Thursday, May 29, 2014

Alibaba and the 40,000 Crappy Snowboards

The Chinese eCommerce group Alibaba is about to go public in what is expected to be the largest tech IPO of all time. 80% of everything sold online in China goes through this company and they flog more merchandise than Amazon and eBay combined. It's not a company most people outside China are familiar with, so we figured we'd take a look and see what all the excitement is about...

The site puts manufactures in touch with importers and when we ran a search for 'snowboard' things didn't get off to a good start. This was the 5th result:

Neither a snowboard nor a set of plastic children.

Next in line was this:

A two-for-one deal? Bonus!

On the first page of 20 results, along with these two, there was an inflatable sledge, 5 plastic snowboards, a set of dual snowboards, an LED snowboard and a snowboard that thought it was a binding. That's not a good hit rate. But it's not just reams of shonky made-in-China tat that you can buy on, you can buy crap from all around the world.

Austria's only product was this set of ground-breaking snowboard bindings

"We created a new binding concept to uplift the entire snowboarding world: the Strap-in"

In an uncanny representation of the generation-long shift in manufacturing to China from the USA, this was the US contribution.

On the plus side we were really pleased to see that South Korea is still absolutely rocking the fuck out, with their incredible snowboard fashions and awesome model poses. Here are a few of our favourite ones:

South Korea - putting the swag in swagger.

A good chunk of the world's snowboards are now manufactured in China, but I think there's some way to go before the companies out there start pushing their own brands into other markets. Here's a glimpse into the current state of snowboard marketing in China from local manufacturer Haisky:

From this day forth I'm always going to refer to my bindings as 'feet tramples'

Snowboard graphics have got some way to go too...

Amongst all their horrible own designs was this one by French company Windlip snowboards...

It's not clear on how legitimate that is (I think they may have some part in the production of some of the Windlip snoabords), but it lead us to a few even more dubious snowboards you can buy. From a series of questioningly separate dealers in Slovakia, Ukraine and Moldova, you can buy batches of the Briana Banks Sims Fader board from 2004.

Seems highly unlikely they have batches of unsold Sims boards from 10 years ago, so your're pretty much guaranteed to either, never see your money again, or get a very shitty reproduction. Either way it's still probably a better way of spending your money, than forking out the $4,000 someone is currently trying to flog an original one on eBay for.

My favourite knock-offs by far are these Arbor boards currently being sold on Alibaba's version of eBay in China, They've not even tried to make these things even remotely look like an Arbor design and they've got the balls to ask for a hefty $480 per board.

New for the 2014/15 season, decorated with all sorts of Halloween clip art, comes the Arbor Prospect.

And even better is the 2014/15 Arbor Sequence with it's karaoking werewolves. 

Alibaba is a company that could ultimately be valued at more than $16 billion, and as far as we can see it's full of tat, dual snowboards, and shonky knock-offs. All things considered, when the opportunity arises, I'll probably not be adding these guys to my diverse stock portfolio.

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