OP Buys The Realm

The Realm has been purchased by Op for an undisclosed sum that includes the retirement of debt and a multi-year profit-sharing agreement that keeps the key players involved and fired up about the brand’s future.

In its three years of existence, The Realm has grown from an underground south Orange County brand to an up-and-comer in the surf-apparel marketplace. But to get to the next level, The Realm had to find a partner that could provide infrastructure and manufacturing expertise, says Sales Manager Greg “G.T.” Tomlinson.

“We’ve built so much on sweat and blood. Now we’ll be able to back that up with sound business practices,” he says. “It’s a three-pronged attack. We’ll have the huge manufacturing expertise of Op manufacturing partner Rays Apparel. We’ll have Dick Baker, who knows the apparel business inside and out, and who’s in the center of things these days as SIMA president. Finally, we’ll keep all the brand’s flavor by keeping myself, Snips Marketing Manager Mike Parsons, and Pat O’Connell involved and focused.

“We won’t be changing our distribution,” continues G.T. “Dick is a smart guy. He knows where The Realm fits in with Op. His idea is to build a pyramid, where The Realm will be at the apex and Op will be in the middle.”

According to Parsons, it was The Realm that approached Op. “The cool thing” he says, “was that Dick had already been eyeing us and Lost and a few other up-and-coming brands. It’s a perfect fit. They have Macy’s and that whole retail spectrum covered. They needed a specialty-store brand. We needed their infrastructure and support.”

Parsons says that although The Realm had done a good job with marketing, sales, and design, without this help the brand would have been unable to go head-to-head with the Volcoms and Hurleys of the world. “We saw the signs that we needed help about six months ago,” he says. “Most of the signs were small. If the reps got their samples a week late, we got our overseas stuff a week late, and then Billabong, Quik or Hurley beat us into the stores by two weeks.

“There are about 30 things you have to do perfectly,” continues Parsons. “We did 28 perfect and two wrong, and it affected everything.” Parson echoes GT when he says the deal won’t affect the flavor of the brand. “The only thing that’s really going change is that retailers will now be able to say, à‚Å’Sweet, these guys are going to be on time now.” The side of the business that we weren’t experts atÐwhere we learned a lot but still came up a little shortÐis covered now with experts in that field. Once retailers see that we’re on time and that our product and marketing is better, it will instill the confidence in them. They’ve already given us a great shot, and we’re doing quite well in our stores. The deal will just accelerate our growth a little bit and give us the legs to really perform.”

In addition to manufacturing expertise, the deal will also give The Realm a significant marketing push. “We’ve been talking about if it makes more sense for the Op Boat Challenge to be called The Realm Boat Challenge next year,” says Parsons. “We’re talking about a Curren For President movie. We’ll be able to really commit to our teamriders and maybe bring some new guys in as well. We’re revisiting everything that we’ve wanted to do for the past few years.”

Although nothing is finalized, there’s also talk that the brand might move from its current business-park address to a house on the beach in San Clemente, which will serve as home base for the sales, marketing, and design effortÐwith everything else run out of Op’s Irvine offices. Only Parsons, Tomlinson, and O’Connell will continue to work with the brand. Other shareholders, including Craig Lark and Jeff and Rob Riese, have been bought out. Lark will pursue other interests, and the Riese brothers will devote their attention to their new sunglass brand Von ZipperÐof which Parsons and G.T. are shareholders. “We’ve structured the deal soo we Parsons and G.T. won’t just be employees now,” says Parsons. “We have fantastic incentives and a royalty situation where if we perform, we’ll be rewardedÐit’s a perfect scenario for both sides.