Whether to Laugh or Cry; Tommy Hilfiger Debuts Surf Line

It’s Friday evening, my wife is out of town, and a friend sent me this article from May 20 announcing the debut referenced in the title. I’ve had a glass of wine and think I’m going to break a rule and have another one as I write this. Or more. God knows what I’ll end up saying. If you search the subject, you’ll find some additional information.  

According to this article, the line will include limited edition surfboards as well as men’s and women’s apparel and accessories “…including beachwear, footwear, sunglasses, watches and bags.” I guess that about covers it. If it catches on, I’m sure there’ll be an SMU for Costco.
 
Here’s what another article says. “Tommy Hilfiger is launching a new collection that finds inspiration in the carefree, seaward lifestyle: The"Surf Shack" capsule features gorgeous, après-surf lifestyle pieces — colorful, breezy, and always with that trademark prepster twist.”
 
“Expect cozy, striped Baja pullovers, lightweight anoraks, crisp shirtdresses and chambray playsuits, plus a line of accessories like watches, shoes, scarves, and bags. (Prices are reasonable, too! A pretty striped clutch clocks in at a cool $68; a bikini at $128.) And, for those who might actually make it off the sandy sidelines and into the waves [Damn few I imagine], the collection also includes a range of surfboards created by American artists Lola Schnabel, Richard Phillips, Scott Campbell, Gary Simmons and Raymond Pettibon.”
 
They’re featuring artists, with shapers apparently an afterthought- or no thought at all. Okay, I’m going with laugh, because my other choice is throw myself off a tall building, and I got a lot of stuff to do tomorrow. I’d really be laughing if we didn’t have Hollister as an example.
 
I don’t know why I’m bothered by this. I’m supposed to be a business guy and I’ve spent a few years telling anybody who’d listen that it’s not different this time (or any time), that business cycles happen and that growth in the wrong way can be dangerous. But with all the issues in the surf industry and some of its companies right now this is just the last thing I needed to hear.
 
As an industry, surf starts to lose credibility as soon as it moves beyond its core consumer.  There is, of course, a balancing game there for each company; how far towards fashion and aware from surf  can you move and how quickly and still be credible with the core.  You can do that for a while, but there’s a limit.  Tommy Hilfiger doesn’t care about the core I’m guessing.  Their target consumer won’t be surfing.  But they are happy to take advantage of the market opportunity that’s been created by the surf industry until it’s not an opportunity any more.   
 
I suppose that as an industry the only thing we could have done to prevent this is not grow beyond the core surf market. Then we could have maintained our distinctiveness and some more brands could maintain a competitive advantage. But that wasn’t going to happen in surf any more than it happened in skateboarding or snowboarding. Every company does what it perceives to be in its own best interest.  But the longer term result is that the core companies create the opportunity that the large fashion based companies can take advantage of and with whom the core companies have trouble competing for the customer who’s more distant from the core.
 
So we’ll go through (are going through) what I guess is, unfortunately, the inevitable cycle where the styles represented by surf (or skate or snow) won’t  be very differentiable and won’t attract all the nonparticipants who don’t really care about surfing (or skating or snowboarding). We’ve got companies like Tommy Hilfiger yelling “More Cowbell!” And if you don’t know the Saturday Night Live skit I’m referring to, here’s the link where you can see it.
 
People who want to surf, skateboard, or snowboard are going to go right long doing it. And happily, they’ve all got great product to do it with. But meanwhile, we don’t need "More Cowbell!"  We need less.
 
I hope that analogy sounds goods in the morning.
 

 

 

40 replies
  1. Jay Wilson
    Jay Wilson says:

    Thanks I think I know who got them to do
    The line. I will call him! I would like to know
    If you have any info on Holister??? How are they doing ?
    Thanks Jay

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Jay,

      I’m due to take a look at Holister in the next week or two. You’ll know when it’s available. IF you find out who got them to do the line and what Holister’s thinking is, I’d love to know.

      Thanks,
      J.

