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The meeting was designed to provide continuing education to industry employees with seminars about branding, trademarks, merchandising, athlete sponsorship, sourcing, financing and other topics.
Paul Naudé, president of Billabong USA, and Bob McKnight, chairman, CEO and president of Quiksilver, gave keynote addresses in the morning that had some interesting insights.
A little history: Paul, right, talked about the last downturn in the industry in the early 1990s and why he thinks there hasn't been one since. He said the industry has done a wonderful job capturing the youth market and has grown its business skill set since then. While the industry is resilient and better prepared, the current cycle will still be challenging, he said.
"Welcome to the economy of 2008. It's really fun, isn't it?"
Underdistributed: Paul believes the industry's goods are underdistributed in malls and the industry can continue to grow if it can get goods to market. He believes while vertical retailers such as Hollister have taken some sales from the industry, Hollister has also brought attention to the market sector. He believes the industry can take some of that market share back by getting its goods into malls. Retail is "the new frontier" and the primary battleground, he said.
Tough economy: Bob advised the group in this tough economy to "watch everything." He said to be careful how you buy, where you buy, with collections and with credit. Cut a little bit, he said.
"I don't see (the economy) falling off a cliff, but I don't see it getting much better in the next 12 months either," he said.
The latest private label wrinkle: Bob talked about how Hollister had done a great job executing its business and creating compelling stores. Now, big box store like Wal-Mart will be selling Op and others will "invent" brands. "Get ready for that as the next nuance in this," he said.
Dane Williams: Bob said he was hit hard by the death of the Hurley employee at ASR. He has kids the same age and thought of all the young employees at Quiksilver. He urged the group to be good managers and good citizens and watch out for their people, especially the young ones. It's easy to get caught up in the fun and wild side of the industry, but everybody needs to be careful, too, he said.