As Zimmermanns celebrates our 50th anniversary this season we’d like to share some of our secrets to success. As retail giants like Toy’s R Us and Sports Authority are forced to shut their doors due to a changing marketplace and the proliferation of Online competition like Amazon, we are often asked how can a business like Zimmermanns—a single-location, family-owned, specialty retail store able to stand the test of time?
Here is how we’ve been doing it for 50 years.
In business your reputation is everything. You want to have brand name recognition, when our loyal customers see the leaves starting to turn and feel a chill in the air, most of them think, “It is time to go to Zimmermanns.” For many of our customers this is the only store they’ve ever shopped at for ski gear, for other customers they have had poor service at other shops and now Zimmermanns is their home. After doing some market research of customers NEW to Zimmermanns, we’ve found that nearly all of them were referred here by a friend, neighbor, or family member. None of that would be possible if our customer service wasn’t above and beyond the competition.
Knowledge and Experience:
The most important part of our job is getting out there and testing the products we carry. How do you know which $599 all-mountain ski is the best for your ability level? No offense: But you probably don’t. We can steer you in the right direction because we’ve tried them all. Which jacket is the warmest? Which base layer, gloves, socks, or goggles are the best? We know because we’ve tried them all. Many brands we carry we have carried for years because of their quality and reliability, when a hot new brand comes out we try it and test it before we ever consider carrying it. Having customers return year after year is largely because they know we will help guide them toward making the right choice in the winter gear they need.
Competitive Pricing and Providing Value:
One of the hardest parts of thriving in the Amazon Era is dispelling the myth that “everything” is cheaper Online. There are rules put in place for all retailers both brick-and-mortar and Online that certain products cannot be advertised at a discounted price until a certain date. Therefore, everyone has to play by the same rules. As a result, we regularly meet or beat advertised pricing you’ll find elsewhere. A ski boot that we carry for $399 will be the same price Online—the difference is that if you buy the boots from us, you won’t pay any tax, shipping, or fees for us to mold them and customize them to your feet. Any boots we sell are part of our “performance guarantee” and the peace-of-mind that you are getting the right boot for your ability level and your foot shape is priceless, plus, any adjustments or customization you may need down-the-line is FREE. Good luck finding that from an Online retailer.
Similarly, at Zimmermanns we pride ourselves on providing the best “value” to our customers. There are many skis that sell for well over $1,000, but we don’t carry them. It is not that those skis are “bad,” but we’ve spent our time finding skis that are comparable for significantly less money. When we test and buy products for the store, we always have value first and foremost on our minds. Why spend over a grand on a certain ski when you can get an equal or better one for a fraction of the price?
Honesty and Integrity:
The honesty and integrity aspect of running a successful business ties into customer service, but worth mentioning on its own. We pride ourselves on not being sleazy car salesmen. No one on our staff works on commission, so when you are talking to one of our staff members about any product in our store, it matters less to us if you buy it, but if you do buy it we want to make sure you are 100% satisfied with your purchase and it will perform as needed when you are out on the hill. Part of this means we are honest to a fault. If we can simply replace a broken part of your binding, instead of buying a new one you may not need—our philosophy you’ll remember that honesty and integrity when a friend asks for a recommendation or you are ready to buy new winter products. What goes around comes around.
Do Something Better Than the Competition:
A business must be unique to be successful. Unfortunately, you can’t be everything to everyone. That is one of the reasons some of those big retail chains are no longer able to stay viable. You have to find what makes your business special and make sure you do that better than the competitors. One of the notable ways Zimmermanns sets itself apart from the competition is our enormous seasonal ski and snowboard rental program. Kids are constantly growing and it rarely makes sense to buy equipment for a nine-year-old that will quickly outgrow their new equipment. We noticed a void in this market years and years ago, and for over a decade we have been growing to have one of the largest and best rental fleets in all of New England.
Adapt to a Changing Market:
When we opened in 1968 there was no Internet, moreover, color televisions had only been introduced a few years earlier. Back then all of our advertising was done via print, because thats how people got their news. All of that has changed, and while our reputation and word-of-mouth has done most of the heavy lifting for us for the past few decades, we’ve had to adapt to the meet the technology age that we currently live in. We’re very active on social media, Yelp, and updating our own website so people can find out what they need to know about Zimmermanns from the comfort of their own home, or right from your Smartphone. This year we’ve also started Z-TV to highlight certain products we carry. As technology changes, and consumer habits evolve, a successful business must adapt and change with the times to suit the market and how people shop.
50 years is a big milestone that we’re very proud of. But Zimmermanns’ feels like we are just getting started! So come down soon to check out some of our mind-blowing 50th anniversary inspired deals. If you haven’t checked us out yet then swing by soon to check out our selection and meet the second-to-none staff that makes this all possible. Either way, we look forward to seeing you soon.
Just do us one favor–think snow.