Ryan Immegart On Volcom’s “Barely Available, Strictly Limited” Specialty Retail Line

During meetings with its European team, the Volcom crew took up the meaty topic and slippery slope that is the current specialty retail landscape and began to look at ways to help more retailers, similar to what they’ve done with Stone-Age for skate shops.

“We were talking about today's environment and how important it is to create something special for our key retailers and customers,” explains SVP of Marketing Ryan Immegart. “Something just for them that is inherently Volcom, but very limited in it's distribution.”

The result was the recently released Barely Available, Strictly Limited line which hit 100 hand selected retailers earlier this year.

“The offering is a tight collection that highlights Volcom's dedication to our heritage through a modern day lens,” sums up Immegart.  “We also took inspiration from the beach/punk lifestyle that we all live and love.  The product assortment primarily consists of tees, hats, short sleeve wovens, walkshorts, and boardies.”

We caught up with Immegart to learn more about the line, the stores they selected, and the importance of specialty retail in Volcom’s business model.

The Volcom crew: Ryan Immegart, Co-founder Richard Woolcott, CEO Jason Steris, and Executive VP of Sales Tom Ruiz at Surf Expo.

This line is available at a very, well strictly, limited number of stores. How did you select the stores that you’re working with on this?

Our sales managers worked closely with our internal teams and rep force to identify the retailers we wanted to offer the collection to.  Many different factors were taken into consideration and it was really tough to decide since we value and respect all our retail partners.  At the end of the day, the group consensus paved the way.

What makes the line stand out from the main Volcom range and what are you doing to build demand and drive customers to specialty retailers?

One of the key differences was the way we approached the product.  We wanted the collection to tell a specific story and since it was a tight line we where able to achieve this without compromising the spirit of our intentions.

Driving demand for this has been really fun, because of the limited distribution.  It has allowed us to execute marketing initiatives on a more granular level.  We came up with a campaign that captured the essence of the collection and built out thee assets accordingly.  We are curating every detail, from the in-store presentation to recognizing retailers in ads and social media.  We also worked hard to educate the retail staff and provided them with promo boxes full of exclusive tees, 'zines, stickers and product info that they could enjoy for themselves.

Times continue to be really tough for specialty retailers, as evinced by K5 closing its doors recently. What role do you see Volcom playing in supporting specialty retailers and how important are they to your business these days?

First off, specialty retailers are very important to Volcom and the industry as a whole. We always consider the impact our decisions will make on our retail partners.  Case in point--this collection is really about giving back to those retailers that support us.  In addition, our Volcom Stone-Age line, which we started in 2007, was created with the same intent.  We know that it's tough out there and by offering exclusive collections to our key partners we hope to contribute to the greater health of the industry.

I was running through the shop list and it looks like there are about 100 doors that the line will be available in with around 10 being Volcom doors and 30 being Zumiez. This obviously isn’t all the Zumiez doors – how did you pick the ones you did?

We worked closely with the Zumiez team to identify the most appropriate locations based on insights from both sides.  We also tried our best to spread out the distribution footprint to help minimize any overlap.

Do you think making this line available at Volcom stores defeats the purpose at all of distributing the line through a select group of your best accounts?

It's a double-edged sword no matter how you slice it, but in general, I don't think it defeats the purpose.  The goal is to use our stores to really tell the Volcom story and that includes limited collections like this. On the other hand, we decided not to sell it online via Volcom.com.  Again, it all comes down to trying to find the balance while keeping everyone stoked.

Do you plan to expand or rotate the dealer list in future years, or is this a one-time collection?

Currently, BASL is a special collection for 2013.  The dealer list could evolve seasonally, but no major changes are planned.   We are monitoring the performance closely and will base the future strategy on what we learn.

How does this compare to Stone-Age? Is it kind of a Stone-Age more geared to a surf vibe?

BASL is more of a collaborative effort overall, which allows us to take a different approach to the storytelling. Volcom Stone-Age on the other hand is 100% skate inspired.  Although they are both built on the same intent, we felt they complimented one another.

Any plans to do something similar for snow retailers?

It's been discussed but can't confirm anything right now.

When did the site go up and how has the traffic been? Are people using the "Tell a Friend" function?

The site has been up since late January.  Traffic has been steady and people are using the sharing function.

How’d you get that ramp to float?

Well, lets just say it was a pain in the ass...