New brand COVA finishes banner first year

Photo courtesy of COVA


COVA founders and owners Guy Stagman and Kent Stevens are marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the new brand this month. Led by these former heads of Quiksilver’s Waterman Collection, Guy and Kent have assembled an experienced team of industry veterans to help develop a lifestyle brand aimed at the more mature, active – and underserved – customer who enjoys a variety of water sports.

We’re hearing from retailers that the product is being well received since it hit the market in February.

Kent Stevens answered some questions for us about how this past year has gone.

Who are the owners and founding team behind COVA?

Kent Stevens:  Guy Stagman and I are the original founders and owners.  We have done a couple fundraising rounds and in that process brought in our old bosses and friends Tom Holbrook and Steve Tully.  Also on our Board of Directors are Harley Rouda, John Griffith and Jurgen Schulz.  Each of these members brings a wealth of experience and we lean on them for advice and wisdom.  We have several other minority investors who all live the lifestyle we promote.

What about the product strategy sets COVA apart from other brands you have worked on?

Kent Stevens:  We’re focused solely on our customer.  We’re not an “offshoot” from a young men’s brand.  We’re not building kids or women’s or skate, etc.  We’re focused on our categories and we build the product from the inside out. 

The “make” is very important to us.  Clean finished seams, matching plaids and prints at the pocket and front panels, French fly on bottoms, triple needle seams, etc.  We approach each line with a collection mentality, not a group of items.  We want each style to have a purpose and sit easily along everything else in the line.

Also, we’re a lifestyle brand, so we’re not chasing trends.  You won’t see jogger pants in our line. 

How many doors are you in and what type of accounts?

Kent Stevens:  We are in 250 locations across the U.S.  The majority is surf specialty, however, we are also in some key resort accounts and some great outdoor accounts.  We have a small test running with Nordstrom, which was just shipped in June.

We launched a year ago at the Outdoor Retailer Show, and we want to sell accounts where our guy or his spouse shops.  This could mean sporting goods accounts with a focus on outdoor or water related activities (not general sporting goods).  Our customer doesn’t shop in the teen retailer accounts, so we are focusing on specialty shops in both surf and the outdoor market.

Any international distribution or ecommerce?

Kent Stevens:  We’re just getting started.  We have opened some great accounts in Canada and have several reps there.  We are in discussions with some well-respected contacts in Australia.  We have trademarked our name in key countries, including all of Europe, so we will eventually look to expand there.  We know we need to build the brand here in the U.S. before we can get traction overseas.

We’re excited that our new website is complete and will launch very soon.  It will include our dealer locator so we hope to help drive more business to those who have supported us.  We will not have an ecommerce component straight away.

What are your strongest categories so far?

Kent Stevens:  Our strongest category is woven shirts.  However, we’ve seen some of our best sell-through in walkshorts, and we are selling more T-shirts and hats than we expected. 

Typically in the young men’s world, T-shirts will represent 30% of the overall business.  In men’s, it runs closer to 5-7%.  T-shirts are approximately 10% for COVA, which is nice as it means customers are buying into our name and advertising for us.

What can we expect from COVA on the marketing front in late 2015/2016?

Kent Stevens:  We’re spending our marketing money with our accounts in-store.  If an account wants fixtures, we have them.  If they give us an opportunity for a window display, we always say yes.  We’ve done several photo shoots in California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, so for a brand just one year old, we have some great photo assets that we can pull from for our accounts and come up with custom, creative window graphics. 

We also delivered a compelling Father’s day promotion and gift with purchase (a jacquard cotton beach towel and bag), which we ran with 120 stores this past Father’s Day.  People loved the towels.

What have been some of your biggest challenges so far? Greatest successes?

Kent Stevens:  The biggest challenges are the mundane, day-to-day stuff: getting garment licenses, buying UPC codes, paying city fees, renewing insurance policies, etc.  Necessary, but not fun!

We feel our biggest success has been opening 200+ of the best specialty accounts across the country and Canada.  The support we have received has been humbling.  Also, the customer is responding to the product and we’ve had immediate and strong sell-through.  It’s a pleasure and privilege to be part of this industry and to work with the people we work with.