  2. WJ
    WJ says:

    At this stage we should be indifferent to “collections inspired by….” scenarios from outside companies. Many have come and gone while the surf, skate and snow companies have kept (relative) focus on the core consumer. Who knows, maybe Tommy won’t see the demand and won’t continue beyond this collection, but in the meantime some new consumer itches are started that can only be scratched by endemic cowbell?

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi WJ,

      Well, the thing is that I don’t think as an industry we’ve stayed focused on the core consumer. Most of our industry’s product (and there are of course some companies that are exceptions) are sold to non participants. And the further you get from the core, the harder it is to compete with the big fashion brands. As I’ve said, those consumers may know your brand, but they won’t know your story and your advantage goes up in smoke.

      Thanks for the comment,

      J.

  3. Glenn Brumage
    Glenn Brumage says:

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the heads up. Interesting development. Dave Nash (SunDiego) texted me a week or so ago with a photo of the Hilfiger surf window display next door to one of his stores.
    I admit to going aggro over Hollister and other incursions into our space in the past but I have a new perspective based on both how brands relate to their customers as well as how customers shop.

    You said it yourself, this is a normal business cycle. Core surfers were just as incensed by the Frankie and Annette movies back in the 60’s. One of the loudest being Dora who also got paid to double in them.
    That didn’t kill surfing or the industry and Hilfiger won’t kill us today. What it WILL do is force us to up our game.

    Hollister is a great example. They saw an opportunity and they executed better than we do. No, the opportunity wasn’t the surf lifestyle, the opportunity was the shopping experience.

    We have cowbells, we just aren’t using them. We are sitting back on our asses and saying “this is the way it was and this is the way it should be!!!” All the while Hollister is giving their customer more of what we claim as our own.
    It’s not just surf either. My skate compadres are as bad or worse. Some want the days of outlaw skateboarding back and they absolutely HATE any reference to parks, vert, longboards or the reemergence of plastic boards. A few completely glaze over when any mention of the origins (sidewalk surfing) come up.

    Back to the point.

    We have an advantage that Hollister and Hilfiger don’t have.
    WE live the real boardsports life. We have the athletes. We are the keepers of the true experience. We are real.
    But, WE MUST CONNECT WITH OUR CUSTOMERS THE WAY THEY WANT TO BE CONNECTED WITH.

    Everyone wants to be identified with a tribe. Sometimes with more than one (ala Fox, Alpinestars etc). We have to be welcoming and make them feel that they are a part of our lifestyle, even if they get to the beach, skate or snowboard once a year.
    We have to know our core customers AND those that tread the edges of our lifestyle. We have to engage them in our brand conversations.

    As an example, Hollister, Hilfiger, Fox, Alpinestars, Famous Stars n Straps all know who their customer is and cater to them. Some of those customer were ours, some still are and some will never be. If you are a part of the Moto tribe, you identify with those brands and when you go to the beach, you don’t have a problem wearing Fox or Alpine. If your a rocker you’ll wear Famous, a hipster you’ll wear Hilfiger and so on.
    BUT, if you they truly want to be a part of the surf tribe, why would we not reach out, tell the authentic story and invite you to the “real” party?
    If we as core surf or for that matter skate brands aren’t connecting with our fringe customer, then we allow Hollister to steal them from us.

    The really cool part is that with today’s connectivity, it’s now more of a two way conversation.
    We also have more convenient ways to put our product in our customers hands.

    The hard part is getting out of our own heads, changing our habits and spending the time needed to actually do it.

    Stepping off my soapbox, have a great weekend.
    Glenn

    and I stand by my first post “Guess what, I got a fever and the only prescription is more cow bell”

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Glenn,
      A few years ago, I was invited to go meet with the management of a theater that was having financial problems. The management team bitched and moaned that they were trying to put on serious plays, but all the customers wanted to do was laugh their asses off. I asked, “So you’re telling me you want to sell customer something they don’t want?” There was a pause. They acknowledged there might, conceivably, be something to what I was saying. Then we moved on and I don’t think they paid any attention to me the rest of the time. I was a major inconvenience.

      If I can summarize what you’ve said, “The customer is always right.” The question is, which customer? We have the advantage over Hollister and Hilfiger in the core market. Outside of that, I’m not quite sure.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      J.

