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Surf and skate shops on holiday and planning for spring

By Tiffany Montgomery
January 07, 2009 7:12 AM

I checked in with four surf and skate shops this week - South Coast in San Diego, Liberty Board Shop in Brea, Surftown in Georgia and Asylum in Oceanside to see how holiday sales went and what they are planning for spring.

It was a tough holiday as expected and most are very cautious about spring, either delaying, canceling or tightening orders.

Heather Shields, men's and women's clothing buyer, South Coast Surf Shops, five stores in San Diego

Where holiday sales up or down versus last year?

Holiday sales versus last year were down across the board. We have five locations and certain shops did better than others. We have had some success in our Ocean Beach location; however, we ended the year down 8% , while our Pacific Beach location ended with a 25% decrease.

Overall, all shops combined had a 16% decrease in sales. We had to let go of a few employees and change our store hours. It has been a tough year.

Any bright spots? Any surprises good or bad?

Bright spots for the year, Bush leaving office? Not really anything that gave me a warm fuzzy feeling! We just hope a fresh start in 2009 will give the consumer more confidence in our economy.

How are you feeling about business for spring? Are changing your spring orders at all (delaying, cancelling) or keeping orders equivalent to last year?

South Coast is definitely being cautious about our spring orders. I have canceled about one third and pushed back the rest to a 03/01 ship. We have decided to skip Summer buying all together. I know some will say this is a risky maneuver, but in this economy few things can be controlled and my inventory is one of the most important.

What are you consumers saying? Do you hear a theme from them - for example, they are strapped for cash, are willing to pay for something new and fresh, or something else?

Consumers seem to be in the same position as we all are - unsure of what the future holds. The media isn't helping at all, if I solely went off the advice of the news I wouldn't leave my house. Consumers need our new president to have a plan and feel secure with his ideas.

We just need customers to walk into the store, that is our main problem. The hard goods are still selling, but really who needs a $75.00 sweatshirt? We are offering huge discounts, gifts with purchase, free shipping online. .. What next - Part ownership in our shop? I know this sounds grim, but I do really believe people want to be happy and spend money. Time will tell!

Surftown interiorJarrod Sanders, owner, Surftown USA, two mall-based stores in the metro Atlanta area.

Where holiday sales up or down versus last year?

We were down 22% for December and just under 25% for Q4. The weakness began in September and worsened as the holiday progressed.

Any bright spots? Any surprises good or bad?

The week of Christmas we were up slightly due to the calendar shift and having two additional days before the holiday. Hurley and Oakley remain our strongest brands at retail.

Surftown exteriorHow are you feeling about business for spring? Are changing your spring orders at all (delaying, cancelling) or keeping orders equivalent to last year?

I am planning for continued weakness and we are budgeting for a 10% decrease in spring. We were down 30% the first week of January 12/29 to 1/4 which hopefully is not a sign of things to come. We are delaying spring inventory to arrive late in January instead of the beginning. We are canceling about 10% of our orders and tightening inventory in all categories except sunglasses.?

What are you consumers saying?

Our customers are looking for discounts as we are a mall-based retailer and our competitors have certainly created a bargain retail environment. Margins have suffered dramatically as a result.

That being said our core customer is still buying full priced goods if it is the right brand and look. I am optimistic that business will level off and that my -10% projection will be wrong and we will end up flat by the end of Q2.

Matt Pindroh, owner, Liberty Board Shop, a skate and snow store in Brea, California.

Where holiday sales up or down versus last year?

Holiday was tough, as a company we were just barley up compared to last year - October through December.

Any bright spots? Any surprises good or bad?

One bright spot for us, was the weather (snow) that drove traffic back into our store, customers searching for snow merchandise and being frustrated with the selection else where. As you know we are a destination store, and for the first time in a long time having a large selection of snow merchandise was a positive. The bad part of this was the amount of discounting going on out there. It forced our hand in putting stuff on sale.

How are you feeling about business for spring? Are changing your spring orders at all (delaying, canceling) or keeping orders equivalent to last year?

Business is going to get even harder going into spring and we are watching things closely, we are pushing a few orders back from vendors that have slowed sales wise for us and canceling some pre books.

I know this is going to be probably the roughest spring in history with the economy but I am ready for it, we are small and will adapt as it happens.

What are you consumers saying?

Customers are up and down, the kids just want what they want, but the parents are more price sensitive. They are only purchasing if it is on sale. But the kids and adults who are buying for themselves are not as price sensitive, if they find what they are looking for they will pay for it. Luckily, we have been concentrating hard to find products and brands, which has helped.

George Corbett owner, Asylum Board Shops, four stores in Oceanside, California.

Where holiday sales up or down versus last year?


Any bright spots? Any surprises good or bad?


How are you feeling about business for spring? Are changing your spring?orders at all (delaying, cancelling) or keeping orders equivalent to last?year?

Slow spring, all orders either not placed or to be confirmed before shipping.

What are you consumers saying? 

They're not talking! Buying necessities only.






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