We gleaned several key insights from TRANSWORLD BUSINESS’ 2017 STATE OF SURF Q2 event Wednesday, October 4, hosted in the TWS Skate Park in Carlsbad.

Kicking off the discussion, Label Networks Vice President Kathleen Gasperini shared how data was gathered for the quarterly reports, including how the agency gauges the proper sample size as it relates to the US population as a whole, and how they screen for the most qualified audience — in this case, 13- to 25-year-olds who are the most interested in surfing and surf culture. Gasperini also touched on how we can interpret findings about this youth consumer and apply them to our own businesses.

Purchase the STATE OF SURF Q2 report now.

state of surf Q2 event recap

Brian White, Nixon VP / Sales Of Americas, discusses the current state of the market and what opportunities he sees in digital and brick and mortar retail. Photo: Gabi Aoun

“If you look at what’s happening with Nike and Amazon, that is changing the way people shop and the way they think about shopping,” she said. “[With the demographic in this study] You are talking about an entire generation who is living through a recession in their teens, and their spending patterns are very different than young people just 10 years ago. And before you know it, they will be the ones doing the majority of spending.”

Gasperini also pointed to staples in this generation’s culture that will shape the way they will consume products and services in the future: “The sharing economy and culture aren’t going away any time soon,” she said. “There will be an increase in this because it’s part of their psyche, it’s what they are used to.” Brands looking at sustainability and other cause-based issues are also attractive to this generation, she explained, since “they are the ones who feel responsibility to change the world and make it better.”

state of surf q2 event recap

A packed house and attentive audience taking in Brian White’s presentation. Photo: Gabi Aoun

The next conversation focused on how brands can evolve their focus to a digital consumer, who is moving faster than most companies can keep up with. Nixon VP / Sales of the Americas compared what’s happening in today’s retail market to an “Armageddon” scenario: “Every consumer is ultra-specific, and they want to buy the product five minutes before they need it,” White said. “It’s like a meteor — we’ve known it’s coming but no one was really worried about it until it’s in plain sight.”

Despite a somewhat challenging landscape, White says there is still a lot to be positive about. Nixon has beefed up its digital team over the past year, and identified existing opportunities to convert consumers who are doing research in store and then buying online. Nixon incentivizes its accounts with a “closer club” mentality, awarding this title to in-store employees who are able to get the sale as opposed to losing the customer to online retail giants like Amazon.

White also pinpointed several other ways to leverage retail market, including simplifying product segmentation so its easy for core retailers to tell stories around exclusive product drops, and upping the ante on innovation and tech that consumers can’t get anywhere else.

Overall, there is an evolution happening, and some retailers who aren’t in the business to support and elevate the entire community are hurting the market for everyone, White said.

“We need to let the weak die, because if they can’t win by assortment or by the experience they are providing, then they win by lowering the price, and it needs to go away.”

state of surf q2 event recap

Beyond some key insights from the panelists, the event also served up opportune networking time during lunch, which was graciously provided by Chipotle. From left to right: Smith’s Aaron Checkwood, Superbrand’s Marcelo Bengoechea, Agenda’s Mike Carter, and Ritholz Levy Fields LLP’s Greg Weisman. Photo: Gabi Aoun

Hookit CEO Scott Tilton joined us next to talk about how the collective surf community of brands and athletes is moving the needle on social engagement. The World Surf League (WSL) ranks third in the world in overall engagement over many other national sports leagues, with 1.7 billion interactions — a pretty impressive feat when you look at the number of followers compared to other mainstream sports, Tilton points out.

He attributes this success to the WSL’s investment in digital strategy, across platforms like Facebook Live, amongst others. “They’ve put more resources on the digital side and it’s starting to pay off,” Tilton said. “It’s core to their strategy, it’s not just an afterthought like some of the other leagues we worth with.”

state of surf q2 event recap

Hookit CEO Scott Tilton provided a few case studies on how the platform analyzes how social engagement is driving monetary value and overall ROI. Photo: Gabi Aoun

Looking at individual athletes and how much engagement they are driving with the end consumer is a good place to start, he advises brands: “We are really just scratching the surface with qualitative data,” he said. “Now we can help brands to see who the consumer is, and who is engaging with these brands and spending money.”

To close things out, we called on Josh Bernard, CEO of Surf Ride, one of the most iconic retailers in San Diego, to hear why, in a time when many are focused on digital, the company pulled back from e-commerce to focus on the brick and mortar experience.

state of surf q2 event recap

Josh Bernard, CEO of Surfride.

Bernard said the decision to close its e-comm sector was based on streamlining the business and focusing on areas that were growing — like its current pop-up shop at Hotel Cape Rey in Carlsbad, California, directly across the street from Carlsbad campgrounds and surf break.

In retrospect, he said the process of building the platform and keeping up with new tech, combined with “getting too ambitious” with its product offering and investments, were the downfall of Surf Ride’s e-comm.

Bernard does see opportunities to bring that portion of the business back, but with much more curation and focus on high margin products, private label and partnerships with brands that do not sell direct on Amazon.

The biggest lesson for Bernard: “These days, you have to find your customer, they don’t necessarily find you.”

A big thanks to everyone who joined us, to TRANSWORLD BUSINESS and GRINDTV GM Aaron Carrera for moderating the day’s discussions, and to Chipotle, Health Warrior, and Sporting Club Sports Juice for providing fuel and hydration for everyone in attendance.


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