Seventeenth Street Surf Shop
Kill Devil Hills
The store has been packed at Seventeenth Street Surf Shop in Kill Devil Hills, but many of the tourists apparently left their wallets at home. “There was a lot of traffic, but people just weren’t buying as much,” says Store Manager Ryan Kingsbury. “People are watching their money just a tad bit more.” But Kingsbury says it wasn’t a crisis, but a challenge to stay sharp and run a good business.
Part of the advantage the Kill Devil Hills Seventeenth Street has is that it can draw inventory from any of the nine stores in the Seventeenth Street chain. “We were killing it with shorts up through Labor Day weekend, and if we hadn’t had the other stores to draw product from, I probably would’ve been turning customers away.”
Wovens were also a strong category at Seventeenth. “I don’t know if people are simply starting to dress a little nicer, but our wovens numbers have never been better,” says Kingsbury, adding that the chain tends to go deep with a select number of men’s apparel brands: Quiksilver, Rusty, Hurley, Billabong, Volcom, and O’Neill. “We really don’t dabble too much outside of those lines,” he says.
And among those six primary players, Quiksilver is the clear leader. “They almost do no wrong,” says Kingsbury. “Around here, not too many kids step out of line. There’re a lot of followers. Probably on the West Coast the kids step out of line more. Here, the kids in junior high school or elementary school are going to wear what everybody else is wearing — a lot of Quiksilver and Billabong. For example, Volcom is strong and is marketed so well — and we do good with them — but for what they’re marketing is like and the hype you see on them, I’d think we’d be selling a lot more it.”
Sunglasses have also flown off the shelves. “If I had to rank sunglass sales it would be Oakley, then Arnette and Dragon, then Quiksilver, Smith, and Anarchy all battling right there,” says Kingsbury. “We’ve just hands-down killed it with the Oakley Twenty. There’s a bit of a vibe about Von Zipper and Electric, but we’re still not getting a lot of call for it. It’s still the guy in the know who’s asking for it.”
Kingsbury has seen his selling season slowly expand over the years, which has helped even out the shop’s very seasonal business. “It used to be you only concentrated on the end of May, June, July, and August,” he says. “Now I’ve got a Christmas season and spring sales are coming earlier. It’s now in my best interest to be up and rolling by March 1, because if the weather is good I could have a great March — if I’m ready to rock.”
And like all the other shops on the Outer Banks, Seventeenth Street plays close attention to the weather. “On a rainy day in the summer when tourists can’t go to the beach, it goes crazy in here. We’ll be pulling stuff out of the boxes as fast as we can and throwing it on the racks, because stuff is flying out of here. I look at the Weather Channel every week, and ask myself, ‘Do I have enough people scheduled if it rains?'”
Window Brands: O’Neill, Volcom, Quiksilver, Reef, Rip Curl
Major Display Brands: Quiksilver, Billabong, O’Neill, Volcom
Strongest Category: Wovens
Weakest Category: No real dogs, but two-for-one private-label T-shirt sales weaker than usual.
Strongest Brand: Quiksilver
Best Rep: n/a. “Since all of the buying is done at corporate, we don’t see many reps,” says Kingsbury. “That’s okay. When we’re rocking in summer, I don’t have time to talk to reps.”