First Responder: Randy Hild’s View Of The Growing Women’s Market

While no one knows the heights the women’s category may eventually reach within the surf market, most people agree that the launch and eventual success of Roxy set the whole category in motion.

Quiksilver hired Randy Hild in 1993 as part of its acquisition of swimwear-maker Raisins, but it’s Roxy that would come to dominate Hild’s professional life. Today, he’s the senior vice president in charge of marketing for all fourteen brands under Quiksilver’s big top, but Roxy is still front and center. “Ninety percent of my hours and days are focused on Roxy, he says in a rapid-fire, enthusiastic cadence. “I still am the lead focus for Roxy. Everything kind of comes up to me, and I’m much more hands-on involved with the little things—even like picking the ads and the hangtags. I’m integrally involved with that process.

That’s hardly a surprise. Hild has had a firm hand on the tiller since before Roxy became the darling of both the surf market and New York fashion editors in the mid 90s.

[IMAGE 1]

“The one role model I had in the back of my mind was Esprit, recalls Hild when talking about those early days of Roxy. “The thing that I remember most about Esprit in the 80s was that it used real people in their ads. It kept Esprit grounded and special. It was really clear in my mind that if I could do something like that and connect it to this real thing of surfing, it could really be something.

Hild maintains that they got lucky with spotting and capitalizing on the nascent women’s market: “Our success was the combination of having World Champion Lisa Anderson on the team, a product called the Boardshort with the power of Quiksilver behind it, and a unique name and logo. All that added up to a solid package.

It was hardly premeditated, though, and Hild remembers that it wasn’t always an easy sell with retailers: “It all just innocently came together in 1994. By then I clearly knew we had something. This was like the Jimmy’z Velcro short. This was an Op cord walkshort. It had identity, the firepower of Quiksilver behind it — I knew it was going to rock! So I go to all my retailers — retailers I had great relationships with. I had made them great money back in the Raisins days. They could count on me. But when I was showing these Roxy boardshorts, all I was getting back were these blank faces.

“Retailers aren’t the first one to lead a trend, Hild continues, “but I was kind of bummed.

Fortunately for Hild, consumers loved the product, and the retailers who did carry it had a hard time chasing that demand. Then came the decision that really got the ball rolling, a calculated risk that put Roxy on the map.

“{Quiksilver CEO Bob} McKnight saw that we had a trend, says Hild. “So when planning our orders for the next year, he said, ‘Hild, do not mess around.’ I remember we were looking at numbers, trying to project how many boardshorts we would produce, and I thought our target number was a stretch. Well, McKnight came in to the meeting and didn’t just double that number, he increased it by a factor of five. It blew my mind. I remember telling him, ‘There’s no way, dude.’ He was like, ‘Hild, you haven’t been in this before. Trust me. Just do not run out.’

McKnight turned out to be right. Hild had to go back and double that new target number yet again in season. This was a trend that would reshape the surf industry, and Roxy was first on the scene.

[IMAGE 2]

Today, the brand still leads the juniors’ market, and expectations about its performance have never been higher. So what does Hild see for the future of the Roxy brand — and the market it helped create? TransWorld SURF Business sat down with Hild to find out.

Some of your competitors say Roxy should be a billion-dollar brand in five years — that you could be the Esprit of this decade. Is that a fair expectation?
Randy Hild:
I think you’re right. We’re actually getting really close to where Esprit left off. Esprit in its heyday in the s, my understanding is they were in the 250- to 300-million category. Roxy is going to end up in the 150- to 160-million mark, so we’re getting close to their numbers. Give it the two- or three-year plan, and we’re prepared that Roxy is going to surpass men’s. We all know women buy seven, eight, or ten times the number of clothing items as a man. Their buying power is much more important, the distribution is much more diversified. So we clearly know we’ll be in the Esprit level.

But is using the B-word getting the cart in front of the horse?
Yeah, let’s not go there yet. Before I see my grave, I hope that happens. But that’s the long-term horizon. We’re just getting close to the billion-dollar level as a completely global entity. The next step is two- to three-billion dollars for this whole global thing. Let’s get that in place. We’re going to go through some growth pains: keeping the infrastructure in place, keeping the core real but still growing. So Roxy at a billion dollars isn’t even part of our dialogue. But will Roxy be bigger than men’s? Yes. Will it continue to have this amazing, unique driving power that in some ways will be easier than men’s? Yes.

