Has a customer ever come into your surf shop looking for a six-two pintail, but you sold the only one in stock yesterday? Or what about those kids who were looking for new five-six fishes, but you didn’t have any? Then there was that bearded guy heading to Puerto who wanted a big-wave gun, and you didn’t have that either.
For what surfboards are worth, it seems that shops never quite have the right ones in stock. Or the boards that are in the shop just end up sitting there, taking up valuable space that would be better utilized with another clothing rack. How can surf shops do a better job order boards?
A Surf Shop Sells Surfboards
Are surfboards really even worth carrying? After all their margins ar terrible. The answer from any surf shop employee to that simple question is overwhelming “yes.”
“If you’re a surf shop, you’ve got to carry surfboards,” says Duke Ekudas, owner of Surfside Sports in Newport Beach, California. “But you make your money by selling the lifestyle.”
To make the most out of a surfboard sale, Ekudas says it’s the add-ons that help bring up the profit margin. Remember to suggest to the buyer that they might need some new traction pads, a leash, a board bag, clothing, or new shoes. “Surfboards are a tool to sell the other things,” he says.
Even if surfboards are used to define a surf shop and to help sell other items, how does a store decide how many boards to carry and how much space to devote to stocking the boards?
There are several different factors that affect surfboard ordering, including local surf conditions, store clientele, and competition from other stores.
Waves Affect Orders
Waves definitely drive Bob’s Mission Surf in Pacific Beach, California. The shop is described as a “tiny little store,” by Owner Bob Long. His store stocks three brands of longboards, including Weber, Nuuhiwa, and its own house brand, as well as some eggs.
About half the floor space is devoted to the longboards that are hung horizontally on a wall because the nine-footers won’t fit standing up with the shop’s eight-foot ceiling.
Long says that he tries to stock according to season. “In the winter, I buy more guns, while in the summer I’ll go with boards in the nine-six, ten-, or even eleven-foot range.”
The store also chooses brands and designs by popularity. If a brand in the store doesn’t sell out, he won’t order it again.
With local Gulf Coast waves typically being small and mushy, Pat Magee’s Surf Shop in Port Aransas, Texas, stocks 150 different longboards at any given time.
“We buy the boards for the conditions here,” says Manager Charles Henry. “We have boards that have length, will float, and have some thickness.”
Besides defining the store as a longboard center, management goes off of old sales to decide what to order. The store stocks ten different top name-brand longboards. However, the management knows they take up a lot of space.
“There’s no money in boards, so we try to turn them as fast as we can,” Henry adds.
Know Thy Customer
“Our clientele is thirteen to 25 years old, and looking for high-performance boards,” says Ekudas. “We stock a lot of boards in the six-one to six-six range. But on a 30-board order, we’ll get a couple of big-guy boards as well.”
Surfside Sports has twenty to 100 boards on the floor at any one time. Ekudas says that it’s hard to predict when the rushes will be because either a spell of hot weather or a few international buyers can show up at any time and buy a lot of boards.
The store stocks mostly big-name brands, including Rusty, JC, Xanadu, Channel Islands, T&C, and Chas. He’d like to go with a local shaper for faster fill-ins, but currently most of the local board companies are selling directly to the local customers at prices he can’t match.
Sometimes knowing what people bought at the store last year will help a shop orrder for this year. At Brave New World in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, the management orders boards pretty much off of what sold last year. “We’re pretty computerized,” says Craig Gordon, surf buyer/manager. “We check last year’s trends and base things off of that.”
The store stocks eight to ten different brands, including Rusty, Channel Islands, Spyder, WRV, Kechele, and longboards from WRV, G&S, Stewart, Velsy, Surf Tech, and others.
Because of its East Coast location, Gordon begins ordering his spring and summer surfboard lines as early as November, then finishes his orders during Surf Expo in January. Delivery of these orders begins mid April.
The store usually places an order for a size run of standard shapes, with a few different styles thrown in just to go after the new designs. Gordon says the fish movement is still going, and he ordered a few extra Spyder Hawks and Channel Island Flyers this season.
Being part of a three-store chain helps with stocking inventory. “If we’re running low in one store, we can pull from other shops,” he says.
Bob’s Mission Surf is in one of the most densely packed surf-shop areas in the country, with more than twelve other shops nearby. Knowing what’s in the other stores helps Long, who says he sees many customers who have visited many of the other shops in the same day, looking for deals.
He’s found one area that hasn’t been exploited yet: eggs. “There are no used eggs in town, so I can always sell a new one,” he says. Plus, he’ll sell a lot of them to kids or women looking to get into surfing.
Because of this fact, about a third of the boards he stocks are the shorter, fun shapes.
Not An Exact Science
Sometimes ordering boards is as easy as looking at the rack, seeing what’s missing, and ordering to fill those spots. That’s definitely the approach at Pacific Wave in Santa Cruz, California.
According to salesperson Kyle Adams, the store stocks about 35 to 45 boards on the floor at any one time. Longboards are on the first floor, while shortboards are upstairs
“If we get low on the floor, then we order more boards,” he says, almost matter-of-factly. The store tries to carry a couple new-style boards to see if they’ll sell, and usually carries pretty thick boards for its wetsuit-wearing surfers.
Don’t Forget Used Boards
Don’t forget to stock some used boards, Henry says. “We get a lot of dads buying boards for kids, and they want to spend between 125 to 195 dollars,” he says. “We’re not going to sell them the more expensive boards.”
At Surfside Sports, they’ll even sell boards on consignment. According to Ekudas, the shop charges a 25-percent fee on the consignment boards, and only takes them when the used-board stock isn’t full and they need the size. But if a person buys a new board at the shop, Surfside will take the used board even if the racks are full.