#6 – Dave Hollander, Retail’s mad genius.
Even in the best of economic environments, retailing is a daunting challenge. In a recession, it can be a kick in the nuts. So the fact that Dave Hollander of Becker Surfboards exploded his sales in the face of the millennium downturn speaks volumes. When you further consider that the primary way he grew his business was by building a massive online store—right in the face of the dotcom bust—there’s not a retailer out there that isn’t a little bit awed by Hollander’s resilience, determination, and plain luck.
Hollander is at once confident and self-effacing. He calls himself the Rodney Dangerfield of the surf industry. His peers, however, might liken him more to Christopher Lloyd’s batty-but-brilliant scientist character in Back To The Future. And like “Doc Brown, Hollander has a knack for peering into the future.
Hollander grew Beckersurf.com from three orders a day into an online retailer’s virtual “how-to guide with more than 20,000 views a day. The site is generating enough traffic to negotiate trading product from manufacturers in exchange for online advertising—not to mention other relationships with vendors he won’t go into. “I just got a 1,200-dollar packing slip from Reef, quips Hollander, “and it’s an Internet trade. It’s for an ad campaign we did, and they paid me in product. In fact, Hollander jokes, his traffic is more valuable than the stuff he’s selling.
The mad genius is also known for his unfiltered views. At the ASR BTS show in March, Hollander nearly put a major vendor in tears over an uncharacteristically lackluster line. “I think the word spreads pretty quickly about what Hollander thinks, he says matter-of-factly. “I think it gets way too much weight, but I can kind of boost somebody if they’re good and really kicks somebody’s ass without meaning to.
Has this ever rubbed others the wrong way? Perhaps, but most value his amazing, although sometimes brutal, honesty. Take Mark Price, Reef’s global marketing director: “After working with Dave for decades, my emotions have run the gamut from debating how high to build his pedestal to wondering if ten pounds of concrete will be enough to keep the body submerged. However, throughout our shared business experiences, there has always been one common thread—he has my complete respect and continues to be a driving force of progression within our industry.
Hollander is full of ideas and practices that other retailers would do well to look into, if not flat out copy. From his employee “bonus club to his innovative fixturing and his talents as a buyer, Hollander is influential at many levels—although he’ll scarcely admit it: “Some of these guys say I just have a way of calling them, but I think part of it’s a sixth sense—and mostly it’s just being damn lucky.