  4. Nick Adcock
    Nick Adcock says:

    HI Jeff,

    Love your commentary and thanks once again for digging into the financials to save us all from doing so. While I normally am in agreement with you this one had me “challenged” (a good thing).

    Like Glenn’s point I think there is a lot of validity in discussing this in the same realm of Hollister. The difference is while Tommy has taken inspiration for a capsule collection, Hollister build an entire brand around it. “Same, Same but Different.”

    In my mind the key discussion point is not one of disgust or concern at their actions but one of potential understanding/learning.

    I think as an industry we should be way past the anger stage of outsiders coming in. External athletic brands have been active in action sports so long a generation doesn’t know they were never in it, so is it now time to shift the “anger” focus to “fashion” brands?

    If we as an industry are operating on our own creative “island” I wonder why there are so many industry subscriptions to WGSN or designer trips to Paris/London/Tokyo for inspiration. Shouldn’t the focus be just at the beach?

    Look at the design wall of ANY apparel brand within our industry and beyond the few technical products (board shorts) and logo driven t-shirts, which I personally deem more marketing than apparel, you are in the fashion industry. Denim, Wovens, Polos, etc all of these products are not based on “core sport performance necessity” they are based on current fashion trends – colours, styles, cuts.

    I spend a lot of time with external companies looking at the Action Sports industry and I often find it interesting to see how long it takes them to realise that the revenue growth of this industry is far more driven by fashion than performance. Quite a revelation for many as they externally had a different view.

    As an industry we started with purpose build products (Rip Curl Wet suits, Billabong boardies, etc) but this is not where we have ended up. Like it or not, the vast majority of products sold by industry brand/retailers by definition place us squarely in the “fashion industry”. Unfortunately we just might be getting “schooled” by some bigger brands on how to do it better (Positioning, Product, Price).

    The bottom line is both Hollister and Tommy Hilfiger have taken the “inspiration” and “escapism” of surf/beach culture and taken it to a global market. The same way as they have both made money from the American Preppy look and style.

    As a brand person I have always admired the vision of Ralph Lauren, without question one of the world’s greatest branding success stories. Having built a US$6bn global powerhouse brand over 45+ years off an iconic “Polo” logo do you think that if we search the blogs of Polo Industry sites they would be all bitching an moaning about how Ralph Lauren sold their essence and gave nothing back?

    To my understanding RL has never had any sponsorship or involvement in Polo (the sport) but this has not stopped him building a global lifestyle off of the sports “essence” and “aspiration” of Polo (or the elite image that is conjures up in one’s mind).

    I’m sure many of us have owned some “dress up/grown up” clothes with that embroidered logo the chest – did we spare any time to think about the poor “polo industry” and their lack of funding from RL which would have allowed them to show the world “the beauty and passion” of their sport/past time? I think not. Though tipping neither is anyone buying Tommy’s “Surf Shack” Collection or Hollister thinking about the Surf industry in their purchase either.

    Ralph Lauren are doing a similar strategy with their “Rugby” brand to address the college athletic look/style. Once again with no athlete/team/event sponsorship commitments, but an ever increasing global foot print of global stores they are selling this “collegiate/athletic” vibe – All Take with No Give.

    Business (any business) is about exploring and seizing opportunities and if these large fashion brands have sensed that the “beach/surf” culture is aspirational enough to drive global sales by creating product “inspired” by this life I wonder if this is a short fall of our industry not theirs?

    While we live in our industry bubble of participation, athletes and events there are millions of people around the world who may never even see the beach let alone stand on a board.

    Spend some time at Bondi Beach or Waikiki watching tourists from around the world to see how “overwhelmed” they are just my walking on the sand and getting their feet wet. While surfboards are ever present it is more the beach “experience” that they are overwhelmed by, not the act of surfing. The beach experience is the fulfilment of their “escapism” dream from their land locked 9-5 office existences. This desire, fulfilled or not, creates a very emotional connection.

    While you reference the price points of the Tommy Surf Shack Collection I wonder, in our industry drive for growth, we seem to have happily turned what was once a aspirational, premium priced position into a “rack and stack ‘em”, “two for one”, “Costco surprises” world built on the accepted reality of commodity driven products.

