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Highlights from the SIMA/BRA Boot Camp

By Tiffany Montgomery
March 20, 2009 8:36 AM

The Surf Industry Manufacturers Association and the Board Retailers Association teamed up for an industry Boot Camp in Huntington Beach Thursday.

Sanuk TeamThe Sanuk team

In the morning, retailers and manufacturers broke into separate groups to hear speakers discuss topics pertinent to their businesses. In the afternoon, the two groups came together for round table discussions on seven topics. Approximately 145 people attended the event.

The afternoon session was closed to the media so everyone could talk freely. I did attend two of the four morning sessions and here are some highlights, plus some photos.

Getting product sold: merchandising and visual presentation

Charlie CottonCharlie Cotton

Speaker: Charlie Cotton, formerly vice president of visual merchandising production at Quiksilver

A few of his key points for manufacturers:

- You have to leave the office and get into stores and see what's happening with customers - and that applies to many, including designers, merchandisers, sales reps and executives. He said it's equally important for designers and merchandisers who travel the world spotting trends to spend time on the sales floor in local stores watching and talking to shoppers. Leaders that are still involved with customers run the most successful businesses, Charlie said.

- Most stores have too much assortment and jam too much into spaces. He gave the example of socks: If a store makes a statement with socks by using one whole side of an accessories rack, it could translate into more sales.

- Boardshort walls can be effective, but Charlie said it's really important to have the items that go with boardshorts - T's and sandals - close by so it's easy to shop and maximize sales.

His top six lessons:

- Energy sells merchandise

- If you understand the customer, you will sell more

- In the market share war, details win battles

Sandy Schwarzenbach and Paul BurnettSandy Schwarzenbach, Quiksilver,
and Paul Burnett, Surfside Sports

- Know how many units you can sell

- For your brand to do well at retail, the messaging has to be consistent at the point of sale

- If it's only about price, you have no story.

Solutions for a challenging economy

Speaker: Gregg Solomon, a retail consultant who previously was senior vice president of retail at Quiksilver

Here is a portion of Gregg's advice for retailers:

Dave Nash and Ron AbdelDave Nash, Sun Diego,
and Ron Abdel, Jack's Surfboards

- You need good word of mouth about your stores from shoppers. Your service needs to be remarkable.

- Now is a great time to pick up talent from the best local retailers

- If you have to cut, cut with a scalpel, not a hatchet

- Create a store budget, plan and goals and make sure your team is part of the process.

- Installing traffic counters in your store are great way to measure your conversion rate - the number of people who enter the store and buy something - and you can compare yours to the national average.

- Tie bonuses to labor costs and conversion rates to keep those issues top of mind with managers.

- Measure the value of other tasks employees do against the selling effort. You may find its more valuable to have them focused on selling rather than constantly folding shirts.

Lyndon CabellonLyndon Cabellon, Analog

- Loyalty programs and one-on-one marketing to consumers is important. Implementing a friends and family program can help.

- Always think about adjacent product buys. At Lowe's, water is the No. 1 turning item, Gregg said.

- Create excitement, and work with vendors on supported marketing programs. One successful marketing draw at Quiksilver stores was model searches, with the winner awarded a small shopping spree.

- Now is the time to be talking to your landlord about rent reduction. Landlords will negotiate right now, but they still need to make a profit.

- Landlords seem to be more willing to help the small retailer. They will help the big retailer if that big retailer is still expanding.

- Think about negotiating to buy the building if you are in the position to.

- Check into Small Business Administration loans that will be bolstered this year by the economic stimulus plan.

- Also review tax benefits from losses that are part of the stimulus package.

- Strive for excellence, go back to basics and watch the details.

Todd Roberts and Mikke PiersonTodd Roberts and Mikke Pierson, ZJ Boarding House

- Think opportunistically

- Be visible. Now is the time to be in the trenches with your staff.

- Be transparent, be honest with your staff and don't let anybody play the blame game.

- Be a realistic optimistic. If you don't feel optimistic, fake it until you make it.

- At the same time, prepare for the worst - this downturn might last 24 months.


Shaheen Sadeghi and Joel CooperShaheen Sadeghi, LAB Holdings,
and Joel Cooper, Lost Int'l.


Rip Curl teamDylan Slater, Kelly Gibson and Paul Harvey, the Rip Curl team
Tom Ruiz and Duke EdukasTom Ruiz, Volcom, and Duke Edukas, Surfside Sports
Andy Tompkins and Dick BakerAndy Tompkins, ASR, and Dick Baker, SIMA's chairman emeritus

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