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I checked in with Rusty North America President Charlie Setzler, right, to find out how things went with the brand last year now that Rusty is under the La Jolla Group umbrella and what he expects for 2009.
Charlie: Several milestones include Rusty being named Shaper of the Year for 2008 for his design innovation and pioneer of EPS, the development of our Ecostretch fabric and the Global Cooling series of boardshorts and shifting the brand back to what made Rusty successfully originally - designing youth-oriented, progressive product. We've implemented a new fulfillment system in Canada that will help our business up there tremendously. And, we've already hit our sales plan for Spring 09!
Charlie: We actually had some good growth simply because there was very little Fall and Holiday shipped in 2007 because of the transition - around a 25% increase.
Charlie: We're actually focusing on key categories with tighter assortments for both Mens and Juniors. We are keeping the same progressive surf theme going with more fashion direction as well. Our new ads are a good example of the new look. As a surf brand, we're staying true to our roots and focusing on boardshorts - with the Ecostretch Hybrid being the featured style. Going into Fall, you'll see rock ‘n roll inspiration throughout the Men's and Juniors line and marketing.
Charlie: Are there any distribution channels doing well right now? Seriously, we're maintaining a conservative distribution model that is focused on the specialty retailer. We can double our business with our existing account base. We're here to help them weather the tough times and be good partners.
Charlie: The biggest challenge is going to be controlling inventory. Retailers are going to be running less inventory and we will be doing the same. The balance will be to have inventory of the right product at the right time. I think the old saying that "companies always have inventory" will not be true next year.
Charlie: The biggest opportunity is having the right inventory at the right time. I'm hopeful that the economy will begin to show signs of life in Summer when kids get out of school. With retailers and manufacturer's running less inventory next year, there may actually be an inventory shortage come June. That's one of the good things of being part of the La Jolla Group. We have the ability to react and make things happen that can benefit the retailer in these times and our sales team will be there making sure that accounts are not missing sales.
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