Back in September of 2013, when Centerbridge and Oaktree invested in Billabong, there was some discussion/consternation about the possibility of Oaktree combining Quiksilver, which it already controlled with Billabong. Quiksilver’s name, as you know, was changed to Boardriders. It owns the Quiksilver, Roxy and DC brands. Billabong’s three largest brands are Billabong, RVCA, and Element. It also owns some smaller brands which I continue to expect will be sold. Probably easier to do that once Billabong is not a public company.
I knew about this article on the Wavestorm $100 surfboard before it ever came out. In some ways, it’s old news. Less expensive surf boards of various constructions and materials have been popping up for years now, and the Wavestorm isn’t new. I guess the genie was out of the bottle around the time Clark Foam went bell y up.
So on the one hand it’s old news. It was highlighted on Boardistan, and I kind of decided there was nothing to discuss. But it kept popping back into my consciousness, and I couldn’t bring myself to delete the link to it. I even wrote 500 words at one point and trashed it.
But here I am. It’s Sunday morning and I think I’ve figured out what’s bothering me. That is, I finally know, from a business point of view, why I care.
Most of you are probably aware that the Surf Industry Summit took place in Cabo starting about 10 days ago. The keynote speaker on the first night was Quiksilver founder and Chairman Bob McKnight. His speech was somewhat controversial. The text is available on Shop Eat, Surf, but only if you’re an Executive Member. I’m not, but some people sent me a PDF. I’ve read it a few times and listened it to, but was not at the conference. You should find a way to get yourselves a copy.
My goal is for this to be useful and professional. That doesn’t mean I won’t disagree with Bob on some points. I do and I will. But as always, my goal is a discussion that makes us think differently, and do better business. A quality disagreement is the best way to learn new things.
I’m going to use Bob as a bit of a stalking horse, responding to some of the issues he raises but doesn’t fully address if only because of the limited time available. But these, I think, are precisely the issues that future conferences should focus on. When it does, I might start coming to the conference again.
If they’ll have me.
Concrete Wave sent out a press release February 21 announcing the first longboard tradeshow in New York City on March 11. I didn’t think about it much at first, but as some time passed, a few questions occurred to me.
The first was, “Why does longboarding need its own trade show?” Maybe it doesn’t need it, but apparently the longboarding part of the skateboard industry wants it. Given the growth of longboarding, I can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t have it. I’ve heard estimates that longboarding represents up to 50% of the skateboard hard goods market (personally, I think that’s a little high). It also seems logical to me that these longboarding companies, many of which are pretty small, can’t really afford, and maybe don’t need (yet?) a big, longer show like Surf Expo.
I expect to watch this show on the internet for at least a little while. Maybe what makes an organic industry gathering successful isn’t the location, the size, how long it lasts, how many people come or how much business is done there, but the common interests of the participants. Just a thought.
The other day I was reading Vanity Fair. That’s a little weird. But my wife gets it, and one of the highlighted cover stories was “Surfing the World’s Giant Waves.” I enjoyed it and learned a little more about surfing history. Still, I was a bit surprised to find the story there. The mag was full of high end fashion ads. Those ads weren’t a surprise.
Then, on another other day, I picked up Complex magazine while getting my oil changed. Actually, it was my car’s oil. Mine should be okay through trade show season.
Part of my weekend was spent reading Phil Jarratt’s excellent book, Salts and Suits; How a bunch of surf bums created a multi-billion dollar industry…and almost lost it. Phil has worked in surf publishing and the surf industry for more than 35 years, including five years as the head of marketing in Europe for Quiksilver. He seems to know and have talked to everybody in the industry over a period of years, but just got around to putting it all together in this book, published in Australia around April of this year.
It’s very Australia centric, though anybody in the industry will know of or have met many of the individuals who figure prominently in it. It has not been released in the U.S. and you can’t, to my amazement, buy it at Amazon. However, it looks like you can order it from Australia and here’s one link where you can get it.
Most of the surf shops sold boards and wax, and that was about it. I knocked on Dewey Weber’s door twenty times before he’d talk to me, and then he goes, ‘Okay, I’ll take them, but only white and only in my size, in case they don’t sell.’ Then one day I had a coffee with the guy at Hobie’s and I told him my trunks would make him forty percent of the sale price. I asked him how much he made off of a surfboard sale. It was half that, and the boards were taking up all the space! He got that, and soon all the guys started to realize that trunks would pay the rent.
I grew up spending all my summers on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. That’s where I learned to surf. And just before anybody makes the comment yes, the surf is generally lousy and for anything really good we have to pray for hurricanes and a change in the prevailing south winds.
We still have a family beach house there, and I was back last week on vacation. We left, naturally, on Friday, the day before Hurricane Bill hit. So instead of getting surf, I got stuck with a five hour weather delay in the airport. Life is not fair.
After my post on SIMA’s 2008 retail study yesterday, I got curious about the percentage changes quarter over quarter it implied. The Media Highlights gave me total core sales for the year and the percentage of sales in each quarter. SIMA gave me the same information for 2006. The rest of the calculations are mine and I used them to create the table below. The numbers don’t exactly add because of rounding, but that doesn’t really matter.
Fourth quarter skate/surf core sales were 17.5% lower in 2008 than in 2006. We don’t have 2007 numbers because SIMA only does the survey every other year, but I’m guessing the 2007/2008 comparison would look worse. SIMA has now told me that this information is in their full report, but I don’t have that and I’m guessing a lot of you don’t either.
As I said in the last issue of Boardsport Source, the way companies choose to compete in the action sports industry and, I suppose, in most industries, is largely responsible for the maturing and consolidation of fast growth industries. Ask the skate and snow people. People way smarter than I have acknowledged that surf’s time will come.
Hi, I’m back. This was just too interesting not to inflict myself on. And I imagine O’Brien couldn’t find anybody else willing to touch it.
Market Watch updates
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