Retail Profiles: Honolulu, Hawaii’s In4mation

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1050 Ala Moana Blvd. #B1
Honolulu, Hawaii

Todd Shimabuku, one of four owners of Hawaii’s In4mation, first ventured into retail in 1999 when friend Ryan Arakaki invited him to help with product buy for a snowboard and skateboard shop. The two realized they needed to separate themselves from the predominant Gray Market tactics in their region and create solid relationships with major brands. Ten years later, Arakaki and Shimabuku are still partners along with Jun Jo and Rhandy Tambio, in their own retail endeavor, In4mation.

TransWorld Business was able to catch up with Shimabuku to talk about the brand and the individual retail projects that In4mation has going on at the moment. Here’s what he had to say:

In4mation is unique in that it's an apparel brand and retailer. I know the stores are in Hawaii, and the brand is run out of New York. What's the structure like? Who does what?
In4mation started out as a store that was aimed towards bringing in the brands and product lines that we wanted to see fit in the marketplace of Hawaii. We actually had a store called (Define) that was financially backed by Japanese investors and all they wanted was for us to get new brands and create our own brand to send to the Japan market. We then figured out that we were just robots and moved on towards our newest venture In4mation.

In4mation first touched other doors in 2005 as we were producing our own original T-shirt line and figured that if we were to get better numbers we should come down in margins for our retail. So we set sail in late 2005 in gathering contacts with other retailers that understood our product. We were doing four seasons of tees a year and in 2006 we introduced our first cut&sew line. With that, we booked a decent number of sales in forty doors of retail including Active...(Thanks Bobby) and found a partner in New York that could help us further the In4mation vision. The brands logistics is now based in New York, with a full back-end of office support which helps our retailers from day to day things like credit memos and reorders and also houses our design and production team that are always grinding away to ensure we are up to date with our daily calendars.

How many retail locations do you have?
As for retail, we now have three open retail doors in Honolulu, Hawaii. Our main In4mation flagship door is located one block away from Honolulu's main mall Ala Moana Mall. Our flagship is aimed towards more of a soft goods and footwear range for everyone to enjoy, while our newly opened In4mation Boardshop – which is located on the second floor of our mall – is aimed towards strict hardgoods sales.

Our other location in Waikiki, Honolulu is another project and retail door called Aloha Army.  Aloha Army  focuses on other great brands in surfing. Hawaii has a great culture and we felt that we did not want to leave our consumers with mixed messages so we decided to separate everything.

In4mation-Clothing, Footwear, Street and Skate
In4mation Boardshop- Hardgoods, Decks, Wheels and Skate Vids
Aloha Army- Surf Culture, Hawaii pride

How long have the stores been around?
Our first In4mation door opened in 2002. Our second door opened in 2006 and our boardshop opened this year. All in all we were doing retail for almost 8 years now.

What brands are performing well?
In4mation is probably the main brand that is selling the best as we are trying our best to merchandise the line so our consumers can understand the stories behind each piece. Others like Crooks & Castles, Hellz and Alphanumeric are also doing great and of course you have the footwear category which houses Nike SB, Vans, Vans Syndicate, Cons and Supra. They all perform great for us.

Aloha Armys best sellers are In4mation, Vans and RVCA. We also dabbed a little into our Japanese distributors line called Magic Number and its strange to see that the Japanese who visit the islands are OK with buying a Japanese Label out of Hawaii.

What's in the display window right now?
In our flagship store we have a great custom built display courtesy of Vans, a window of all Vans footwear and another window has a couple mannequins wearing our Spring ’09 in4mation line.

Where are the stores located?
All of our stores are located in accessible mall areas in Honolulu.  In4mation and In4mation boardshop is located at the Ward Warehouse which is owned by General Growth Properties and Aloha Army is located in the newly renovated Waikiki Beachwalk which is owned by Outrigger Enterprises.  Being in these locations does come with a price but we found out that by being accessible it only helps our name stand out stronger.

Who is your typical customer--skater, surfer, tourist, sneakerhead?
Our typical consumer is all of the above.  As all markets are going through changes we see that everyone still likes to be differ. You have your skaters that will only wear Nike SB's and match their outfits for a day of skating, you have your Surfer that is into wearing footwear other then sandals or we call it slippers, and the tourist that do come by are usually the ones that are in the area and have heard about what we are about.  The Sneakerheads are always in the know about the latest offerings so they are usually the first ones to stopy by.

