EDITOR'S NOTE: Our Retail Wednesdays series profiles a different specialty retailer each week, in an effort to spotlight success stories and gain insight from shops that are continuing to grow in the face of a challenging economy.
Most surf retailers will acknowledge that selling surfboards has never been easy. Costs are high and margins are thin. That said, the experience of walking into a surf shop and buying a board off the rack is the reason the industry was born. Apparel and all the other surf lifestyle products that have followed wouldn’t be here in the first place, if it wasn't for the boards.
ET Surf in Hermosa Beach, California, has always been known for their strong hardgoods sales, and has remained a top account for multiple board brands over its 45 year history.
We sat down with Dan Connell, co-manager and co-buyer for more than 25 years, to get a quick state of the union on surfboard sales.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity. Interview was conducted in August 2017
How long have you been at ET?
ET has a reputation for strong hard goods sales. Has this always been the case?
Yes, and it's definitely not the easiest way to make a buck, but our friends and customers are stoked on the amount of surfboards that we have. We have around 800 boards in stock right now.
Do you have a rough estimate of how many surfboards you sell per week?
We pretty much always sell one a day. Sunday was awesome — we sold nine or ten that day!
How are domestically built boards selling, compared to companies doing production overseas?
Our customers love the USA built boards! A lot of the overseas boards need some fine tuning still. Except for Firewire, they are getting pretty dialed in. I think that companies should not chase Firewire, and instead step up their poly boards with better resins. For example, my customers really like the Rusty E-Poly boards. These are Poly blanks with epoxy resins.
Do customers look for boards from local (South Bay) shapers at all? Are they concerned about hand shaped vs. machine?
We have a shaper Pat Ryan, he has a machine and we sell a ton of his boards. Some of the best kids around here ride his boards, like Rodney Buck and Ben Oien. Other kids see Ben and Rodney ripping on them, and we get a lot of orders from that. They both have a file or a model on the computer, and the boards are not too expensive — around $475 for a 5'10".
Besides that, people just go directly to the local shapers. There’s so many good ones around here. Don Kadowaki makes awesome boards, along with Angelo Ferrara, Joe Bark, Jose Barahona and Dan Cobley, who all have a great local following. All of them use a machine, except for Don he handshapes all his. I've had some epic ones from all of them!
What's going on with the bigger brands (…LOST, Channel Islands, etc.)? Do they still represent the majority of the surfboards sales?
Yes for sure. I sold two boards today, both were …LOST. I'm helping a guy right now who's going to Tavarua. He's looking at a 6'3 Channel Islands Taco Grinder. He's a good surfer, and the guys that know what works in good waves will spend the money on those brands for sure.
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