Like the rest of the travel sector, the ski industry has been majorly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Batterski predominately supports local skiers and snowboarders to get their equipment ready for their ski holidays, with no one going skiing, we have seen a huge reduction in business this season. This is how we and other British ski companies have survived, adapted, thrived and died through COVID.
We were in La Tania when most resorts closed down in the first wave in March 2020. Unfortunately, we've not ventured back out to the Alps since, like most of our customers we did not want to risk the travel restrictions and isolation measures on return.
We have a lean business at Batterski so our overheads are relatively low. I run the business in the evenings and weekends alongside my day job as a recruitment advisor. We rent a small workshop in Bromley where we manage all of our ski and snowboard servicing activities. The workshop is the main outgoing cost of the business and everything else (servicing equipment) is based on projective sales that season. Many larger ski shops have the headache of large rental costs, staff salaries and huge amounts of equity locked up in stock, which haven't moved this year.
What Changed For Us?
From March 2020 to the end of that season we saw a 41% drop in ski servicing activities. This wasn't too bad as our peak times for ski servicing is January to March, so we only missed customers who planned trips for late March or Easter. However, the 2020-2021 season was significantly more affected by COVID with the majority of European resorts being closed or only open for local skiers. For the few resorts which were open for visitors, most British skiers didn't want to face the headache of navigating testing and quarantine. As a result we saw a 92% reduction in ski servicing activities for the 2020-2021 season Year on Year.
With no one going skiing, we had more time to focus on our après ski shop. With the public unable to spend their money on holidays or eating out, home improvements saw a huge uplift. We had time to focus on producing new products and new ways of marketing them to our customers. We had increased sales of 54% on our products in the 2020 season compared with the previous year. This did not compare to the sales we would have generated in ski servicing, but it was certainly a real lifeboat in surviving the almost non-existent ski season. We are so grateful to our customers who supported us over this period.
Who Was Hit?
Unfortunately there were a number of British ski companies who were not as fortunate as us and were unable to maintain trading through the pandemic:
The small scale British tour operator has been in operation for over 30 yrs, offering high end chalet holidays to 5 or 6 French resorts. In November 2020 they announced they went into administration and were to cease trading. The root cause being sporadic French lockdowns, a drop in booking behaviour and a lack of government support to cover their overheads. I've been on numerous Ski VIP tours and had fantastic service on all of them. It looks like MD Andy Sturt is looking for further financing to navigate a way out of administration; we wish him all the best.
One of the UK's largest operators made the decide to stop selling ski holidays altogether for the 2020-21 season. This was announced after the company tried to boost sales and confidence by offering 'COVID cover' to its customers.
Britains represent about 25,000 of season ski workers in Europe ranging from holiday reps, chefs, nannies and ski instructors. Many were left in limbo with employees unsure when or if they would head to the resort or begin training. Unfortunately most of them were left searching for jobs in other industries, as it became apparent that the 2021 ski season wasn't going to come to fruition.
Based out of Brighton, Ski Beat traditionally offer a catered chalet experience for British tourists. They have modified their business model to turn their 59 catered chalets into self-catered options, marketed to local European and French markets less constrained by travel restrictions.
The British ski brand creates ethically produced ski and streetwear. The brand has been around since 2009, but the business has really accelerated in the last few years. Planks have seen a 40% growth in sales year on year for 3 consecutive years, and £1.8m of sales in 2020. Whilst most ski companies were struggling to stay afloat during COVID Planks was growing in new territories, partnering with GB Snowsports and breaking into ASOS and Ellis Brigham stores. Planks are now in a funding round and have raised over £800k with a valuation of c.£4m. Check out more of about the Planks investment round on Crowdcube here.
We're looking forward to resorts in Europe opening back up next season and the British ski industry being in full flow again. If you've enjoyed this, take a look at our other blog posts here.