    In a case of “Supply meets Demand” as an industry we past the point of “meeting the demand of our consumer” base many, many years ago. If it was all about core customers should we have pegged our industry growth against the participation growth to keep the “end user purity”? Ridiculous I know but hopefully you get the point.

    If “they” can get €$100 for a pair of “fashion” board shorts are we still dealing with the same customer? and if we are then why didn’t we seize this customer/price point before them? As apposed to trying to get a better “value” proposition to flood more product on what we deem “our” consumer. Their bad or ours?

    As much as Hollister is bitched about they have created a US$1.5bn+ US based business that has been created on the “essence” of beach culture (no athletes/events). They are now taking this format globally with similar success to what they have seen in the US. I would bet that Tommy Hilfiger’s move into surf/beach style had less about what they see from Quik/Bong and more about this type of industry activity from their industry, the fashion industry.

    At the end of the day there are brands and there are consumers. If another brand seizes or exploits and opportunity with a potential customer before you do is that their fault or yours? (Especially if they do it successfully).

    Question is should we as an industry have been focussing more on expanding our global consumer base via elevated product and positioning that these fashion companies are capturing or be chasing continually lower price points with smaller GP$ (for everyone). Are “we” as an industry just bitter that they are doing a better, more innovation job at evolving what “we” created? Pissed that they just reaping what “we” sowed?

    If we didn’t want the consumers, or the higher price points, that they these brands are exploiting then we have nothing to be concerned about – if we did want them then maybe it is time to learn something here on brand building from brands outside the industry. There is plenty to learn.

    Thanks for the opportunity to get off on a rant! Keep up the great work.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Nick,
      I’ve generated some really good rants off of this one- besides mine I mean. My answer is going to be short because I agree with you. I wasn’t actually pissed or surprised (though of course I’d rather not see it). But it was Friday night, I’d had some wine, and thought I could have some fun with it. You should have seen what I wrote the first time- revised it this morning before posting. I agree we did it to ourselves, though I wonder if companies in the surf industry, even the so called “big” companies, have the size and resources to compete in the broader fashion market. By trying to (and as public companies they had to try), they opened the door to Hollister, Hilfiger and others. You might read what Glenn wrote and how I responded to him.

      Thanks for taking the time.

      J.

      • Nick Adcock
        Nick Adcock says:

        “I agree we did it to ourselves, though I wonder if companies in the surf industry, even the so called “big” companies, have the size and resources to compete in the broader fashion market.”

        I think this is a great point – While I am extremely respectful how Vans has grown globally while keeping their core connection the reality is the majority of there product is in the commodity price point (very accessible globally) and built off a core style. In my mind they now really compare with Converse (but with a skate heritage rather than a bball one) than a traditional industry brand – again something they should be proud of. They really have transcended the industry in a positive way but I think this is a bit easier at a lower price point, especially given the global economic challenges of the past years.

        The reverse challenge of this is competing in the fashion world (at higher price points). It is much easier to come down in price points than to raise them (something the surf industry would have to do to compete with these fashion brands).

        Personally I am interested to see how Quik’s new Executive team strategize and approach this. With the high calibre of new exec team all coming from much more diverse and larger companies (non industry) i think this will be the first real test to see if and how an industry apparel brand evolves to meet this potential global opportunity.

        I think we can assume based on the “non core” activity that the global consumer “beach lifestyle” pie is much bigger than we would have thought it. One thing is certain, non-industry brands will not “ask” to take a slice, they’ll just take it. The industry just needs to make sure they are doing enough that there is nothing meaningful left to “take”.

        • jeff
          jeff says:

          Nick,

          Van’s has been consistent with its very, very lengthy heritage. When you have the kind of market position/image that your customers understand and are comfortable with, you can try some things that may or may not work out without screwing up your brand. But remember how they came to be owned by VF. They were public and got in big trouble. I don’t recall the genesis of their problems, but if VF hadn’t scooped them up, applied some discipline and provided resources and focus, who knows where they’d be. Zumiez is the only action sports based company I know of that is public, independent, and successful.

