Seven2 Gives Op Another Important Piece Of The Puzzle

“It is what it is.”

That’s a saying Director Of Marketing Michael Marckx uses when talking about the four lines — Ocean Pacific, Op, Op Classic, and the new Seven2 line — currently distributed by Op.

But it’s not a sentence that evokes resignation. Instead, it’s more of a watchword; a way to mentally separate the four brands that allows the company to hone in on the strengths of each.

“The brand extensions stuff is unique to Op,” says Marckx, “and we’re pretty proud of how we’re differentiating our business and channel distribution.”

Indeed, the Op brand matrix cuts a wide swath across consumer demographics, distribution channels, and pricepoints that’s allowed the company to grow in a sometimes tough retail environment.

At the bottom of the distribution pyramid (from the perspective of surf shops) is the Ocean Pacific line. In a move similar to the Mossimo-Target deal, the line launched in Spring 2002 at the 1,075 JCPenney department stores nationwide.

“The consumer for the Ocean Pacific line is 25- to 45-years old and familiar with the Ocean Pacific name,” says Marckx. “We went to JCPenney and said, ‘We’ll launch it exclusively with you if you carry it in all your doors and do it the way we’re telling you to do it.’

“I never have to market it,” continues Marckx. “It is what it is: button-down shirts that 40-year-old men wear and resort-living apparel for the 25- to 45-year-old set. It’s what Quiksilver tried to do with Que, except we have a retail partnership to make it work. But we’re not shackled to JCPenney.”

While Marckx says the Ocean Pacific line exceeded everyone’s expectations, it’s not the bulk of the company’s sales. “The majority of our sales are from the contemporary Op mark sold to both girls and guys in better department stores and other not-so-better department stores,” says Marckx.

The Op Classic line, on the other hand, has a stringent specialty-only distribution strategy. “With Op Classic there’s the promise that it’s specialty surf-shop driven, and we’ll never take it above the specialty level,” says Marckx. “PacSun is the highest {distribution level} we’d ever go.”

Since it launched a year ago, the Op Classic line has been in the vanguard of the retro craze. “Op Classic is a regurgitation of a lot of the old stuff — a literal translation,” explains Marckx. “It will slowly be infused with new interpretations of retro stuff and will evolve over time. We’ll add new colorways and maybe even different materials. But the line will retain that Classic essence and will remain tethered to the past.”

The New Game In Town

But don’t look for another homage to Op’s past in the company’s newest line. “Seven2 is this fashion-forward, super-cool, hip product that you’d never believe came from Op,” says Marckx. “It’s just way too cool and high-end and fashion-driven. It’s everything you’d never expect from Op.”

He says Seven2 has no time reference other than the name: “The Op brand actually has a heritage well back into the 60s, but it started as an apparel corporation in 1972. I also liked how the ‘S’ and the ‘2’ connect on the front on the back and that it has the word ‘even’ in the middle.”

The line also gives Op new, upscale distribution channels that were prevented from carrying the Classic line. “With Seven2 we’re able to do whatever we went with it.,” says Marckx. “Barneys has picked it up. You’ll find it at Fred Siegel and the fancy-schmancy American Rag-type boutiques. You’ll also find it at the Federated Stores and Bloomingdale’s — perhaps Macy’s — and at the PacSun-ish larger specialty chains. It will also be in a lot of the cool surf shops.”

He says the hallmarks of the Seven2 line will be quality construction and interesting, quirky graphic presentations. “If you look at the line and feel the fabrics we’re using, you’ll see that they’re either superior or more interesting than the stuff in our other lines,” says Marckx. “With Seven2, we’re not as married to having to do less-expensive product. We’re only married to doing really interesting, quality product.”

It’s clear that Seven2 won’t look like your typical surf line on the rack. “You won’t find other brands doing denim-ish boardshorts,” says Marckx. “You won’t find Burberry-type inner linings in shirts. You won’t find the kind of stitching and interesting stuff that we’ve done.

“And it’s not wackiness for wackiness sake,” continues Marckx. “It’s not like when the market went through the whole ‘everything’s gotta be tech’ phase a few years ago. It’s really just tasteful placement of stitching. For example, where you’re used to seeing a horizontal stitch, a Seven2 shirt will have a vertical stitch. You look at it and say, ‘It’s a Ben Sherman shirt, but I love the way you fucked up the fabric on the seams. I love how you stretched the pattern all the way around the shirt.’ The Seven2 line is full of wacky stuff that people haven’t done yet. So it’s kind of fun to be on the vanguard of something, rather than reacting to trends.”

But don’t call it urban. “I don’t like labels much — especially as we move into an ever-more fluid world with less boundaries and more crossover than ever before,” says Marckx. “So the idea of urban or suburban doesn’t have a place in anything that we’re doing. I’m not writing in my marketing plan, ‘We need to attack these urban sensibilities in our marketing.'”

Marckx says the sales goals for the Seven2 line are fairly modest, but he expects the line to appeal to a variety of the more fashion-forward retailers.

“Our expectations are that if retailers see the line, they will feel compelled to buy it if it fits with who they’re serving,” he says. “It may not be the right fit for a surf shop in North Carolina, but it will certainly be appropriate for Huntington Surf & Sport and Jack’s {Surfboards} — or anybody else who’s more on the cutting edge of that retail space.”

And so far, reactions have been favorable. “Everyone who sees it is like, ‘Holy shit, where did this come from?'” laughs Marckx. “That’s kind of fun.”