Eye On Orange County – Ron Jon

Ron Jon Surf Shop
Eighteen hot freeway miles from the nearest beach, The Block at Orange rises like some capitalistic mirage cranked into overdrive. The 800,000 square-foot open-air complex, which opened in November 1998, is a melange of wacky architecture and shops like Saks Five Avenue and Fredrick’s of Hollywood. And there, looking quite comfortable in the mix, is Ron Jon Surf Shop — the self-described “largest surf shop on the West Coast.”[IMAGE 1]

The 25,000-square-foot location is actually half the size of the flagship Ron Jon store in Cocoa Beach, but you’d never guess it. The front of the building is shaped like a 40-foot-high cresting wave and Quiksilver Denim P.O.P. is stretched across the broad exterior. Inside, the store is mammoth and — like Huntington Surf and Sport and Jack’s Surfboards — nearly every brand under the sun is represented. And it’s clear that both the store and its primary brands spend a lot of time getting the visual message right. The P.O.P. is phenomenal: circular Quiksilver lights hang and rotate from the ceiling; a Volcom display fifteen feet high and twenty feet wide greet shoppers entering the juniors’ department. The list goes on, with Hurley, Billabong, and Roxy also possessing an amazing visual presence in the store.

Unlike the Cocoa Beach store, which often feels weighted down by the private-label detritus tourists can’t seem to get enough of, the Orange store is sleek and sophisticated. It also acts as bellwether for the other four Ron Jon stores on the East Coast. “Since we’re bi-coastal, we get to test a lot of things in California and look at the trends maybe six months to a year before they happen on the East Coast — that’s a huge advantage,” says Ron Jon Senior Buyer John Sabo.[IMAGE 2]

Not surprisingly, the store is also corporate. The staff, who to a person are friendly and knowledgeable, clam up tighter than vice grip when asked questions from the press. Employees route questions to shift managers, who route them to the store manager, who route them to marketing directors a coast away. It’s all very friendly, but it’s also the slightest bit troubling.But only snoopy journos get the friendly brush off — customers are treated to a parade of top-named surfers signing autographs that belies the shop’s inland location. During the week of our visit, teamriders from Billabong, Volcom, O’Neill, and Ron Jon’s own team were scheduled to appear. And for an inland location the shop sells a ton of boards. “This year in California we’ll probably end up selling 500 boards,” says Sabo, “which is a lot for a landlocked store. In Cocoa Beach, we’ll sell between 750 and 800.”

[IMAGE 3]Nevertheless, apparel is the story of the Ron Jon Orange store, and for an instant snapshot of the market and which brands are hot, you’d be hard-pressed to beat it.

Window Brands: Quiksilver Denim, Etnies
Major Display Brands: Quiksilver, Roxy, Billabong, Volcom, Hurley, Stüssy, Rip Curl, O’Neill, Sanük, Reef, and nearly every other brands as well.
Strongest Category: Apparel
Weakest Category: Sandals
Strongest Brands: Quiksilver, Roxy
Best Reps: N/A

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