          I think you’re right about Van’s price points. They are kind of avoiding competing in the high end fashion business. And yes, it will be interesting to watch the new Quik team. But I still don’t understand where the sales growth is going to come from.

          J.

  5. Greg
    Greg says:

    “I put my pants on just like the rest of you, one leg at a time – except once my pants are on, I make gold records.” -Bruce Dickenson

    That “there is nothing we can’t do” arrogance got a few bigger surf players in trouble, methinks. Definitely needs more cowbell.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Greg,

      I always wonder where the boards of directors were and what they were thinking as some of this stuff went down. I suppose I’m a bit naive about boards and what they do as opposed to what I think they should be doing.

      Thanks,
      J.

  6. You Know Who
    You Know Who says:

    I’m just sort of dumb founded (or maybe just dumb) and really don’t know how I see this. It’s either just another quick in and out fashion play on Tommy’s part or maybe they see the bigger opportunity like Hollister. I guess time will tell. Glenn hasn’t got a clue but I always like to hear what Nick has to say! Just kidding Glenn. Maybe.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      YKW,
      Be nice to Glenn. I don’t know what Hollister’s plan either. I suspect we’ll understand that as they see what kind of reception it gets. It appears to be a pretty complete product line if they actually do it all.

      J.

      • You Know Who
        You Know Who says:

        If we are going back to the Quiksand and Billagong discussion the truth is that in any normal non-rubberstamping board everyone involved would have been replaced. The good old boy days are gone, at least for those few surf companies that are public. I think at this stage even the big two would be much better off going privet. But what do I know?

        • jeff
          jeff says:

          I agree private would be good. Would make it much easier to pursue the right strategy because they wouldn’t have to be so focused on growth.

          J.

  7. Reno Makani
    Reno Makani says:

    Corporate brands are taking advantage of what athletes have paved and worked so hard. Surfing has completely lost its core when it comes to clothing. Big corporate companies don’t even care about athletes anymore endorsement deals have gone down while profits continue to soar. Greed is the big problem here. Core stems from the athletes. The near future your going to see a movement like no other mark my words. Reno Makani

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Reno,
      You’ve got a number of points in there, and I don’t quite know which to respond to. The first thing I might say is that I know core when I see it, but it seems hard to define. A lot of those core athletes have been willing to take money from the big fashion companies, and I don’t blame them even as I wish it were different. Greed is not a problem; it’s an inevitable condition so we might as well recognize we just have to deal with it. I guess I should admit to a certain level of greed myself. I’d be curious to know what movement you’re expecting to see.

      Thanks for the comment,

      J.

    • Craig glaspell
      Craig glaspell says:

      I’m not in the surf industry, I’m in the bike business, which in revenue is a pimple on the ass of surf…so I come in here to learn a bit whats going on elsewhere, at any rate, is Shaun white and tony hawk deals with target and Walmart part of this conversation? I assume they have big paydays with this stuff, are seen as ‘sell outs’ but its never bothered me. I guess since target and Walmart are not ‘big fashion brands’ it’s not ideal example, but wanted to chime in haha.

      • jeff
        jeff says:

        Hi Craig,
        I’m not quite sure bike is a “pimple on the ass of surf.” Guess it depends on how you define each market. If we still aren’t thrilled with the “sellouts,” we’re pretty much used to it. And not that many companies are in a position to criticize it anyway. People who live in glass houses… And truth be told, we’d all like a pay day like they got.

        Thanks for the comment,

        J.

  8. Tim Kastelle
    Tim Kastelle says:

    It reminds me of the quote from William Gibson in Pattern Recognition on Tommy Hilfiger:

    “(The brand is a) simulacra of simulacra of simulacra. A dilute tincture of Ralph Lauren, who had himself diluted the glory days of Brooks Brothers, who themselves had stepped on the product of Jermyn Street and Savile Row … There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.”

    In a lot of ways I think that this gets at the issue of core vs. mainstream pretty well too, and why it’s so disquieting to the core when the big brands do stuff like this.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Tim,
      Yeah, maybe it’s inevitable and continuous. Maybe you get to the point where you’re so removed from the original space that you find yourself starting over and don’t realize it. We’re not there yet. It’s disquieting to the core because it’s a space they want, but find themselves unable to compete very well in.

