Top Product Picks from Surf Expo September 2016
By Kailee Bradstreet & Hayley Helms
Surf Expo wrapped up this Saturday in Orlando, Florida. We were on the floor checking out what’s new, as well as learning brands’ varying strategies and approaches to the evolving retail landscape.
At the macro level, brands seem to be re-evaluating every facet of their business—from distribution, to product manufacturing efficiency. Quality over quantity is ruling the day across the board, as lines tighten up and reflect the brands’ underlying purpose.
Tech innovations also lead the charge—in today’s crowded landscape, brands have realized that doing something new and different, that also meets the increasingly high expectations of consumers, is one of the only ways to gain market share.
Among some of the standouts we noted, Surftech was showing sister company NSP’s Coco Mat construction that draws on coconut mulch to make boards shockingly light. You have to pick up one of these boards to fully wrap your head around how much lighter a Standup Paddle board or even standard longboard can actually be. On the performance board side, the company is also bringing back its original technology, TufLite Pro Carbon (or TLPC) across the line. According to Surftech’s Dan Watts, the return to the tech was something retailers and consumers were asking for and it was a no-brainer for the company and its partners like Channel Islands. “Anytime you can make a board stronger, make it last longer, and also make it lighter at the same time, that’s a win,” says Surftech’s Watts.
On the apparel side, Rusty was showing an impressive look at next season’s collection, which harkens back to its roots in 1985. The collection, called “Before Crowds,” has bright neon pops reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s, which we saw across the board at many brands like Body Glove, as they get back to their heritage and what initially set them apart in the apparel market. Most noteworthy was the re-introduction of Rusty women’s in North America for the first time in years. Formerly, the brand was distributed in North America through a license agreement, but the original crew at Rusty pulled the business back in house to its global headquarters in Perth, Australia, allowing them to streamline the business across continents—a smart strategy when it comes to efficiency at the business level.
A brand that’s emerging in our space, and one that we’ve seen pop up on many surf retailers’ radar as a best seller, is Yeti. Although they started in the fishing / hunting market about ten years ago, Yeti has made a strong push into the surf industry and had a busy presence at the show. We were impressed with the simplicity and versatility of the new Hopper Flip cooler, which fits a 12 pack comfortably, or as Yeti likes to put it, “Carries the day.” The cooler features a wide mouth—the first of its size and structure for the brand—and a dry shell. According to Retail Marketing Coordinator Taylor Keith, “it’s great when we hear from people that our product kept their drinks cool for over a week,” during their adventures. As our industry sees the lines blur more than ever with the outdoor space, Yeti seems poised to grab some of that market share.
In swimwear, a strong showing from heritage brands like Roxy, Rip Curl, and Billabong represented a continued shift to the quality over quantity story, as well as nods to carrying over color pallet and pattern stories from swim to the rest of the apparel collection. Emerging swim brand Isla James, out of Rhode Island, had great positioning near the show’s “The Neighborhood” zone, and was getting noticed by retailers (and even some brands) in attendance.
The following are our edit team’s top product picks and highlights from the September 2016 show floor.
Rusty was showcasing The Heckler, a fish shape great for Florida small waves.
The board features new Torsion Spring technology, a waterproof foam that’s lighter than traditional poly-foam, according to Rusty’s Clint Preisendorfer.
Smith’s new Salty Crew collaboration is just hitting retail.
These combo frames are something new Smith is offering. A mixture between metal and traditional materials, the combo look comes in four new shapes. Seen here, The Bridgetown, retailing at $160 (a new, slightly lower pricepoint for the brand) that also features Chromapop tech.
The Jetty Life vibe was strong at the booth. The brand has created a line of Peruvian cotton premium knits new for Fall 17, as well as introducing a new cotton everyday lounge short.
It’s all in the details at Jetty.
Jetty boardshorts have been restructured into more comprehensible categories for retailers—something that Partner and Sales Director Corey Higgins says has been well received by East Coast buyers.
Yeti was getting a strong reaction to its new Hopper Flip, the first of its kind in size and structure. With a full wide mouth and dry shell, this cooler fits a twelve pack, or as the Yeti crew puts it, “carries the day.”
Pro-Tec is putting an increased emphasis on its youth category, and ways the brand can branch out into water sports like rafting and kayaking, according to Global Brand Director R.P. Bess. Seen here is a new 46 cm helmet—the smallest size the brand has ever offered— equipped with Pro-Tec’s signature fit system and magnetic closure.
One of the most eye-opening tech innovations of the show was over at Surftech with sister company NSP’s Coco Mat construction—made with an EPS foam core layered with coconut mulch, or “coco coir” (that husk-like substance you see as the top layer of the board.) The result is a shockingly light board for its size.
A new shape and color for NSP’s Coco Mat boards this season.
Surftech has brought back the the Tough Lite Pro Carbon, or TLPC, tech, which makes the boards lighter and more durable. Seen here, the TLPC applied to one of Channel Islands’ best selling boards, The High Five, $760.
Surftech is also in the process of changing up construction and introducing a whole new line up of boards for January 2017.
LIRA Women’s Designer and Product Development Manager Natashia Tomek was getting an amazing response from East Coast buyers on the Summer line, just unveiled at this show. This gem is the Talulah.
Rusty’s “Before Crowds” collection is a look at surfing from 1985, the year the brand got its start. The prints and original logos were lifted straight out of Rusty’s archives.
The brand is hyped to announce that under its newly updated global distribution strategy, North America once again will see a more robust women’s collection.
The women’s “Before Crowds” T-shirt line was well-received from East Coast buyers.