In a recent blog I mentioned that there is a spark in the eye when I talk to people about the toboggan sled. It seems most everyone who grew up in Canada or Northern United States has a downhill tobogganing memory. However, not many have a new heirloom they have purchased in the past decade, other than our customers that is. Stories usually refer to a toboggan they got from their grandparents or parents or just something that they have had for years, passed down from some place or another.
What happened? Why does nearly everyone have a toboggan memory, and so few have an actual toboggan?
One large culprit is consumerization and the rise of cheap material. Injection molding and other plastic product manufacturing processes have flooded the market with plastic downhill sleds for the past few decades. While they last a short period of time, they are convenient to buy, store, and to get rid of without emotional attachment.
Along with this trend came a change in pricing expectations. The cost to make a quality wooden sled is higher. Picking the appropriate boards, prepping them, bending, drying, assembling, sanding, and varnishing is a bit more involved than pouring molten plastic into a form to harden. Historically, people would think of buying a toboggan as a long term purchase, so pricing was viewed through a different lens. It was an investment of joy for their family for years to come. But with the shift to a convenience culture, one needs a sled now and for cheap.
It is important to call out that the perspective of convenience is also very much driven by the retailers, the ones selling the sleds. Repeat business is important to them. The convenience of storing plastic sleds is helpful for warehousing. And there is a need to create a high margin, which means the retailers need to keep their cost down to cheaper products. While it is not a vendetta towards the traditional downhill toboggan, it is something that has become the reality. So even if people want to find an heirloom quality product, their options at their favorite brick and mortar retailers are only those of convenience.
So what do we do about it? How are we competing with throw-away culture and alternatives to our heirloom wooden toboggans? How can we extend our Toboggan Revival initiative into the downhill sledding market?
Storytelling! No matter what, there are still many people who get nostalgic with that spark in their eye when they see a toboggan. At Northern Toboggan Co we are sharing the stories of our customers and creating more images and videos to inspire memories. Over the past years there has been a resurgence of people who are once again interested in where their products come from. Many want to know who makes their goods and about their lives and the processes they use. So it is quite simple...
We will continue to be who we have been for over 23 years, do a better job of sharing this family story, and the Toboggan Revival will come.