      Thanks for the comment,

      J.

  9. Bud Stratford
    Bud Stratford says:

    I’m not really sure why the surf industry is threatened by the Hollisters and the Tommy Hilfigers of the world. I mean, seriously- these are clearly posers that don’t know jack crap about surfing, the history, the tradition, or the movement. You’d think that people wearing this crap would get made fun of, more than anything (I know that Hollister geeks get crapped on incessantly around my ‘hood). I mean, come on…! We know they’re not legit! And, THEY know they’re not legit…! So, what’s the worry…? I mean, it would be one thing if they signed Kelly Slater or Christian Fletcher ir something to their programs… that might make me lose a little sleep. But thankfully- that just ain’t gonna happen.

    The surf industry should sleep well at night, knowing full well that once the hubbub dies down, and the hipsters go back to Abercrombie and Fitch (and their other douchebag fashionista counterparts)- the surf industry will be left alone to prosper on it’s creative island once again. It’s happened before. And it will happen again. C’est la vie.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Bud,
      For the quarter ended May 4, Hollister had revenues of $421 million. Now that’s down from $464 million in the same quarter last year, but it’s still quite a bit of surf related dollars. They may be posers, and they may not know jack crap about surfing, and they may not be legit. But somehow they’ve figured out how to get a lot of consumers who are interested in surf even if clueless about it to buy a lot of stuff. Rather than reminding each other how uncool they are, maybe we should try and figure out what they did right!

      J.

  10. Jim P
    Jim P says:

    Hi Jeff

    Like you, I have mixed emotions on this. Thanks for posting. While I’m not intimate with the fashion business, perhaps a little perspective might help – what do you think?

    Surf Shack Collection branding: “It’s sunset drinks at the cottage, late-night beach bonfires and après surf clambakes.” [JP-Yep, “…après surf clambakes”]. That’s certainly broad and aspirational to target to non-endemics.

    Tommy Hilfiger has $3.0+ Billion (B) in annual sales. Can Surf Shack Collection bring in $75 million at retail, say, $40 from mens, $35 from womens? Or viewed as maybe $20 million in swim, $30 million in casual, $25 million in footwear/accessorite?

    Isn’t this how mega brands think/work?

    Best,
    Jim

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Jim,
      I certainly agree that it’s targeted at the non-endemics, because that’s the only way the market is large enough to be of interest to Hilfiger. And I would guess, as you suggest, that if they can turn it into a hundred million dollar sub brand, they’d be perfectly happy.

      Thanks,
      J.

  11. Glenn Brumage
    Glenn Brumage says:

    1st, YKWS, stand up for your opinion by using your real name.

    Some great material to consider in all the posts. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed (ask YKWS) and hearing opinions from another business manager like Nick, the athlete perspective from Reno and everyone else for that matter, is always educational.

    I agree with both Nick and Bud, that we shouldn’t be worried about the Hilfigers or Holisters. Learn from it and we’ll up our own game.
    Our customer is much more sophisticated than they used to be. We can’t start a brand or open a Skate, Surf or Snowboard shop and expect anyone to notice.
    Fact is, the tools are there. We’ve got to get better at using them.
    Evolve and we win.
    Glenn

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Thanks Glenn,

      We’ll see if YKW comes out of the shadows. An interesting question is just who our customer is now. Scratch that. I mean who your company’s customer is. Way tougher to figure out than it used to be, especially if you expect to grow outside the core at all.

      J.

      • Glenn Brumage
        Glenn Brumage says:

        Jeff,

        I’d say that even the core customer is different than they used to be. Much less one dimensional than in the past. Customer profiles are a critical part of a marketing plan these days.

        On the plus side, there are more ways to get our brand message to a more diverse group of customers than ever before. For what a single page Advert used to run, I can hire two people to blog and FB for a year. For the cost of a two page spread we can keep our YouTube pipeline full for a year.

