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GSI President on business, boards, Australia economy, more

By Shelby Stanger
February 27, 2012 8:15 AM

Back at Surf Expo, we caught up with Global Surf Industries President Mark Kelly. We talked about what’s new at GSI, the Australian economy, the hardgoods market, and the changing retail landscape.


How is business?

GSI booth Surf ExpoThe GSI booth at Surf Expo

Last year was our highest grossing year, which is pretty good. Our mix of products has changed a lot. We sold a fair amount of SUPs. Standup paddleboards make up about 38% of our revenue right now, and that portion is growing. At the same time, our surfboard business came back so that gave us a double bump. We are looking at a 30% increase this year.


What’s new? What are you excited about?

We just picked up Stewart and Haydenshapes out of Australia. We have 15 brands total now, and lots of different technologies. We have everything from 4’11 soft surfboards to 14 foot SUPs.


Hardgoods has been tough? How are you thriving?

We don’t have any categories not working for us. A year or two ago when everything in our world was doom and gloom, we concentrated on service and kept staff levels really high. In fact we have added a couple of service positions.


How many accounts do you have today? 

We have about 375 active accounts in the U.S. right now. We service the U.S. with only three Territory Managers, but we do everything ourselves, except the PR stuff and warehousing.


What are you most excited about?

I think the HaydenShapes is going to be really good. Hayden is really young and has a creative buzz. He connects with younger surfers really well. He is definitely not a follower. His own surfing and team riders have been great additions.


As a compliment to our portfolio, we also picked up Bill Stewart. He is an icon of So Cal board manufacturing and has been in business a long time.

AlbacoreThe Albacore


One of the other things I’m excited about is the finless Albacore model, as part of The Seaglass Project, which we are doing with Tom Wegener. We came out with the Albacore, which is a foam finless alaia. It weighs almost nothing.


Last year we came out with the Tuna, an epoxy version. It retails at $500, which causes some hesitation to purchase it, so the Albacore will be $249 and $279 for the 4’11” and 5’6” models. Lots of people want to try finless surfing, but we need to give them tools to make it accessible.


On top of this we have a new line of soft surfboards aimed at the retail entry-level market.


These days there is not a lot of the stuff we do that is “middle of the road.” We are really trying to attract the fringes.


Also the future flex technology with carbon rails, which we are bringing in with the HaydenShapes models, is really exciting.


What’s going on with the Australian economy? I know it has been rough over there.

They call it a two-speed economy. There is the mining sector exporting natural resources to the world making huge profits and then there is the rest of the economy, which seems to be struggling.


If you are a miner, you make a lot of money. Base salaries are around $100k/year. For the rest of economy, it’s a lot tougher.


See Page 2 for more about the Australian economy, including the retail landscape, more



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