So Cal Shop Report

By Rene Pacheco

One of the biggest issues affecting Southern California’s retail environment this season has been the ocean’s cold temperatures. This year, La Niña has not only brought cold waters, but an increase in wetsuit sales.

Todd Adam, manager of Encinitas Surfboards in Encinitas, said last year they cancelled most wetsuit orders due to the warm waters of El Niño. But this year’s demand seems to be making up for it. Booties and other accessories have made their way to the registers as well. “I’ve never seen booties, gloves, and hoods clear out so fast,” Adam replies. He adds that people aren’t worried so much about how they look in such things as funny-looking hoods, but rather are concerned about staying warm. “If anything, business is growing,” says Adam.

Surf Concepts in Manhattan Beach, on the other hand, sees La Niña having no real impact. Store Manager Dave Pollard says their new location on Coast Highway has been the biggest change in operations. Moving is a big change indeed, and if it’s closer to the beach or onto Coast Highway¿it’s for the better. Business is picking up.

The need to keep warm is taking a different turn for Beach Bums in Anaheim Hills. Manager Cliff Haddadin says the surf market in his area “has slowed down” because of the increasing popularity of skateboarding. “Groms want to be skaters,” says Haddadin.

In order to supply the demand, Beach Bums‘ currently concentrating on skateboarding products. But die-hard surfers can still find what they need at the store, which happens to be one of the biggest shops in the area.

In San Diego, Clairemont Surf has noticed an increase in a specific market as well: women. Manager Rob Chalfant says, “The women’s business has been our biggest growth area.” He adds that more women have been buying surfboards and apparel in general. The female market is definitely growing, and after 22 years, Clairemont Surf is experiencing it firsthand.

Wetsuit sales are doing well at Clairemont Surf, but Chalfant feels it’s because of the increase in technology and comfort of the wetsuits, not necessarily the cold waters. He says people aren’t as anxious to get out of their suits as they were a few years ago.

Micah Bundy, assistant manager of Ventura Surf Shop, in Ventura also says the shop has had steady business this season. He says 3/2 mm fullsuit sales are down from last year, but adds: “We’ve never ordered so many 4/3 mm wetsuits before.” He adds that people seem to be doing everything they can to stay warm in the water. Keeping hoods, gloves, and booties stocked has become a problem for their shop as well.