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Hurley urges group to focus on consumers

By Tiffany Montgomery
May 15, 2008 7:11 AM

In his keynote address on the first night of the SIMA Surf Summit in Cabo San Lucas, Bob Hurley celebrated how far the industry has come while challenging the approximately 300 people in the audience to embrace the future with an open mind.


Bob poked fun at himself as well, describing how long ago when working at a small surf shop he would kick out "dorky" people who didn't belong. "We weren't really into commerce," he said. "We thought selling T-shirts was selling out."


He used that example to illustrate how closed the surf world used to be, and how he believes it needs to shake off any remaining vestiges of that thinking as the world rapidly changes.


Hurley noted how the internet and stores such as Hollister are remaking the playing field. The surf industry, both manufacturers and retailers, need to embrace the changes and challenges instead of being closed minded and burying its head in the sand, he said.


"Everybody wants what we have," Bob said. "If we're not careful, they will do it without us."


Bob used the example of the music industry trying to squash Napster instead of embracing and capitalizing on the technological changes that remade their market. Now, the music industry is suffering huge financial losses.


What happened with the music industry "is not a pretty thing," he said. "We are not going to stop the future. "The consumer is winning the war...They power they have, the connectivity." Bob said he feels like if he doesn't play close attention, "we won't have a company one day."


Consumers, consumers, consumers: Bob's other major point was companies need to relentlessly focus on consumers. He talked about how Hurley learned this lesson the hard way when it struggled to manage its initial rapid growth - $0 to $70 million in sales in three years. Instead of focusing on its consumers, it was worried about infrastructure and other issues.


"We didn't know how to handle the growth," he said.


Hurley got back on track by "adamantly" focusing on the consumers. It's easy to lose sight of that when you're worried about year-over-year growth and all the details of running a company, Bob said. But consumers "are our boss," he said.


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