Business in Hawai’i

A few minutes with Bert Ishimaru, manager of Hawaiian Island Creations surf shop.

TransWorld SURF Business: How’s business compared to last year?

Bert Ishimaru: It’s tougher than last year. To get customers into your store, you have to get more creative in marketing nowadays compared to the previous years

What kind of marketing are you doing right now?

We’re trying to do more in-store promotions¿like bringing bands into the store to play music. We do what is called the “Hukilau Jams” where we bring entertainment like local underground bands into the store on the weekends once or twice a month. Our advertising is geared towards catering to the local customer.

Who are your customers?

We have a few different types of clientele¿but mainly younger kids, thirteen to seventeen years old and the surfer-type guys looking for the hard-line products. The parents also come in shopping with the kids, so it’s kind of a broad clientele.

What’s the breakdown between locals and tourists?

Half and half, I’d say.

What would you say your best-selling items would be?

What’s doing really well right now is women’s clothing¿it’s been pretty popular for the past couple of years because manufacturers are really pushing a good junior/girls line. Roxy is number one, but everyone has a good mix of the women’s clothing right now.

Other than that, out best-selling items have mainly been a lot of surf-related accessories or things like bags, hats, sunglasses. The kids are really into accessories nowadays.

How does your shop’s association with a surfer like Andy Irons help business?

Locally, not so much, because Andy is from Hawai’i. But we do get worldwide recognition because he travels and gets a lot of photos in different magazines all around the world. It helps us in a broader perspective around the world. He’s really boosting our image. In Hawai’i, it’s kind of normal to have a really strong local kid be associated with a surf shop.

Any plans for the future that you can tell us about?

W want to be a strong retailer worldwide. We’re looking at having solid distribution and to have our name strongly represented in the marketplace and surf industry. It’s starting to come around, which is really good.

How does the Hawai’ian economy look?

It’s been tough for the last couple of years, but hopefully things are on the turnaround. I just heard this morning that they signed the Baywatch deal, which hopefully will boost the economy because it’s beach related, and it should reflect back to beach-related businesses.

Hawai’i is a beautiful place, but you can only sell that for so long. There are a lot of beautiful places in the world to go to the beach. Hawai’i is definitely one of them, but somehow we need to draw people in and I think Baywatch is going to be a plus for the surf market in Hawai’i. It’s going to give us a lot of recognition.

With the Triple Crown and other things going on the North Shore, it’s going to be really good. I think things are going to turn around, it might not be as fast as we hoped, but I think it’ll turn around in the next few years for sure.

¿Pete Johnson