Is Roxy’s growth in Australia or Europe equivalent to what it is here?
The Australian market is about the size of the L.A. and Orange County market. There we’re doing a great job. The opportunity in that market is the Asian-Pacific market. There are great opportunities for growth in Japan, China, and Indonesia. That’s where the growth is, not so much in Australia.

In Europe, they have great penetration in the UK and France, but that {part of the} company is only ten years old. So they still have this natural growth and penetration in their world. They have opportunities in countries like Italy and Germany. Spain is just now going through the roof. They are still this work in progress. They have yet to meet any saturation point at any level.

Going back to China. Quiksilver had some big plans before the spring SARS situation? What’s the status of those initiatives?
SARS, fortunately, is essentially over. We put the thing on kind of a hold pattern. We didn’t want anyone to travel there. We knew they would get SARS under control and we’d pick up the pieces once they did. We’re at that point right now. We do have plans to open retail stores starting in Shanghai. That will be our test. We still don’t know the format it will follow yet. We’re still doing our research.

Again, growth in China is a long-term growth strategy. I was there in March. There’s obviously a huge consumer base, and a huge youth market. They don’t have huge income, but they don’t have huge overhead. You live with your parents until the day you get married. They have few cars and very little consumer electronics. They have no debt. At the end of the day they have some discretionary income, and they are huge shoppers.

There seems to be a lot of opportunities for growth.
Obviously being a public company we have to grow. There’s two simple ways to grow. First, you can do it through product diversification. Roxy has been building product categories — things like Teenie Wahine, Roxy Girls, shoes, and accessories. So that’s one way we continue to grow our brand. The fear with that is if you get so diluted and diversified you lose your integrity. That’s a constant fear we talk about every day.

The other way you grow is to grow your distribution. Find growth opportunities in the market where you’re not penetrating. Don’t over penetrate the markets we’re in. We’ve learned that through the years — do not blow your distribution.

But what does that mean today? It seems the rules are changing.
At the end of the day we listen to those warning signs that happen in our tried-and-true, brick-and-mortar, day-in-day-out retailers like Huntington Surf & Sport, Becker’s, and Val Surf. Those are people we are passionate about listening to. If there’s any hint of concern that our product is getting soft, or there’s a category that doing not so good, or there’s a competitor coming in who’s doing a better job, then the red lights start flashing, meetings come together.

Is Middle America also a big opportunity for growth?
There’s a huge opportunity in the Midwest, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. So in our little world of North America that this building manages, we’re reaching out to those areas. Protect the core, but grow in the heartland, grow up to Canada, and down to Mexico and Central America.

Can you stay focused on the surf culture and true to the brand image and have success in these markets? Does a kid in Kansas care enough about what’s going on in our neck of the woods to view Roxy as the next brand –the Esprit of today?
I guess I hope is the answer will turn out to be “yes. I think we have a lot of work to do. It’s not like this driven, crazy trend. The farther you get off the coast the less important our brands become and the more important brands like Gap and Old Navy become. Our job is to penetrate those markets of national brands.

How do you do that?
We’re developing a strategy as we go. You can do it through retail stores. Our retail stores can tell the message better than anything at the street level, so we’re opening stores selectively across the nation.

Obviously, TV is the broadest medium we can penetrate those markets with. Even though we’re close to a billion-dollar company, we don’t have huge budgets like Nike or adidas. I can’t do a huge TV campaign, yet—nor would I even want to. We’re still this poor, cheap, surf company. We’re still a grassroots company in many ways.

So just like we did in Hawai’i in the 70s and Newport Beach in the 80s, we’ve got to build a grassroots following. We have a strategy in select cities where we’re building up through music venues, through skate venues, and through other “grasscore strategies.

We’re doing a lot of testing in Chicago, where we already have a few stores. Of course, the store that’s blowing us away is Times Square. It’s blowing up. We’re doing volume there that’s double or triple what we thought it was capable of doing.

Why do you think that is?
My feeling is, if you’re media savvy, you know about the surf-skate-snow industry and you know about the Quiksilver brand. If you’re watching the media and Surf Girls and North Shore Boarding House, if you are reading the fashion magazines, you know all about surfing. You know surf is happening.

