Since I'm in Seattle, I took the opportunity yesterday to visit Zumiez's corporate headquarters in Everett, about 40 minutes north of the city.
Zumiez CFO Trevor Lang gave me a tour of the headquarters and talked to me a bit about the company, though I couldn't convince him to let me take his picture.
I learned a few things I didn't know about Zumiez and got to see its down-to-earth company ethos first hand.
First, let me just say that nearly everyone I saw there looks like a Zumiez customer - young and definitely living the action sports lifestyle, even in the warehouse. The offices are not lavish, and instead are filled with posters from action sports companies and action sports memorabilia. The work areas are open and without cubicles to foster collaboration. I did not see any lavish offices.
The main office and warehouse is about 88,000 square feet, and Zumiez has expanded to a second adjacent building that is 33,000 square feet.
As we walked around the building, Trevor shared some information about Zumiez. Here are a few nuggets that I found interesting:
- Smaller brands are taking more market share at Zumiez stores, and the brands in the top 10 are turning over more. Of the top 10 brands, 30 percent have turned over in each of the last three years.
- I've been confused for a while now with how Zumiez stores are organized, and Trevor explained the thinking behind it. The stores are organized by lifestyle, with all the skate brands in one area, street brands in another, a little bit of surf in another pocket. So you may find jeans in several different places in the store. Trevor described it as "organized chaos," with the feeling of a teenager's room.
(Above left: childhood photos of Zumiez employees; Right, the Zumiez warehouse.)
- Zumiez's 40 district managers and seven regional managers have all come up through the Zumiez system. The company likes to promote from within, and trains employees extensively.
- Zumiez does not pipe in music from a central location to each store. Instead, the company provides an iPod hookup and store employees can pick the music. Trevor said CEO Rick Brooks has only two rules: no cussing and no country music.
(At left, Zumiez has open work areas without cubicles to foster collaboration.)
- The overall philosophy is to teach the store managers, and then let them run their business, Trevor said. As a result, managers have a lot of autonomy and a feeling of ownership.
- Zumiez does not request a lot of special make up product from brands. Trevor said Zumiez's specialty is retailing while the brands are the experts on the wholesale side. Zumiez prefers to let the brands do their thing.
- When we were in the warehouse, Trevor showed me a dry erase board where workers were keeping track of how many boxes they closed in an hour. Part of Zumiez's philosophy is to measure and reward employees on simple and easy-to-understand metrics. For store sales associates, it's just sales. For buyers, it's sales and product margins.
- Zumiez added some new features to its website last week, including an upgraded search function. Trevor said the company sees a lot of opportunity to grow its e-commerce business and a new head of e-commerce joined the company in September.
- The company has sharpened its opening price points for fall in attempt to avoid the deep discounting that many retailers faced in the second half of last year after the economy fell off a cliff. The first floor set for fall is now in stores, with two more on the way.
(Above right: A tounge-and-cheek oil painting of CEO Rick Brooks commissioned to commemorate the company's 30th anniversary. In his pocket is a couch representing Zumiez's Couch Tour.)