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Sandal company Ocean Minded has a new relationship with GAP. I asked General Manager Andy Palmer about the partnership, how business is going in general, and more.
GAP stores will have a display that says “GAP + Ocean Minded.” I also saw a “GAP + Havaianas” display at the GAP at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. yesterday. It’s a new tactic for GAP, which rarely brings in outside brands.
Based on our success at GAP-owned www.piperlime.com, they approached us about moving into the actual GAP brick-and-mortar stores.
We started negotiating with the GAP in the middle of last year and the process has been relatively straightforward. They were looking for a men's sandal partner that would be appealing to their target consumer, complimentary to their own apparel products, and help them grow their footwear business.
We're in all stores across North America (1,152 stores). This will obviously scale back to only warm weather doors once the spring/summer season is over.
(Right: Ocean Minded General Manager Andy Palmer.)
Ocean Minded has done a very good job of being an authentic ocean lifestyle brand and being very careful with its distribution. We believe strongly in supporting our core specialty business and in the past 12 months have purposely pulled out of some larger mainstream chains that most of our competitors can be found in.
Indeed, I would say that outside of core stores, we are currently the most narrowly distributed brand in the surf industry. We felt the Gap was a strong retail partner where we could obviously grow overall revenue but equally as important, showcase our brand away from the coast, in order to drive brand awareness. As we all know, increasing brand awareness inland drives sales in the core markets as people hit the beach throughout the summer.
This year we were unable to segment the line, but we are already in discussions with the GAP regarding a segmentation strategy for 2011.
As mentioned, we are an under-distributed brand in comparison to our competitors. Frankly, being in the GAP is no different as being in any other mall-based chains. It's news because it’s a major retailer who rarely strays from its own brand, and they choose to partner with us – not the usual suspects.
A major reason they chose Ocean Minded was because of our strong environmental platform. On the other hand, we felt comfortable with the GAP because of their strong reputation in merchandising and retail excellence.
Of course “The core” is our number one priority and is extremely important to us. Ultimately, the increased revenue allows us to spend more on core marketing and in-store merchandising in 2011.
The retail market is undoubtedly tough all around, however, Ocean Minded is experiencing strong growth.
We're looking at growth in the U.S. to around 40% in 2010, partly as a result of our new closed-toe shoe launch in July and organic tee shirt collection.
Men's product still seems to be following the basics where in women's there's been a major shift away from basic beach sandals into fashion styling.
It's been business as usual, since the change was made. The former CEO, John Deurden, was an Ocean Minded brand advocate and really supported our stand-alone strategy. I am not anticipating any changes as things move forward.