Ocean & Earth was established in 1976 in Sussex Inlet, Australia with a staff of three producing a couple of basic surfing products. Today, the brand in Australia does an estimated 30-million dollars in sales with a product line that includes everything from leashes and traction pads to apparel and outerwear. But here in the States, the brand has been underdeveloped, says Steve Brillhart, owner of Legend Eyewear.
In February, Legend Eyewear purchased Ocean & Earth U.S.A. and became the new licensee for the brand here in the United States. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Legend Eyewear bought the company from Beau Maurer, who will continue to work with the company but with a new focus on sales, marketing, and development of new products. All other operations of the business will be handled by Brillhart and his partner Chris Willingham out of Santa Barbara, California.
“Ocean & Earth is growing by leaps and bounds in Australia,” says Maurer. “Brian Cregan, Ocean & Earth founder and managing director is funding their growth down there and was also helping the brand here. But with the exchange rate between the Australian and American dollar so weak, he was like, ‘Hey, it’s not anything bad, but we want to put our money back into our company and I think it would be a good time for you guys to go ahead and find somebody who will invest in the brand.’
“He also wanted to get American people to run the American company rather than him,” continues Maurer. “Eventually he’d like to see the operation here have a great American feel.”
But don’t expect too many changes, says Maurer. “I don’t think retailers will see any difference except better customer service and the boxes we ship them will come from Santa Barbara instead of Oceanside.”
Maurer says he’s excited about the deal, and for reasons beyond the payout he’ll receive. “Without a doubt,” he says “this is a 100-percent positive step. We’ll now definitely be able to keep the brand growing like it has for the last few years.”
According to Maurer, Ocean & Earth U.S.A. sales grew 25 percent last year, “which when you consider what happened on September 11 is pretty amazing.” He says that since he moved the brand to Oceanside in 1998, it’s grown between twenty and 40 percent each year.
Maurer sounds relieved to be getting some additional infrastructure behind the company. “Every year I go around the U.S. and Puerto Rico and visit every shop that we’re in. I’ll still do that, but I’ll also be able to spend more time on the phone following up on orders. Before we were so undermanned that we just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t call on accounts, make sure the production was going, and do all the things we needed to do to grow the brand. It will give me more time to concentrate on the things I need to concentrate on.”
According the Brillhart, the deal might also help Legend Eyewear open more doors through the synergy between the two brands, but adds with a laugh, “I don’t have any accounts that Beau is aching to get into, so I think it helps Legend more than O&E.”
However, it’s likely Ocean & Earth will find a slightly broader appeal now that the deal is inked. World Wakeboard Champ Shaun Murray joined O&E as an investor, equity partner, and teamrider and will be designing a signature wake accessory line for the ’02/03 season.