By Casey Macker
“The collapse of the Asian economy is having a domino effect on business all over Hawai’i, and the surf industry is by no means exempt,” says Janner Asuncion, head of public relations for HIC Surf Shops throughout Hawai’i. Although the shop gets 60 percent of its business from locals, the lack of tourists coming over from places like Japan is hurting business both directly and indirectly. Despite all the hardships, Asuncion does note that HIC’s shop on the North Shore has had a pretty sound year due to the consistent amount of surfers who stay there seasonally. Furthermore, he has actually noticed a steady increase in the sales of HIC’s hardgoods lines and other gear directly related to surfing.
On O’ahu, Russ K Surf Shop Manager Sunny Keaulana also blames the Asian market crash for the recent declines in shop sales. She has also been witness to declining sales in the more popular brands, which she attributes to the opening of large clothing chains capable of underselling the local surf shops. However, she does note that Russ K’s own shop label has done fairly well, and longboard sales, which have always been strong, have continued to contribute to sales. Moreover, she notes, “Business did pick up during the month of January, and things have continued to improve slowly.”
Toni Blanchard, owner of Point Break Surf Shop in Waimanalo, O’ahu, says her surf shop has seen nothing but growth. Although the shop has been open only three months, business from rentals and different clothing lines have helped the shop mature at a rather rapid pace. Blanchard says lines such as Roxy, Stussy, and Hawaiian Style have been doing really well, especially among the tourists. And being situated near some of the island’s best shorebreak, Blanchard says she has also begun to do well with bodyboarding equipment sales.
Right up the road, Local Motion Surf Shop Manager Jeff Oshiro says that the shop receives 90 percent its business from locals: “A lot of the newer lines are really taking off, but the biggest standout has been Hurley due to its broad appeal.” Women’s lines such as Sugar, Sister, 26 Red, and Roxy have also moved really well in the last year. Lately, Oshiro has noticed a growing demand for skateboarding lines among younger surfers, and he’s also seen a growing interest in longboard skateboards.
“Believe it or not, kite surfing has really taken off in the last few years,” says Hi-Tech Surf Sports Manager Mark Sarver on the island of Maui. Although the shop is still very dedicated to traditional surf equipment, the shop also does well with sailboarding and the newly introduced kite surfing. Sarver says there has actually been an increasing demand for snowboards despite the limited amount of terrain. Due to Maui’s windy conditions, Sarver has witnessed an increase in springsuit sales, especially those with features such as zipperless entry.