With one of the better names in surf retailing, Vitamin Sea has been open for business on the Outer Banks for 23 years. “I’ve been here at the shop for ten years and I’ve seen a lot of change just since them,” says Owner David Argaman. “The surf industry has really gotten more powerful — just look at the brands like Abercrombie and Gap who wanted to emulate the surf look.”
And that look — and the authentic allure of surfing — is at the heart of Vitamin Sea. “Everybody is trying to take a ride on the surf shop,” he says. “But many of them are in it for the wrong reasons. We sell everything that’s considered surf. We’re a surf shop.”
For example, Argaman is proud that Vitamin Sea had carried Birdwell as one of its primary lines since the shop opened.
Another strategy is to bring in lines that aren’t widely available yet. “I’m doing tremendous volume with HIC,” says Argaman. “You aren’t going to find much HIC on the Island.”
But the larger brands also find a home in Vitamin Sea, and Argaman says currently his strongest seller is O’Neill. “They really came back strong two or three years ago,” he says. “Aaron Chang is also doing well. In fact, the Aaron Chang girls’ line is my best line juniors’ line.”
Vitamin Sea wants to open Hurley in the store. “They’re probably going to open me,” he says. “The big shops often itemize — they’ll bring in only one trunk and flood the whole store with it. But I like to carry the whole line. If I get Hurley, I’ll write a ten-thousand-dollar order and say, ‘Let’s go.'”
While Argaman says he’s confident Hurley will soon be found in Vitamin Sea, he seems generally irritated at the whole distribution process: “If Oakley doesn’t want to open my account because Vitamin Sea is a owner/operator business, that’s their loss. Four out of five people who come in here looking for Oakley will buy Dragon, because that’s where I’ll lead them to. I’ll convince them that it’s the same thing. I’m not going to lie, but at the end of the circle, they will be the ones who lose market share.”[IMAGE 3]
While Argaman considers Vitamin Sea an “authentic surf shop,” he also welcomes tourists. And like every retailer, Argaman is at the whim of nature and the fickle tourist dollar. “Summer sales were pretty good until the shark attack,” says Argaman, referring to the attack that occurred September 5 along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore that killed Sergei Zaloukaev and critically injured his girlfriend — the first fatal shark attack on the Outer Banks in more than 40 years.
Window Brands: n/a
Major Display Brand: O’Neill
Strongest Category: Vitamin Sea T-shirts
Weakest Category: Swimwear
Strongest Brand: O’Neill
Best Rep: Paul Kane (MCD/Gotcha/Smith) “He’s a shrewd businessman,” says Argaman.