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Insights from The Collective juniors event

By Andrew Horan
October 17, 2008 7:10 AM


Here are highlights from The Collective juniors event at The Lab yesterday. I teamed up with Foam Magazine to organize the gathering, which was sponsored by 24|seven, so I asked my husband, Andrew Horan, to cover it for me. He's a journalist, too. Here's his story.


A soul'd-out Collective

Passion. Authenticity. Opportunity.

The CollectiveA sold out gathering of more than 100 designers, brand manager, retailers and others spent Thursday morning in the living room at The LAB in Costa Mesa, where they heard key industry leaders say that the action sports juniors market is ripe for more growth - even in these challenging times - for companies that have an authentic story to tell and people with the passion to work at it.

The morning event was broken into four segments, which I highlight below. And we'll soon post word on how you can get webisodes of the event.

Data set: Cary Allington, ActionWatch

Cary's ActionWatch report tallies sales data gleaned from point-of-sale systems at 190 core retailers across the country. A few highlights:

Collective Cary Allington

  • Women's categories saw a 5% decline in sales in September, year-over-year, compared to a 5% increase for mens and a 1% decline for all categories.


  • Women's categories account for 26% of total sales at reporting stores. Women's average prices are slightly higher than for mens, but the average margin is slightly lower: 45.3% for women's, compared to 47.6% for mens.


  • Women's sandal sales account for 48% of all sandal sales, at slightly lower average prices and equivalent margins to mens. Women's footwear sales are down 5% year-over-year, while mens sales are up 8%.


  • Women's jacket sales are up 27% year-over-year, dresses are up 25% and denim is up 16%.

Keynote speaker: Susan Crank, CEO, Lunada Bay

Susan told a remarkable story of overcoming personal and professional hardships to work her way up - from paralegal working with farmers in the Midwest to VP of Sales at OP, and then to her position as chairman of the board, CEO and president of Lunada Bay. The company designs and manufacturers Betsey Johnson swim and Lucky Brand swim, designs for Anne Cole, Mossimo, Catalina and OP swimwear, and runs Becca, its own brand. People were lined up at the end of the session, asking her to deliver inspirational speeches to their sales and marketing teams.

Collective Susan CrankA few highlights, in her words:


  • Always step outside your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to fail. I've failed, a lot, but some of my biggest successes have come from failing.


  • Do your thing. Find your passion, and let ‘er rip! ... When you find something you love, and do it well, the sky's the limit.


  • Brands, pay attention to specialty stores, they are the ones who lead the way for everyone. Department stores emulate them. Big box stores emulate them. Specialty stores: that's who to focus on.


  • As CEO, I cherish the 92 people who are on my team. I don't own a building, our machines are not worth much, but what's worth the most are the positive, talented people who I work with. ... You need to find a way to pay attention to each and every individual in your company.


  • After three decades in this business, the most significant impact I've seen is the internet. Every store I've talked to that has a good website is seeing double-digit increases in sales - and some are seeing triple-digit increases.


  • Brands should focus on making retailers' web sites successful, by focusing their companies on delivering replenishment and quick turnaround of fast-selling items.


  • In response to a question from PT Townend, Susan said that she believes manufacturers should focus on improving retailers' web sales, rather than selling direct - though she acknowledged she has that luxury because she negotiated with an online retailer to sell every piece in Lunada Bay's lines, in every style and color - something most retailers can't commit to.

The Collective Juniors Panel:

"Conversations with market movers on careers and the juniors market of today and tomorrow."

Collective Ross GarrettRoss Garrett, moderator, Group Publisher Airborne Media (right)

Stacy Clark, Swell.com CEO

Laurie Etheridge, Roxy SVP for merchandising and design

Candy Harris, Billabong Girls brand director

Carol Nielsen, Becker Surfboards women's buyer

Summer Rapp, Quiksilver Women's VP of design

Johnny Schillereff, Element founder and president

Ross led panelists through a wide-ranging discussion about building and selling action sports juniors lines. A few highlights:

On surviving in a tough economy ...

Collective Johnny SchillereffJohnny: The most important thing is to not panic, and stick to your plan. Brands with substance, depth and the ability to make positive changes will flourish.