Has Surf Girls helped Roxy sales?
I see three things that have been real instrumental for the whole industry. The first was Blue Crush, which came out at the end of last summer, so we didn’t see its full effect. Then you started this summer with Boarding House and Surf Girls — in addition to all the media attention. You add all that up and clearly more people are aware of, and want to participate in, the sport of surfing. It’s fueling the industry right now, and I think the good news is that it’s going to continue to fuel it. In talking to retailers, the category that is absolutely out of control, the one that they are chasing right now is hardgoods.

The softgoods business is semi-flat to soft. Retailers had a really rough start. There was bad weather. Summer is turning out to be pretty good, but if I was guessing, you combine the soft beginning and the strong summer and it may turn out to be a wash. But the strength of hardgoods is really heartening, because surfing is something you never want to give up. If that dynamic sticks — which I think it will — there’s this amazing foundation being built right now for the next wave of our industry.

Can Quiksilver be this huge worldwide entity and still be relevant to the small mom-and-pop specialty store? How do you do that?
I think it goes back to Bob McKnight selling boardshorts out of hint of concern that our product is getting soft, or there’s a category that doing not so good, or there’s a competitor coming in who’s doing a better job, then the red lights start flashing, meetings come together.

Is Middle America also a big opportunity for growth?
There’s a huge opportunity in the Midwest, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. So in our little world of North America that this building manages, we’re reaching out to those areas. Protect the core, but grow in the heartland, grow up to Canada, and down to Mexico and Central America.

Can you stay focused on the surf culture and true to the brand image and have success in these markets? Does a kid in Kansas care enough about what’s going on in our neck of the woods to view Roxy as the next brand –the Esprit of today?
I guess I hope is the answer will turn out to be “yes. I think we have a lot of work to do. It’s not like this driven, crazy trend. The farther you get off the coast the less important our brands become and the more important brands like Gap and Old Navy become. Our job is to penetrate those markets of national brands.

How do you do that?
We’re developing a strategy as we go. You can do it through retail stores. Our retail stores can tell the message better than anything at the street level, so we’re opening stores selectively across the nation.

Obviously, TV is the broadest medium we can penetrate those markets with. Even though we’re close to a billion-dollar company, we don’t have huge budgets like Nike or adidas. I can’t do a huge TV campaign, yet—nor would I even want to. We’re still this poor, cheap, surf company. We’re still a grassroots company in many ways.

So just like we did in Hawai’i in the 70s and Newport Beach in the 80s, we’ve got to build a grassroots following. We have a strategy in select cities where we’re building up through music venues, through skate venues, and through other “grasscore strategies.

We’re doing a lot of testing in Chicago, where we already have a few stores. Of course, the store that’s blowing us away is Times Square. It’s blowing up. We’re doing volume there that’s double or triple what we thought it was capable of doing.

Why do you think that is?
My feeling is, if you’re media savvy, you know about the surf-skate-snow industry and you know about the Quiksilver brand. If you’re watching the media and Surf Girls and North Shore Boarding House, if you are reading the fashion magazines, you know all about surfing. You know surf is happening.

Has Surf Girls helped Roxy sales?
I see three things that have been real instrumental for the whole industry. The first was Blue Crush, which came out at the end of last summer, so we didn’t see its full effect. Then you started this summer with Boarding House and Surf Girls — in addition to all the media attention. You add all that up and clearly more people are aware of, and want to participate in, the sport of surfing. It’s fueling the industry right now, and I think the good news is that it’s going to continue to fuel it. In talking to retailers, the category that is absolutely out of control, the one that they are chasing right now is hardgoods.

The softgoods business is semi-flat to soft. Retailers had a really rough start. There was bad weather. Summer is turning out to be pretty good, but if I was guessing, you combine the soft beginning and the strong summer and it may turn out to be a wash. But the strength of hardgoods is really heartening, because surfing is something you never want to give up. If that dynamic sticks — which I think it will — there’s this amazing foundation being built right now for the next wave of our industry.

Can Quiksilver be this huge worldwide entity and still be relevant to the small mom-and-pop specialty store? How do you do that?
I think it goes back to Bob McKnight selling boardshorts out of the back of his car, back to selling to Newport Surf & Sport in 1976. That’s part of his heritage and he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings. Even though he’s running this global thing and is looking for the next global growth, is accountable to the board, and has all these pressures, every day he remembers that little moment of selling a boardshort out of his trunk to Paul Heussenstamm at Newport Surf & Sport. That is still this amazing thing we all think about every day. It’s really, really important to us.

