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How I got here: Sorel's Nathalie Snowden on hitting the slopes

The sales and marketing manager for UK & Ireland at footwear brand Sorel brings the same fearless attitude to fashion that saw her triumph as a championship snowboarder.

Nathalie Snowden

Nathalie Snowden

Sorel sales and marketing manager (UK & Ireland), Nathalie Snowden

As soon as my alarm goes off I start to think about the day ahead – what’s in store, what I need to do and what I will be wearing. I like to fly the flag for Sorel and wear the brand every day, choosing the style depending on whomI’m seeing. We work with a variety of retailers from high-end fashion names like Matchesfashion.com and Net-a-Porter, to outdoor wear specialists likes Snow + Rock and Ellis Brigham.

I’ve worked in marketing over the Columbia Sportswear and Sorel footwear brands for the past six years, but in November I was promoted to a new role looking after both the sales and marketing for Sorel in the UK. So, whereas before I was working on two different marketing plans across two separate brands, now I’m focused on driving Sorel’s sales, marketing/PR, branding, developing new product lines, merchandising and general business growth in the UK.

I have learnt from the salespeople I’ve worked with over the past six years at Columbia how to prepare myself, and I think my background in marketing helps me present the range to buyers. Learning how to use Salesforce has been the main thing I’ve had to get to grips with, and I also started my new role in the middle of the selling season, so I’ve had to learn to prioritise what’s important.

I commute to central London from Buckinghamshire most days in the selling season, as in September we opened a new showroom in a beautiful, historic converted school in Clerkenwell. I like to spend Monday at home going through my admin and organising the week ahead.

The most important part of my job is interacting with people. In-house I manage a sales and marketing team made up of three reps and agents. I also have daily calls with the sales team at our parent company Columbia in Europe, putting marketing plans together and working on customer insights, as well as liaising closely with head office in the US on wider marketing and sales strategy.

Externally I schedule meetings with buyers from the 100 accounts we work with in the UK, such as John Lewis, Blacks, Ultimate Outdoors and JD Williams, trying to get out for meetings every week. Outside of those key accounts I want to explore opportunities with department stores, independents, etailers and boutiques. I also have meetings with the teams at the three PR agencies we work with on our trade and consumer press.

While Sorel has three US stores, we don’t have any standalone retail in the UK, but watch this space. We know it will take us time to find the right place and staff, and logistically we’re a small team in the UK, but we could be looking at opening British retail in 2017.

One of the great things at Columbia is the space given for creativity. The company is very supportive and trusts me to try new things. This season, for example, I helped organise focus groups in London and Manchester, inviting customers to give us feedback on the range, which was really useful.

I started my career as a snowboarder, so Sorel is a little reminder of my snowy home. Coming originally from Grenoble in the French Alps, where it’s normal to start skiing when you’re around four, I was always on the slopes. Then one day, when I was 17, I saw a snowboarder for the first time and I loved it instantly. I dedicated as much of my free time as I could to the sport and, within a year, I was competing in freestyle Big Air competitions.

I looked for new options in the industry when I was aged 19. I had an accident and broke my back after going too high with a trick on my board, which left me in a corset for six months. 

I’ve always found the snowboarding scene was very fashion conscious, with competitors spending a great deal of time picking out the best clothing to co-ordinate with their signature board colours and accessories.

In 1999, I started working for snowboard sponsor Original Sin, part of board brand Dynastar Skis, in Chamonix, doing live demos, photoshoots, planning ski shows and events. I used to recruit teams to do the shows, managing up to 20 riders. I was also responsible for product design of the team’s snowboard outfits and boards, working on different trends and customer insight.

I left Dynastar to move to London in 2006, because I fell in love with an Englishman. I love London because style is so important here, with everything from street style to high fashion referencing sports-luxe. My first job in UK retail was as a concession manager at women’s surf and snowboard brand Roxy in House of Fraser on Oxford Street, where I learnt a lot about working in a high-footfall store.

Most of Sorel’s customers who buy our winter boots share a genuine interest in snowboarding, as well as excitement for the ski season. Fully understanding, from experience, the technical requirements of a snowboarder also helps me explain the attributes of our shoes.

I have learnt to always be positive and honest. People are quicker to warm to you that way. A smile helps too. Be pro-active and don’t be afraid of doing things differently if you feel it’s right, but also brave enough to know when it’s not.

The last thing I do at night is read a bedtime story to my two children, Leo (7) and Lucy (4). Then, I can easily lose an hour on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook before I go to sleep.

Plan B

Well, it’s probably too late now to relaunch my snowboard career…Seriously though, I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing right now.

Career

November 2015-present Sales & marketing manager, UK & Ireland, Sorel

2009-November 2015 Marketing manager, UK & Ireland, Columbia Sportswear 

2007-2008 - Recruitment consultant, Rockford

2005 - 2006 - Roxy concession manager, House of Fraser, Oxford Street

2002-2005 - Snowboard brand manager, Dynastar Rossignal International, France

1999-2002 - Snowboard junior product manager, Dynastar Rossignal, France

2000-2002 - Elected president of the Association Nationale Snowboards

1999 - Competing snowboard athlete freestyle/big air competition and contracted to Dynastar, Billabong and Smith Sunglasses

 

 

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