Brands, Staffing, and Stores; Zumiez’s Quarterly Results

Zumiez increased revenues and profits in their October 29 quarter compared to the same quarter last year.  The more interesting strategic question is how (if a single quarter is indicative of longer terms trends) and I’d like to highlight three factors that I see working together, though they are typically discussed separately.

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Billabong Receives an Offer to be Taken Private

Well, it appears I’ve done it again.  After having published just this morning an article in which I said, “Billabong would be better off as a private company, but I don’t see a path to privatization that makes sense to Oaktree,” Billabong has received an offer to have its outstanding shares acquired for $1.00 each (Australian dollars) from Boardriders (formerly Quiksilver), in which Oaktree has a majority interest.  Guess I should have added, “to which Billabong could be expected to agree.”  I may still turn out to be right with that caveat.  Here’s the announcement.

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Billabong and Rip Curl; A Tale of Two Surf Companies and Their Interesting Juxta Positioning

A few weeks ago, you no doubt saw the reports that Billabong (which would mean Oaktree Capital Management– the controlling investor in Billabong) was doing due diligence on Rip Curl as a possible acquisition.  Oaktree, of course, is also a major investor in Quiksilver.

When Oaktree invested in Billabong, there were some rumblings about combining it with Quiksilver, but nothing ever happened.

Meanwhile, we have a bit of information on Rip Curl’s earnings and last week, and Billabong held its annual shareholders meeting where Chairman Ian Pollard and CEO Neil Fiske reviewed the full year results.  Those results were released back in the middle of August and I wrote this article about them.

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Scooters. Yes, Really. An Article on Scooters

Personal Note:

“Okay Diane [my wife], I give up.  We’ve been trying to find a smaller house for two years in this stupid Seattle real estate market.  It ain’t happening until next spring and I’m buying the cord of wood we need for our fire place to get through the winter (along with some red wine).”

Wood arrives.  We get it stacked.  Next day (you had to see this coming)- “Jeff, I’ve found our house!”

So she had.  The house we’ve now bought went on the market September 28th, we were in escrow on October 12th, closed about ten days later, put our old house on the market (way more fun to be a seller than a buyer in Seattle right now) and moved into the new place November 6th.  As the pile of boxes has diminished, I’ve once again turned to what’s going on in the industry.

Two months ago, I got an email from Dave Grant, the owner of Vermin Scooter Shop in Calgary.

“A what kind of shop?!” I thought.  Scooter shop.  Yep.

Like many of you, I remember all those years ago when scooters first made their appearance.  Also like many of you, especially in the skate industry, I expected scooters to be a blip that went away.  I recall how they followed the typical and expected trajectory- grew exponentially, got over supplied, crashed.  That’s the end of that, many of us thought.

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Core Versus More; A History of the Surf Industry

Perhaps I bring the most value to the industry when a reader sends me something they think is important but that they don’t want to be directly associated with.  And they figure, “Send it to Jeff!  He’ll publicize anything.”

Most of the time, they’re right and this is one of those times.

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Maybe Not Being a Brand Is a Brand

We believe in the power of brands.  We have to.  In action sports/active outdoor, there are very few “moats” around products.  That is, there are few distinguishing product features not based on marketing that are sustainable and even long-established brand names run into difficulties holding onto their market positions.  Witness Nike’s current struggles.

Years ago, I asked if maybe brands weren’t going to be as important as they had been.  I was wrong- and right.

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Retailer Plans to Go Public. Wait…Now?…A Retailer?…Really?

Roots, a Canadian retailer, has filed a prospectus for a public offering.  Here’s the link to their web site.  As usual, the initial prospectus is missing a lot of key numbers, but I’ll do the best I can.

Roots has been around since 1973, so they must be doing something right.  “As of July 29, 2017, our integrated omni-channel footprint included 116 corporate retail stores in Canada, 4 corporate retail stores in the United States, 109 partner-operated stores in Taiwan, 27 partner-operated stores in China and a global e-commerce platform that shipped to 54 countries during our most recently completed fiscal year.”  They had 2,200 full time employees.

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The Details We Don’t See; Zumiez’s July 29 Quarter

During the quarter, Zumiez increased its sales and reduced its loss compared to the same quarter last year.  It continued to follow its strategy and its balance sheet remains solid- perhaps a bit stronger than a year ago.

I’ve generally been a supporter of Zumiez’s strategy.  It’s not that they necessarily know any better than any other retailer how things are going to shake out as retail consolidation winds its way through the industry, or that they are certain how, exactly, brick and mortar and online are going to evolve and influence each other.  But they’ve made a couple of bets (that we’ve been talking about for some quarters bordering on years now) that are complementary to their long-term strengths and strategies and that offer them the data and flexibility to respond when, inevitably, things don’t turn out exactly as they expect.

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Not Too Bad, But Not Too Good. And Generally Uninformative. Globe’s Annual Results

Globe is no more immune to economic conditions than any other company.  But what I’ve always liked about them is they seem to be in touch with reality and have a positive attitude about it.  They haven’t always been right (me neither) but they’re not slow to realize when something should change and in making it happen.  Their results for the year ended June 30, 2017 demonstrate that.

As usual, we don’t get very much useful information in their statutory report, and nothing by brand, but I’ll give you what I’ve got.

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More of the Same; Billabong’s Results for the Year

Here’s what I said six months ago about Billabong:

“Six months ago [talking about a year ago], reporting on Billabong’s results for the whole year, I said this was a challenging turnaround, Billabong was doing things right, they were starting to see results, but the market was tough, and implementing their plan was taking longer and costing more (perhaps because it’s taking longer) than they’d initially expected.  That’s all still true…”

And it’s still, still true as we review the results for the year ended June 30, 2017.  I thought the delay was especially highlighted in Billabong’s July 28 “Omni Update” press release where they noted they’d “…terminated the agreement with the Omni-channel solution provider…” and taken a write down of AU $11.7 million as a result.  Billabong continues to try and change the engine oil while driving the car.  Tough task- but it’s what they have to do.

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