So for specialty stores, it’s just a matter of giving them love and attention, being a good listener, giving back to the sport, give them fixturing and window displays, do signing in their store. All those little marketing things add up. We have this two-tiered marketing approach where we really want to protect and maintain the core while at the same time grow our brand through new opportunity markets. They’re almost equal. We almost can’t do one without making sure the other one is in balance.

So back to the surf shop, again they are just so high on our radar that anytime we get a little sign that we’ve hiccupped or blown it, or there’s a shipping problem, or the industry is soft and we need to extend terms, we take that very seriously — as seriously as we would a call from the president of Federated. A call from Mark Richards at Val Surf is definitely heavier than a call from the president of Macy’s. Now if the president of Macy’s calls, we’ll pick up the phone and we’d be on it. But if Mark Richards calls and has an issue the response would be just as fast.

I think that intensity of listening is our secret weapon — and I think the whole industry is that way.

Are specialty retailers doing a good job with merchandising their women’s department? What advice would you give them?
The women’s market is certainly different than men’s. Women are aware of fashion much more than men. They’re aware of fit, quality, and price much more than men. They’re not as brand loyal as men. I think men get comfortable with a brand and kind of favor it. A women is much more diverse. They’ll wear thrift shop {items}, something from the mall, and then walk around a surf shop and buy some items. That’s just a given.

The point is, she’s much more refined. Therefore the product mix and the merchandising have to be refined. I think the sharp retailers are on it. I think five years ago the whole industry was asleep, and Roxy kind of had this role because we had it figured out for whatever reasons. The women’s category four or five years ago was still being bought like men’s. It was rolled out on a rack just like men’s T-shirts and shorts, and then they called it a day. But the really successful stores have focused on it as a separate category — Huntington Surf & Sport and Jack’s come to mind. Both of those stores have created a separate environment for women: separate dressing rooms, separate staff, and a separate approach when it comes to marketing that section.

The stores that aren’t doing that should look at their fellow retailers who are doing it well. The shops that just kind of bury it in with men’s and don’t give the girls a separate environment to try on clothes, aren’t giving their shoppers as comfortable of an environment — and they can go to the mall and get that.

The good news is the surf shop and mom-and-pop stores have a lot of great product to choose from. The industry is so mature and is offering great stuff. Between Hurley, Volcom, us, and Billabong there’s great stuff to pick from. You can put together a great selection in your store, but it’s the environment you create for the girl walking into the door that has to be user-friendly for them.

Does the average buyer understand the market well enough to be purchasing correctly?
Again, I think it depends on the retailer. Some are. For example Carol Nielson at Becker looks and buys correctly. She watches for trends and what is selliing well and then reacts. She works at a very high level. Again, she’s a role model to follow. You need that dedication or it just won’t go anywhere.

The product and the category is so strong, and surfing girls is such a trend that a retailer maybe doesn’t have to be as refined or sophisticated. But the ones who have dedicated a unique buyer or staff to it are the ones who are really taking advantage of the opportunity.

We have this unique opportunity with this category. The attention that been given to women’s surfing is a unique story, and we have a good understanding of it. Hollywood is trying to get a piece of it. Hollister is trying to get a piece of it. There is going to be more and more movies coming out. That’s all exciting for the sport. As McKnight says, let’s not paddle off the peak. Surfing is our foundation. Let’s not get too carried away with this trendy thing or fashion thing or TV thing. Let’s always keep it connected back to the water and the sand and nurture that story. We need to keep that link because the minute we waver off it is the minute we’ve lost why we have this great thing to begin with. back of his car, back to selling to Newport Surf & Sport in 1976. That’s part of his heritage and he hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings. Even though he’s running this global thing and is looking for the next global growth, is accountable to the board, and has all these pressures, every day he remembers that little moment of selling a boardshort out of his trunk to Paul Heussenstamm at Newport Surf & Sport. That is still this amazing thing we all think about every day. It’s really, really important to us.

