 9 times out of 10 you're going to get a discount without asking when spending a good deal of money.
7. DO...Be nice
It can absolutely be that simple. A good rapport with the sales person can go a looooonnnnngggg way.
8. DON'T...Tell us you can get it from (evo.com, skis.com, thehouse.com, REI, shop down the street) for cheaper.
Great, go there. Get it cheaper. Threatening the shop with the loss of a sale is just poor form. In our case and when possible, we set our prices to be as competitive as we can be, while maintaining a profit margin. Let's be dead honest, we're in this because we love skiing and the outdoors, but we're also in this to make a living. Discounting every item repeatedly is a race to the bottom and eventually that practice will put a shop out of business.
9. DO...Drop a good review on Google (avoid Yelp, more on that in a later post)
We get notice of all of the reviews left for us. It's always awesome to hear when we do good job. It's nice to know that the energy and hard work we put in pays off. We know who leaves us the reviews and we like to thank them when we can and have the opportunity.
Hope this helps give a little insight into the other side of the retail world!
Patrick Ross is President and Owner of Tygart Mountain Sports. He holds BA degrees in Secondary Education Social Studies, History, and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Masters of History from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He's been an avid skier since early childhood and has more than 20 yrs experience in the ski industry.