Schusser Makes Tracks Back Home
E-commerce analyst Brad Kopitz leaves Denver’s mountains for a tailor-made ski gig in Detroit.
Brad Kopitz will tell you he was born to ski. Even before age 2, he had a birds-eye view of the slopes courtesy of his father’s backpack. As soon as he could stand, he was grounded on skis, noting his father wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My Dad actually wouldn’t marry my mom until she learned to ski,” Kopitz says. “It’s pretty much a requirement to be part of our family.” His father, Steve Kopitz, agrees.
At 24, Kopitz has been able to marry his well-nurtured passion for skiing with an Internet marketing savvy — culled while living in Colorado — when he returned to Detroit and joined the family business, Summit Sports, as director of e-commerce marketing. The company operates five retail stores and 11 e-commerce sites.
The business, which Steve purchased more than 20 years ago, sells ski and other action sports equipment, and gets nearly 70 percent of its revenues from Web sales.
His ascension to lead Summit’s seven-member marketing team is not completely fraught with nepotism, as one might expect. Yes, he grew up working the retail floors and testing skis at Pine Knob and Nub’s Nob, but he earned his e-commerce chops elsewhere.
Kopitz headed for the Colorado slopes after high school graduation, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance from the University of Denver and landed a job at eBags.com, a major player in Internet sales. In his two years with eBags, he climbed from intern to marketing analyst.
Back home, Summit Sports was changing and thriving. The onetime 11-store operation contracted its brick-and-mortar outlets by more than half while it experienced upwards of 50 percent growth in e-commerce sales for three consecutive years.
“The business was exploding,” Kopitz says. “I saw a good opportunity there.”
What’s more, he said his heart was in the ski and snowboard industry — and in his hometown. “I really like Detroit, and I have a lot of faith that it’s coming back strong. I wanted to be a part of that.”
So when his father asked him to lead Summit’s burgeoning e-commerce division, he left Denver’s powdered slopes behind for Sylvan Lake, Mich. “It’s kind of a paradox that I had to give up great skiing to come back to work in the industry,” he says.
Steve Kopitz says he’s happy Brad joined Summit. “He combines a passion for the category with an understanding of the company and a fresh perspective” from cutting his e-commerce teeth outside the sports industry.
Summit’s e-commerce business model includes multi-focused websites that incorporate sales, reviews, product care information, videos and more. “We think about it like we run our shops,” Brad explains. “We do five to six categories, and we do them very well. We wanted to move that online.”
Kopitz explains that Summit puts a lot of stock in its employees’ knowledge of both the sport and the equipment; so the company won’t hire non-skiers to manage skis.com, for example. “They know what they promote,” he says. “Our goal is to give our online customers an experience that’s better than an in-store experience.”
And despite its online retail success, neither Kotpitz is prepared to jettison the retail arm of the business anytime soon. Summit’s Brighton, Lansing, Keego Harbor and Rochester shops, along with the Don Thomas ski shop it owns in Birmingham — which claims to have the largest ski selection in the Midwest and recently tripled its space — are growing, Kopitz says.
“Our stores are seeing 10-to-20 percent growth rates,” he says. “Last year, we had a banner year in our stores — our best year in 22 years.”
He sums up Summit’s success by giving credit to the company’s adaptability and nimbleness, noting it was a completely different operation four years ago, when retail sales reigned supreme.
“We put a lot of effort into being dynamic,” he says. “You’ve got to be quick and adaptable. It could be totally different in six months.”