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John Vance on new Sanuk store

By Shelby Stanger
December 08, 2009 5:45 AM

Sanuk opened a pop-up shop in Downtown Disney, Calif. two and a half weeks ago. We talked with Sanuk President John Vance about the store, how long it will be open, if Sanuk has plans to get into the retail business, and the partnership between the “happy, fun,” sandal company and the “happiest place on earth.”

The shop is caddy corner to the Quiksilver Boardriders Club, and in between RIDEMAKERZ (build your own radio-controlled car) and LittleMissMatched™ (a young girls’ store).

How did this store come about?

The store came about through a local Orange County retailer, Wayne Heck, who is a friend of Dac Clark, (CEO of C&C Partners, which has the license for Sanuk).

Wayne owns several stores in Orange County including a chain of Haagen-Dazs ice cream stores, one in Downtown Disney. Wayne was aware of a temporary opening in Disney and approached us about the idea of opening a pop-up store for a couple of months.

After some discussions, we jumped on the idea. The whole thing came together within three weeks and we had to present our ideas on how the store would look to Disney.

How long will the store stay open?

We’re in there for two and a half months until January 15th. The response has been phenomenal.

Any sense you will keep a store there beyond January?

Wayne may have that option, but we have no details yet.

Are you looking to get into retail?

We’re not in the retail business. Were very committed to the fact that our business is focused on specialty retailers. We have no plans of going into the retail business, but if a retailer is interested in creating a Sanuk- branded store, we would definitely look at the opportunity to do that.

How does the arrangement between you, Disney and Wayne work out? Who works the store, and what are Disney’s requirements?

Disney is extremely strict. They have a strict dress code, a strict idea of how the stores should look and appear. We gave them a detailed graphic rendition of how the store would look before. We picked current Disney retail employees from the park to work the shop. Wayne handles all of that. Wayne owns the store, but it is a Sanuk store from the outside. We were involved with Wayne and engaged him at a much deeper level in terms of merchandising the store. We spent a solid week and a half developing the graphic presentation for him. In terms of imagery, we have our top three iconic personalities like Donovan Frankenreiter, Dave Rastovitch, and Alana Blanchard all represented.

How big is the store and what products are you carrying?

The store is 1,000 square feet, 100 percent Sanuk, and it allows us to experiment with a few things. There are a few styles dealers wouldn’t normally buy, so we’re getting a chance to test some products where we don’t get wide distribution from other retailers -- like beach umbrellas and our unique soft bocce ball set that you can use indoors.

What is it like being associated with Disney?

We love the association between Disney and Sanuk. There is a very aggressive move over the next three to four years to take our brand to an iconic status. We want people to see a “Sidewalk Surfer” from across the street and associate that with Sanuk, just like when you see Uggs, you assume they are Uggs, even if they are another brand. Disney and Coca Cola are probably two of the most recognized brands in the world, so being associated with Disney helps elevate our brand’s status.

What is appealing about the Downtown Disney location?

Being there allows us to interface with consumers that we normally wouldn’t engage with because they don’t surf, don’t live near a retailer who carries Sanuk, or are not into the outdoors. Most people who come into the store have never heard of us, so we get to introduce Sanuk to them, and that’s a huge win for us.

Also, being associated with Disney fell right into who we are and where we are. Sanuk is the Thai word for fun and happiness, and what better place to be than at the happiest place on earth? Then, combine that with a lot of people walking several miles in uncomfortable shoes and they now can find an extremely comfortable solution to their problem. So being there has enabled us to introduce ourselves to a whole stratus of consumers who normally would have never discovered us. Not to mention, Downtown Disney offers a tremendous amount of traffic. Every time I am at the store, it’s mobbed.


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