Candy: We just had a big meeting with Paul (Naude) on the state of the economy, and I actually left it energized. Now is the chance to get rid of excess weight, of the ‘business as usual.'

Laurie: We've all got comfortable with our successes. Now is a time to focus on innovation, true innovation. We have a terrific opportunity to really narrow our focus, and innovate.

On competing against volume retailers ...

Candy: We've all heard that juniors aren't brand conscious, they're price-point conscious. ... Let's face it, everyone likes a deal, whether you're a 15-year-old girl or a 30-year-old woman. But the reality is that girls don't want to be billboards anymore. They don't want Abercrombie - or any brand - splashed across their chest. They are loyal to a brand that represents them. So if you're a brand that stands for something people can relate to, they're loyal. You have to have a story, and stick to it.

Carol: Some areas have taken off. Young girls are hungry for organics and natural fabrics. ... Sitting on the panel, Quiksilver, Roxy, Billabong, you have beautiful products, but it's hard to find the masses. It's a real challenging time, and we have to find a way to work together.

Collective Laurie EtheridgeLaurie (right): There's just no soul with Forever 21 or Hollister. At Roxy, we're a big believer in story, and girls really care, they want the back story. In Forever 21, there's no back story, there's nothing more to it than cheap prices and cute items. Our job is to not be beleaguered by that, but to tap into the essence of what makes us distinct: a deeper, richer brand. The girl today cares. She wants to know what's going on behind the scenes, about human rights and fair trade.

Stacy: Customers are demanding new, unique, up-and-coming brands. Introducing new brands is easier, as long as they're willing to tell their story, in their voice.

Summer: We have our lifestyle, and we need to use that to our advantage, and stop fighting it.

On how the juniors business can grow ...

Summer: We have a huge potential to make our products reflect our core values.

Johnny: A great quote, "demographics equal destiny." We can go huge. Until recently, girls were an after-thought to our industry. As an industry, it's up to us.

Candy: Women's surfing is going to be powerful. And collectively, when women's surfing grows, women's surf brands will follow. We should be ready for it.

Carol: That's the single most important thing I've heard today. Surfing was the beginning of our industry. Brands are getting more sophisticated, but they're also losing the thing that's critical to the growth of our industry. We can't all be fabulous designers and dresses.


Closing: Dick Baker

Collective Dick BakerDick is chairman emeritus of SIMA, a veteran of brands Esprit, Marithe & Francois Girbaud, Izod Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger women's and Op. He wound up the session with a rousing challenge.


  • The most important thing (to remember) in this very difficult economy: (there is) opportunity here.


  • A big change: now stores have become brands. Abercrombie. Hollister. H&M. They've created an environment, they have a story to tell, and they get an A report card.


  • The good news is, that's something that's readily available to the surf industry, on the female side of the business.


  • There's room for selling more product to cool, hip young women. The surface has just been scratched. Without abandoning the core, the majority of the female surf brands are also cool brands (and can be more widely distributed.)


  • Think of how farmers markets changed the boring old grocery store. Literally overnight, they started selling organics, fresh food. Now, something has to change on that order in the core shops in our industry.


  • Everybody I know has been talking about the internet for 10 years - and 97% of them did nothing about it. But now, the kids are using it, and it is a generation change. They are choosing what's cool, communicating, in a completely different way. It's going to have a 50% or more impact on our business.


  • You live in a mens world, run by men, your companies are from mens brands - and you can still be here, and be successful. It's a testament to a lot of strong women.
  • Now, go from here and start forcing your companies to treat the women's business differently than the mens, because it is different - the production cycle, the design, the manufacturing, the timing.

Here are a few other photos from the event:

Collective Dave NashDave Nash, owner of Sun Diego,
listening to the speakers.
Collective Ryan Kingman, PT TownendElement Marketing Director Ryan Kingman
and PT Townend


Collective Krista Poehler, Kimberly WooOsiris Girls Brand Director Krista Poehler
with Kimberly Woo, Osiris Girls marketing
and graphic design.
Collective Susan Crank, Dick Baker

Lunada Bay Corp. CEO Susan Crank
and Dick Baker.

Collective Jardine Hammond, Kim Dresser

Element Eden marketing manager Jardine Hammond
with Kim Dresser, DC Shoes VP of
communications and public relations.


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