The State Of Surf 2016 | What does Surfing need?
By Kailee Bradstreet & Hayley Helms
At September’s Surf Expo, the industry came together to discuss the overall state of surfing—from the retail landscape and distribution strategies, right down to product innovation and how it’s propelling us forward. In four very short years, our sport will be elevated to a global spotlight around Tokyo 2020. At a business level, how can brands in our space prepare? How can we collectively prepare as an industry?
TransWorld Business posed these questions and presented top line data from our State Of Surf 2016 report during an interactive panel discussion. The result was a productive conversation with the likes of executives from major brands Rip Curl and Roxy, and regional specialty retailer Heritage Surf & Sport.
Broadening our audience as an industry was a major area of focus. Roxy Director of Specialty Sales Jaclyn Schroeder shared that one of Roxy’s main initiatives is within the fitness and athleisure market, speaking to women with an all encompassing enthusiasm for the outdoor active lifestyle and surrounding culture, not just within the narrow niche of surfing.
Looking at the relatively flat growth surfing has seen (about 1% average growth over the past five years), it’s only natural to look at ways our industry can speak to new and eager audiences who want to become lifelong surf enthusiasts.
According to Dylan Slater, SVP of sales & marketing for Rip Curl North America, brands must look to the core of why they were founded and get back to making innovative products with real purpose to drive the industry forward. Only then will we be able to create sustainable business models that truly convey what our industry is all about.
Distribution strategies are being evaluated constantly at the brand level. What we gathered from our research is that brands must have an e-commerce presence in order to stay relevant. However, despite the success of most brands’ online sales, their non-branded specialty vendors are still driving the lion share of sales.
Kevin Morris of Heritage Surf & Sport in New Jersey pointed out that while surf shops have evolved over the years to feel the pressures of “making the sale,” he feels that shops need to get back to that “clubhouse” mentality and focus on building a community. “If someone comes into the shop nine times, and on the tenth time they buy something, that should be okay,” says Morris. “I think as an industry we’re too caught up on the idea of making a sale from every single customer who walks through the door, when we should be focusing on being a resource to them and providing cool events and engaging content around surfing.”
An important theme that ran through the panel discussion was the topic of surfing’s future. As most of us know, surfing will be taken to new levels with its inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. As Dylan Slater put it, “The Olympics are a huge opportunity for surfing as a sport, and as an industry. I can’t speak for every brand, but I know that Rip Curl will be working for the next four years to take advantage of all of the opportunities that the Olympics hold for our sport.” Although some division on the topic exists, many see the Olympics as a way for the surf industry to ban together, shining a spotlight on our sport as our athletes and their stories emerge as a source of pride and patriotism on a global level.
For a deeper look into these topics and the buying habits and behavior of the core surf consumer, check out The State Of Surf 2016 report.