In October 1988, Fred and Denise Coriell opened the doors to their family-operated, seasonal brick-and-mortar ski shop on Killington Access Road, just one mile from the lifts at the infamous Killington Resort in Vermont. What started as a modest 1500 sq ft retail space has expanded to over 3100 sq ft and an online store that’s ranked by Google Analytics as one of the Top 5 Online Race Ski Shops. Since 1989, Peak Performance Ski Shop has continually made the annual prestigious SKI Magazine Top 50 list, securing their place as one of the world’s leading international ski shops.
Taking the Leap
Fred and Denise’s passion for skiing, in addition to their children’s participation in ski racing events, ignited their drive to open a ski specialty store, where quality race skis and gear could be easily acquired. Today, Peak Performance Ski Shop offers master boot fitting, expert ski tuning and repair, up-to-date race ski information, high quality rental experiences, and good advice from their team of expert staff, all of whom are skiers and former ski racers. For many years, however, their highly valued services were restricted to a small shop in Vermont.
Looking to expand their brick-and-mortar retail space and attract a wider audience, Founders Fred and Denise opened an online store with OSCommerce in 2006, but found success hard to come by. “We found it difficult to administrate, and just did not get the business out of that online store that we had hoped for. Our business really started taking off in 2007-08 when we opened our Shift4Shop online store!”
The ski specialty store, formerly open for only 6 months out of the year during the Northern Hemisphere Winter season, now operates 12 months a year, with as many as 18 employees during the winter months, since having switched to Shift4Shop. Today, 40% of their business is online, with sales increasing every passing year.
Tools of the Trade
Peak Performance Ski Shop’s founders rely on social media marketing, high-quality content creation, blogging, and search engine optimization to fuel their online store’s global presence. “Search engine optimization has yielded the greatest results, with content creation and blogging walking hand in hand with SEO,” says Fred. “Social media marketing has helped us to brand our image and to communicate with our customers.”
The ski shop additionally relies on a number of built-in tools and apps offered by Shift4Shop’s comprehensive platform to support their day-to-day business operations, including 3dFeedback, Abandoned Carts Notification, Autoresponder, Bongo Checkout, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Endica, Facebook Connect, FraudWatch, Gift Registry, Google Analytics, Product Reviews, reCaptcha, Recently Viewed Items, Related Products, Scheduled Scripts, Stats, Wish List, and World Ship.
Fred and Denise also utilize a number of third party applications and integrations to enhance their Shift4Shop store, such as Constant Contact, Bufferapp.com, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, NPC Merchant Systems for credit card processing, Paypal, Shopatron, Quivers, Amazon, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.
Their packing and shipping process has also evolved over the course of the business’s 25 year lifespan. “We went from everyone in the shop pitching in to ship orders as they came in, to an actual shipping manager and shipping department that does nothing but shipping all day long,” says Fred. Today, Fred and Denise ship their products using UPS Worldship and USPS, providing customers across the globe with their quality collection of high performance skis and race skis, ski boots, bindings, as well as ski accessories and a fine selection of outdoor clothing and performance outerwear for skiing.
Physical tools are also a necessity for the Vermont ski shop, particularly ski tuning machines, which like all machinery, has evolved at a rapid pace. Today, Peak Performance Ski Shop sports a 2015 Wintersteiger Mercury Ski Tuning machine, the preeminent ski tuning machine in the industry. In order to maintain the highest standards and provide the best service possible, the ski shop requires their technicians to perform annual binding certifications tests, and additionally staffs a Pedorthist for expert boot work.
“Helping you ski your best is the most important thing we have to do today,” says Fred, and their impressive collection of tools ensures they’re able to live up to any customer’s expectation.
A Bumpy Slope
Although Peak Performance Ski Shop now boasts a successful physical and online storefront, their 25+ year journey started off on a bumpy road, littered with obstacles and challenges. As is the case for many entrepreneurs, their biggest challenge arrived in the early days of their business’s lifespan.
“When we initially opened, we had a difficult time getting vendors to sell to us,” Fred recalls. “The ski industry is very territorial and the Killington Access Road is loaded with ski shops, all of which had the best products ‘locked down’ already, so many of the vendors would not sell to us because a shop next door already sold their product.”
The ski shop also faced a difficult time transitioning their brick and mortar business to the digital age, where the physical store became a showroom for digital shopping. “Equally challenging was competing on price with other online retailers until the vendors put rules into place prevent deep discounting and help hold prices and value.”
Despite these hurdles, the small ski shop persevered, growing and thriving in one of the most competitive markets. In their more than a quarter century lifespan, Peak Performance Ski Shop has had two major expansions (1993 and 1999) and two major renovations (2003 and 2013)
Words of Advice
With 25+ years in the ski industry and over eight years of managing a successful online store, Fred and Denise are ready and able to provide customers around the world with a level of service that’s hard to match.
When asked what advice they’d like to share with new store owners, Fred had these wise words to share:
- “Never, ever, ever give up!
- The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.
- Invest in content creation, search engine optimization and social media marketing, and use Shift4Shop for your online store!”