China is pushing to swell their winter sports business to a $145 billion market for the 2022 Winter Olympics – and Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. is looking to jump on that ride.
Nick Gilson, CEO and founder of the Winfield business, said they hope to export their products to China by fall.
Gilson recently went on a trip to China to discuss distribution, partnerships, and retail sales from a tip he got from Noelle Long, director of SEDA-Council of Governments’ (SEDA-COG) Export Development Program. A state Global Access Program grant helped to fund Gilson’s fact-finding sales trip. The Pennsylvania trade representative in China helped identify contacts and arrange meetings. The U.S. Commercial Service provided insight into various concerns such as e-commerce and intellectual property.
Gilson found that China is serious about this push, and intends to get 300 million people into winter sports by the next winter Olympics.
“It means that over the next five years, more than 90 percent of the growth of winter sports will be in China,” Gilson said. “We recognize the importance of partners and great relationships in China, and we’re learning more about the opportunity and potential partners as we enter the market.”
To accommodate and assist this growth, close to 100 resorts are set to open per year in China, and five additional resorts are being built to total 12 in Chongli alone, the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
A high-speed bullet train also will be built to connect Beijing to Chongli to reduce a 4-hour drive to a 48-minute ride. “So, you’re going from Beijing to a condo in the mountains without touching a car within an hour,” Gilson said.
They plan to match that momentum with their own.
“It’s clear the Chinese government is investing in winter sports, and we are just as excited to be part of that growth in China,” he said.
He’s planning a follow-up trip soon to China.
Gilson emphasized they are not looking to manufacture in China. “The plan is to continue to produce in central Pennsylvania and distribute to China to support marketing activities. The brand equity is here, and it wouldn’t be worth the loss and grassroots nature of our company to manufacture in China.
“We’re very happy to be part of this country, and central Pennsylvania is such a good place to manufacture. It’s the people, it’s the community. The people are wonderful and incredibly skilled; everyone wants to see our efforts succeed and have taken us under their wing. It’s an incredible experience to be based here,” Gilson said.
In five years, Gilson has gone from teaching in a classroom to starting this business in a stable, to now owning the fastest-growing snowboard company in the world. Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co. designs and builds snowboards and skis that have wood cores shaped from locally grown and sustainably harvested Pennsylvania Poplar trees. Their products are crafted start-to-finish under one roof at the Gilson Snowboard & Ski Farm in the Appalachian foothills at 6985 New Berlin Highway, Winfield.
Gilson’s partnership with the SEDA-COG Export program has historically yielded high success, and he expects future positive results from this effort, as well. Gilson’s international presence has grown in the United Kingdom, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. Gilson previously leveraged SEDA-COG’s expertise to export to Australia to spread their sales year-round since their winter is during the summer months here. Gilson currently is the highest growth snowboard search term in Australia, up over 500 percent, he said.
Noelle Long, director of SEDA-COG’s Export program, described what makes Gilson successful. “Gilson’s success really stems from their determination and strategy. I find the most successful companies are those that have a diversified portfolio, commitment to a solid plan, and leverage the business service provider network throughout the region. Gilson is a perfect example of one of the companies,” Long said.
Gilson looks forward to continuing his partnership effort with SEDA-COG. “SEDA-COG staff are very good at their jobs, and they’re also just great people. One of our core values is to work with great people and great companies, and our relationship with SEDA-COG underscores that core value,” Gilson said.
The SEDA-COG Export Development Program serves central Pennsylvania’s businesses and communities by encouraging and facilitating economic development through growth in world trade. SEDA-COG is the designated Regional Export Network partner through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Office of International Business Development. This program is funded by the World Trade PA line item in the commonwealth’s budget.
The Global Access Program is designed to enhance the capability of small to mid-sized Pennsylvania companies to increase export sales. The program is administered by the state Office of International Business Development. The program is partly funded through a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
For more information on Gilson Snowboard & Ski Co., visit www.gilsonsnow.com. For more information on the SEDA-COG Export program, visit www.seda-cog.org/export.