It’s a popular debate. But why? Why are people so passionate, one way or the other, about the choice to buy all your snowboarding gear online vs. buying locally? Let’s take a look at some of the issues and try to find out why.
The local snowboarding “scene”
Supporting the local scene. It’s important to support the local snowboard scene, right? Well first of all, what exactly do we mean by a snowboarding scene?
Your snowboarding scene is made up from all the snowboarding things in the area: the riders, the instructors, the shops, the competitions and events, the prevailing brands, and the slopes themselves. They all contribute, with the overall outcome being a vibe, a feel for snowboarding, attitudes, the direction of snowboarding in that area.
Why should you support that scene? Well, as much as snowboarding is about freedom of expression, and snowboarding to you should be exactly how you want it to be, the local scene will to some degree, affect your snowboarding. There are most likely elements of your local slope/hill/resort that you really enjoy – that encourage to you return there to snowboard.
You’re part of that scene. Without all of the contributing people, the snowboarding might not be the same, snowboarding itself might not be there. So if you like it, there’s something inherently good about giving something back, about supporting the local snowboarding community.
How important are the local stores? Independent shops, small brands – they’re part of the snowboarding representation in that area. They’re not the only part, but they are important. Snowboarding enthusiasts who choose to make snowboarding their business. They will enhance or contribute to the local vibe. They will sponsor and support some of the up-and-coming riders They’ll pay attention to what the local shredders are interested in, and at the same time, will have an effect on how the local scene is shaped.
Individual snowboarding scenes from all around the world, at the grass root level, made snowboarding what it is today. Should you support that scene now?
Local vs. Global?
Is this a choice of local vs. global? Is that an issue that snowboarders are interested in? If it is, who or what makes up the global element? The big brands? The big online retailers? The online only retailers – the ones without a store presence?
Why do we shop online? Choice: the Internet let’s us use a bug range of shope, without having to travel to them. Price: whether it’s due to less costs for the shops, the ability to hunt for a saving, or something else – people think they can find a good deal online. Comfort: you can browse the shops from home. Convenience: you can shope at any time of the day.
Without delving into the wider issue of the Internet itself, it’s fair to say that the Internet makes it easier to spread information, to reach a lot of people. It’s natural for shops and businesses to use the Internet, and it’s natural for consumers to be interested by the extra choice.
Is it fair to criticise the online stores as being global, and lacking in personality or snowboarding presence? In today’s world of online social networks, there’s a lot of activity surrounding online shops and resources. Forums, questions, people getting genuine help. Maybe that’s a scene in its own right. Just a different scene?
Are we saying that the local shops and the smaller, local brands, care more about snowboarding? That we should opt to give them our business, because the larger companies and predominently-online-retailers are more bothered about business than they are snowboarding? Is that the argument?
If so, I don’t agree with that, not fully. Maybe the guy who sets up a snowboard store near the local hill is more likely to be all about snowboarding than the somewhat anonymous online store, but that’s not guaranteed.
The bigger brands and bigger online stores do provide help for snowboarders. What I think is important, is that we don’t let the snowboarding shops and brands on the ground get swept away by a global snowboard market.
Whose “scene” are we talking about?
Does this apply to you? If you snowboard once per year, on a holiday, how much a part of the scene are you? How many people are there who really enojy snowboarding, but don’t submerge themselves that deeply in it? A lot.
Perhaps this change is at the heart of the matter. Snowboarding got big, or at least, it got bigger. It’s an industry. Big brands, uber pros earning shed loads of money, massive participation. Is it mainstream now?
And not everyone likes that. A lot of people were snowboarding way-back, when it wasn’t recognised as it is now. Do big brands and big on-line retailers signify an aspect of snowboarding they maybe wish didn’t exist. They prefer the core elements of snowboarding – riders, shops, brands, styles…
But with snowboarding being what it is now, it’s only sensible to accept that a bigger snowboarding market is going to attract more sellers, more players, big-market style offerings. And for a lot of snowboarders, those that aren’t as involved with a scene as others, this situation represents good choice, savings and access.
Snowboarding isn’t big enough to be like the consumer-electronics market, in which there’s almost no personality at all. But it is good and it is going to attract people. How do we deal with that if we don’t want to lose sight of the smaller players and local organisations that make snowboarding what it is, the way we like it?
So, should you buy at the local store on on-line?
That’s entirely up to you. I’ve got nothing against buying gear online. If you’re part of a strong snowboarding community or scene and you get a lot from it, maybe it’s nice to give something back, to support others in that community.
For many, access to snowboarding online brings them closer to snowboarding. They’re more involved, more engaged, they get stoked by snowboarding just the same. Is that anymore right or wrong than the girl who lives in resort and buys locally?
Personally: I’m not a pro, I don’t live and work in a resort, I’m not a seasonaire; but I do consider myself to be part of the snowboarding scene. I’m conscious of the benefits that I get from a local scene – despite me not being too local to it. To me, local is the UK slope that I ride at, the one store that’s within a few miles of my house, and the resorts that I like enough to return to. They’re my local outlets.
If my local store didn’t offer any of the snowboards I want, I wouldn’t want to compromise my choice and buy something different. I normally ask if they can “get something in”; if they can’t, I’m going to look elsewhere, I’m looking for 1 of 4 boards.
If one of these outlets can offer me what I’m interested in, I’m happy to buy from them, I like too. My decision of where to buy is effected by a desire to support the shops, brands and companies that I like, traded against how specific I am with the purchase at hand.
That’s how I make my choice. How do you make yours?