So for specialty stores, it’s just a matter of giving them love and attention, being a good listener, giving back to the sport, give them fixturing and window displays, do signing in their store. All those little marketing things add up. We have this two-tiered marketing approach where we really want to protect and maintain the core while at the same time grow our brand through new opportunity markets. They’re almost equal. We almost can’t do one without making sure the other one is in balance.

So back to the surf shop, again they are just so high on our radar that anytime we get a little sign that we’ve hiccupped or blown it, or there’s a shipping problem, or the industry is soft and we need to extend terms, we take that very seriously — as seriously as we would a call from the president of Federated. A call from Mark Richards at Val Surf is definitely heavier than a call from the president of Macy’s. Now if the president of Macy’s calls, we’ll pick up the phone and we’d be on it. But if Mark Richards calls and has an issue the response would be just as fast.

I think that intensity of listening is our secret weapon — and I think the whole industry is that way.

Are specialty retailers doing a good job with merchandising their women’s department? What advice would you give them?
The women’s market is certainly different than men’s. Women are aware of fashion much more than men. They’re aware of fit, quality, and price much more than men. They’re not as brand loyal as men. I think men get comfortable with a brand and kind of favor it. A women is much more diverse. They’ll wear thrift shop {items}, something from the mall, and then walk around a surf shop and buy some items. That’s just a given.

The point is, she’s much more refined. Therefore the product mix and the merchandising have to be refined. I think the sharp retailers are on it. I think five years ago the whole industry was asleep, and Roxy kind of had this role because we had it figured out for whatever reasons. The women’s category four or five years ago was still being bought like men’s. It was rolled out on a rack just like men’s T-shirts and shorts, and then they called it a day. But the really successful stores have focused on it as a separate category — Huntington Surf & Sport and Jack’s come to mind. Both of those stores have created a separate environment for women: separate dressing rooms, separate staff, and a separate approach when it comes to marketing that section.

The stores that aren’t doing that should look at their fellow retailers who are doing it well. The shops that just kind of bury it in with men’s and don’t give the girls a separate environment to try on clothes, aren’t giving their shoppers as comfortable of an environment — and they can go to the mall and get that.

The good news is the surf shop and mom-and-pop stores have a lot of great product to choose from. The industry is so mature and is offering great stuff. Between Hurley, Volcom, us, and Billabong there’s great stuff to pick from. You can put together a great selection in your store, but it’s the environment you create for the girl walking into the door that has to be user-friendly for them.

Does the average buyer understand the market well enough to be purchasing correctly?
Again, I think it depends on the retailer. Some are. For example Carol Nielson at Becker looks and buys correctly. She watches for trends and what is selling well and then reacts. She works at a very high level. Again, she’s a role model to follow. You need that dedication or it just won’t go anywhere.

The product and the category is so strong, and surfing girls is such a trend that a retailer maybe doesn’t have to be as refined or sophisticated. But the ones who have dedicated a unique buyer or staff to it are the ones who are really taking advantage of the opportunity.

We have this unique opportunity with this category. The attention that been given to women’s surfing is a unique story, and we have a good understanding of it. Hollywood is trying to get a piece of it. Hollister is trying to get a piece of it. There is going to be more and more movies coming out. That’s all exciting for the sport. As McKnight says, let’s not paddle off the peak. Surfing is our foundation. Let’s not get too carried away with this trendy thing or fashion thing or TV thing. Let’s always keep it connected back to the water and the sand and nurture that story. We need to keep that link because the minute we waver off it is the minute we’ve lost why we have this great thing to begin with. is selling well and then reacts. She works at a very high level. Again, she’s a role model to follow. You need that dedication or it just won’t go anywhere.

The product and the category is so strong, and surfing girls is such a trend that a retailer maybe doesn’t have to be as refined or sophisticated. But the ones who have dedicated a unique buyer or staff to it are the ones who are really taking advantage of the opportunity.

We have this unique opportunity with this category. The attention that been given to women’s surfing is a unique story, and we have a good understanding of it. Hollywood is trying to get a piece of it. Hollister is trying to get a piece of it. There is going to be more and more movies coming out. That’s all exciting for the sport. As McKnight says, let’s not paddle off the peak. Surfing is our foundation. Let’s not get too carried away with this trendy thing or fashion thing or TV thing. Let’s always keep it connected back to the water and the sand and nurture that story. We need to keep that link because the minute we waver off it is the minute we’ve lost why we have this great thing to begin with.