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Whenever I talk to the top executives at DC, the same topic usually emerges: The plan.
Relentlessly focusing on its five-year business plan to grow to $500 million in sales by 2010 allowed DC to nearly reach that goal in three years. It ended 2008 with $465 million in sales.
Focusing on the plan helped global sales grow 28 percent in 2008, including 26 percent in the U.S., despite the doom-and-gloom economic forecast, said Global President Nick Adcock and Mark Miller, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Americas.
Now, with parent company Quiksilver reviewing its strategic options and rumors about DC's future swirling, DC and its team is focusing on what it can control - the plan.
Nick and Mark outlined for me at ASR their plan to drive sales of DC in 2009 and their long-term vision for the company.
DC presented the 2009 integrated marketing and product plan to retailers in detail at ASR. At each sales station, a computer monitor played a presentation that outlined the far-reaching marketing initiatives and related product DC has planned for the year. All are designed to drive business for retailers, Mark said.
Two DC athletes have new shows on MTV this year: Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory and Travis Pastrana's Nitro Circus. (Annual sales grew 56 percent the last time a DC athlete had a show on MTV). DC has packaged the products the two wear on their shows for retailers to carry in their stores. So a kid who wants to wear the same shoes as Rob Dyrdek can walk right into a store and buy them.
Other "product pacts" have been developed around DC founder Ken Block, who has turned into a Rally car star. A recent online video of him driving drew 15 million views in 45 days. A "Gold Standard" product pact relates to DC's plan to take over the Standard Hotel again during the X Games in the summer, and bring in retailers, athletes and contest winners from retail stores for several days of parties and events. Plus, there are new commercials for Fuel TV and MTV 2 featuring DC snowboarders.
"We are going for a brand halo," Mark said.
At trade shows, Mark said sales reps show each retailer the video presentation before any talk of orders takes place so retailers are clear about how DC plans to drive people to their stores.
The strategy is working, Mark said. DC picked up 40 new accounts at Surf Expo, and retailers are saying the same thing: "We need to carry stuff that people buy. ... We want what sells," he said.
The push appeared to work at ASR as well. Mark said two major retailers each boosted their DC orders by double digits, even though their overall buying plans were down. The booths were busy when I was there.
Nick said DC was happy to be upstairs at ASR, away from the handshaking and back slapping that goes on in the aisles downstairs. DC had five rooms at the show, including one just for PR reps to talk about products with the media and another for "at once" orders. With five rooms, each part of the DC team had the space to get its work done, Mark said.
"We are communicating the sense, ‘We are here to do business,' " he said. "And we set ourselves up so we can do business."
DC added the "at once" room last September when it became clear that some retailers were cautious about future orders because of the slowing economy.
"We adapted to what customers want," Nick said.
At ASR, the room showed a wide range of products and DC offered an "at-once" incentive for retailers, which helped retailers boost their margins. Orders were entered into the system at the show and shipped immediately from DC's warehouse, often arriving at the stores before the retailers got home from the shows. By entering the orders live, products that sold out could be pulled from the display shelves at the show so availability was accurate.
Nick said DC did enough business in the "at-once" room in September to practically fund its entire show expenses.
Nick said he doesn't care much about all the hand wringing about trade shows these days.
"As long as the retailer is here, we will be here," he said.
Another area where DC is prepared to do business no matter the climate is its sales force, Nick and Mark said. DC put its entire sales force through a two-year boot camp that included training on selling, presentations, general business acumen and other topics.
The sales team "graduated" in November, at the height of the current economic crisis. The timing couldn't have been better, Mark said.
"Nobody panicked. Everybody was analytical about how they looked at problems," he said. And, the sales staff, which includes about 42 sales reps and executives, hasn't had any turnover.
Nick said his team is focused on its plan and where it wants to go no matter the other issues going on.
The plan has been adjusted a bit because of the economy, of course - more on the SG&A side than revenue side - to be fiscally responsible, Nick said.
But DC is charging ahead with its global growth push and its vision, which is to be an action sports generalist. That means becoming a player in all categories and all sports in the action sports world.
"We are challenging ourselves in a different realm," he said.
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