        Life is good,
        G

  12. You Know Who
    You Know Who says:

    To Buds point, the scary thing is really, what is the difference now between Hollister and Quik? You have to ask yourself, how many of the Disney people (and there are now a lot of them in executive position’s) surf? Or I have to ask myself, is it important anymore? Other than sponsoring athletes (and a lot less lately) and a few contest, where is the line that separates the two companies. I want to believe in having a surf company run by surfers like most but if Hollister held just one contest and sponsored just one surfer then what would be the real difference? The line now is very thin.

    Oh, and Glenn, I still owe you a dinner at Bad to the Bone! But if you give me away, I will have the Hawaiian surf club roast you like a pig at Old Mans! Ha! Did have you going there for a bit. Still love ya buddy!

  13. Hugie
    Hugie says:

    The answer to the “authenticity debate” is becoming irrelevant very quickly. As I look back over a 30 year “surf industry” career, it becomes more and more apparent- People who happened to surf started companies to make money and support their lifestyle. They could have just as easily grown up doing motocross and started a moto apparel brand. The fact that they happened to surf makes them special, or “core”, or “authentic” only to the extent that they have given something back to the sport they love. To take something you love doing, and decide to make your living from it, is a nice perk but it is nonsense to act as if this adds purity of lifestyle to ones character, or any other such “religious” or ethical intonation. We will be remembered for what we have given back. There are plenty of jerks and egomaniacs who surf who have started or owned “surf companies.” I don’t care to work for them, or regard them any more highly because they happened to work in a sport they participate in.

    As for what makes a company successful, let’s mention another Tommy here – Tommy Bahama, the so-called “Purveyors of Island Lifestyles” A group of apparel people from- get this- Seattle—- yes, Seattle! about 2 thousand miles away from the nearest warm beach– started this company and have built an empire from it, many already retiring with enough money to last ten lifetimes. They built this empire on a dream, a mirage, really, that the general public resonates with- going to Kokomo, getting their fast, but then taking it slow… palm trees and drinking tropical beverages, kicking back in a hammock under the shade, while tourmaline waters sparkle ten feet away… who wouldn’t resonate with that? That’s why they can sell $110 wovens in Kearney, Nebraska or Des Moines, Iowa. Authenticity? Why should they care? Give me even one good reason! They don’t need to care because they were just smart businesspeople, with even smarter marketing and a design team that knew what they were going after. They could have been based in Anchorage, Alaska and accomplished this, though it may have been harder logistically. Point being, if you can successfully convey a certain image, a feeling, really, in your marketing, store ambience (Hollister), and p.o.p., and sell the heck out of it, then you have succeeded, and my hat is off to you. The pockets in this industry that are hung up on retaining their “Core DNA” as they just LOVE to tell you, are really just using a smoke screen to tell you that they lost it a long time ago. We could all learn a lot from the two Tommy’s, Hollister, etc.
    Make some money and do some good with it….

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hugie,
      Your point, I think, is that you only have to be authentic to your customers.

      Thanks,
      J.

      • Hugie
        Hugie says:

        Jeff, I don’t know that I’m saying “be authentic to your customers.” I’m questioning whether the “authentic” debate is even a legitimate one, when much of the “authenticity” in this industry is manufactured with clever marketing and there is a vested interest in appearing “authentic.”

        • jeff
          jeff says:

          So let’s forget the term “authentic,” which has a history in the industry and is in some ways imbued with a certain emotional content. And let’s not talk about “the industry” but about individual companies. Let’s just say that each company has to identify its target customers and be make a connection with them that provides a point of differentiation. Or that company won’t be in business. I guess I’d agree with you that the “authentic” debate is not legitimate. It’s kind of an old and worn stalking horse that can get in the way of running a company well. Authentic may be important to the industry, but I suspect many company customers don’t think much about it the way we do.

          Thanks for the good discussion,

          J.

          • Hugie
            Hugie says:

            Jeff, I agree with our comments. Convenient, being that you are agreeing with me, huh? haha.
            I think you hit the nail on the head with two points- “target customers making a connection,” and “running a company well.” Quiksilver did both well for years, and so did Tommy Bahama. I’m evolving as an industry veteran- (Beginning to choose to not see one as “authentic” and the other “inauthentic.”) After all, what is really the point in making that differentiation? I don’t see it anymore.

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