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I talked with Rip Curl's Brian Bosson, right, recently about the company's new H-Bomb wetsuit, which arrived in stores last weekend. Brian, vice president of merchandising operations, told me how Rip Curl developed the heated wetsuit and how the company decided which retailers were chosen for the limited release.
Don't take this the wrong way, but lots of people tell me their products are revolutionary. Tell me why this wetsuit is truly a "first."
Brian: A heated wetsuit is something that has been tried many times but has never been brought to market. The power heated wetsuit was always something that a surfer thought about and in some cases was even tried but due to the complexity of a project like this there has always been a hurdle that could not be overcome and held it back from going to market.
A power heated wetsuit allows you to warm the body with direct heat through your core and pump warm blood through you extremities. This suit allows people to surf in places that have never been surfed before due to extreme cold temperatures, but more than that, this suit allows surfers that normally surf in thick wetsuits to use a wetsuit that is considerably lighter, warmer and more flexible than they have ever surfed in before.
How long did it take to develop it? Where did the development happen? Who came up with the idea?
Brian: The development has taken a better part of three years. The development has been driven out of Australia with the help of Rip Curl USA and Rip Curl Europe. We assembled a test pilot program around the world that was a big success, this allowed us to use everyday surfers, Rip Curl Reps, Rip Curl team riders and Rip Curl staff to help test our products. We truly believe Rip Curl employees must continue to be the customer in order to make better products.
How many are being released? Why such a small number?
Brian: We are releasing 400 units world wide to start.The reason for the small number is exclusivity. Every suit put into the market on this first release is numbered and can be registered on Ripcurl.com.
What are the price points?
Brian: The price for a 3/2 is $1,000 and does not come with a hood, the 4/3 is $1,200 and comes with a hood.
How did Rip Curl decide which shops would get the first shipment?
Brian: The shops that were rewarded with this first release of the suit are the shops that have supported all of the Rip Curl product categories and are also top wetsuit retailers around the country. Our focus is on the stores in cold water areas although we did release a few in Southern and Central California. This has been one of the most difficult decisions we had to make as a management staff with regards to this product.
When will the wet suits be available for all shops to order?
Brian: This wetsuit is an exclusive piece in the Rip Curl line and will be kept to the retailers that best represent the Rip Curl product categories. We will slowly grow the distribution of this suit over the next couple of years.
Any concerns that the reception to a high-ticket wetsuit may be cooler now that the economic climate has deteriorated in the past month?
Brian: For the first release of the H-bomb we are not to worried about the price since we have not released a large amount of suits. For future orders we are running a cut to order program so we will make what we sell. This suit is about advancing the sport of surfing and exploring new possibilities not selling massive volume. If the volume comes we will take it.
What are the target regions/markets for the suit?
Brian: This suit is a benefit to all areas of the globe at some time of the year. I will wear an H-Bomb in Southern Cal but for a shorter period than the surfer in the Pacific North West. We are very excited about the guys in the cold water areas, we make better wetsuits when we get feedback and the cold water guys will let us know what we need to improve and what is perfect with the suit.