How well does the In4mation brand do in the stores? What percentage of the inventory is In4mation gear?
The In4mation brand does the best out of all brands in our own stores and luckily that it does as we get the better margins a retailer. The brand takes up to 50 percent of inventory in all stores and it will only grow going forward. As our brand starts to grow there will be a need for more shelf space for the brand. Aloha Army is also in its initial stages of offering its first season of Aloha Army branded products, which we eventually want to expand for the Aloha Army stores.

How are you faring in the Tough Economic times? What are you attributing your success to?
Well, we are not going to say we are doing as great as the last couple years but we are really strategizing when it comes to our purchasing. We noticed that the marketplace is really flooded and we want to make sure that we can ensure growth for a handful of brands that offer a full range of products.  Its crazy as we are going through the same growing pains of being a brand but have to understand that each brand that is growing needs it retailers to try and push what they are trying to convey.  Each brands message has a story in its own line and we are trying our best to purvey that message and in return we hope our customers appreciate our knowledge and appreciation for each brand.

What percentage of your business is online vs. brick and mortar?
We do have an online store where we sell off-priced product, as our key online person is a one man army.  We do have a great list of customers that order over the phone with our store managers and I think by servicing everyone on the phone it gives those who have been to the store a sense of our service and in return we have a customer for life. It does take a little more time but its great to see that people are willing to take the time to give us a call. Phone orders and online consist of 9 percent of all our retail sales.

What's the percentage of inventory dedicated to:
Our boardshop is 90 percent hardgoods vs 10 percent softgoods (T-shirts and caps). We are also talking with great core footwear brands like DVS and Vox to try and push their product in our boardshop which would probably change our percentages towards 60 percent hardgoods, 30 percent footwear and 10 percent softgoods.

Our flagship store and Aloha Army stores are 30 percent footwear vs 70 percent softgoods.

Men's apparel?
85% men 15 % womens

Junior’s apparel?
We never really dabbled into Juniors as we want our demographic to remain the same.  18-35 is great and if the kids learn the stuff even at an earlier age we are even more hyped!

Accessories (sunglasses, watches, bags, etc)?
Our inventory for accessories needs to increase as we feel that this is a great category and with us only stocking only 5% from all categories, we are looking at other brands like Gregor, Gravis, Nixon, Raen, and Oakley to fulfill a little more.

In4mation's inventory is all closed-toed footwear while Aloha Army is 80 percent closed toed vs 20 percent open-toed.

What are the top three most profitable product categories?
The top three most profitable categories are softgoods, footwear and then in third place accessories as we don't stock too much. We have always been evaluating things and noticed that T-shirts are our bread and butter when it comes to cut&sew, so we have arranged for more racks to display more cut&sew pieces then footwear. What’s good about footwear is that we house over 100 Skus and it doesn't look too cluttered. The product speaks for itself.

What are the top three best selling brands from each category?
Softgoods: In4mation, Crooks & Castles, Stussy, Hellz
Footwear: Vans, Nike SB, Cons and Supra
Accessories: Gshock, Stussy, and In4mation

Who are the top three reps that service your store, why?
We are lucky that we have been able to meet and work with all the reps in Hawaii and all of the reps are so cool. Here are the three who are helping us get our operation together with a lot more ease:
Nos Okazaki- Gravis, Analog
Phillip Pendleton- Sole Tech, RVCA
Brad Suzuki- Podium

What's your overall description of the local market over the past six months?
Its great to see that we have a local market/following as without them we would not being here today.  I guess everything goes in cycles as it kind of feels like post 9/11 but not as bad. The locals that are shopping are the ones that care about having the latest and others are just dedicated towards being supportive of what we are doing. Thanks to all of them!

What's your overall expectation for your business over the next 6-12 months?
Our expectations are to keep our inventory lean and we buy the right ratios when in it comes to sizes, styles and colors. We continue to try and represent each brand/vendor towards their expectations and continue on to give each customer the service they deserve.

Are you altering the way you buy for 2009?
Our buys for Fall 09 is 30 percent of what we used to do from a year or two ago.  We understand that there is a need for pre-books and if we don't order we will have leftovers. We are putting our focus on best selling categories per brand, then we calculate a dollar amount. The number may not be as high but if a product performs you will surely see a re-order within a week from when a piece or style is on the sales floor.

What are some things brands are doing to work with your shop?
Vans, RVCA, Crooks & Castles, Hellz, Stussy, Supra and some others are really working with us to maintain a designated spot in our retail sectors. Stussy has just opened up their flagship store but they are working with us on doing special SMU's just for our retail doors, which benefits everyone. Supra is doing some fun things, but we won’t let the cat out of the bag yet!